Patrick Davies photo Members of the public listen intently at the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin Annual General Meeting at City Hall Nov. 29.

Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin sees 500 per cent increase in visitors

Lots in store for local museum in the future

After a wildly successful year, the future is bright for the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin as shared at their AGM on Nov. 29.

According to museum co-ordinator Joe Borsato, they saw a 500 per cent increase in visitor numbers from the previous year. In his job, Borsato handles the general operations of the museum, the care and cataloguing of artifacts and said, “If you think it needs to be done in the museum, chances are I probably do it.”

Overall, Borsato describes the last year as having been a solid one with the museum attracting 13,000 visitors to its new developing location in the tourist centre. While this is a radical increase from last year, Borsato said the summer of 2017, in addition to having the museum move locations in a short time span, was also marred by the wildfires, making promoting themselves difficult, to say the least.

“We weren’t really able to take advantage of this location that year and this year we really were able to which has been really reassuring and I see no reason why that visitor number won’t continue to increase,” Borsato said. “Now that we have brochures with the right location, now that we have the social media built up and word of mouth is obviously extremely important so that stuff can take a long time to sink into the broader social conscience.”

Read More: Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin enjoys summer of recovery

In addition to his own experience with the museum, Borsato said the Tourism Discovery Centre that he shares the space with also had a great year, as have many of the other similar heritage based business in lakecity. As for potential disruption by wildfires, he said that, like everyone, he and the museum will have to wait and see whether or not recent years is “the new normal.”

At the AGM Borsato said he was happy to share the visitor numbers, which he’d crunched only the day before, as well as the fact the museum ended the season with a $6,900 surplus that will be going directly into funding museum based initiatives in the new year.

“We are applying for a whole bunch of new grants this year. We’re getting the normal ones we usually get; the Community Gaming Grant, the Central Cariboo Arts and Culture Society Grant and we’ve got some new funding coming in from the city which we’re all really excited about,” Borsato said.

In addition to these usual grants, Borsato said they’ll be applying for money from the Northern Development Initiative Trust, a BC Rural Dividend and one he’s personally looking forward to from the BC Arts Council. None of these grants has been received as of yet he clarified and is only in the application phase.

The funds will be used, moving forward, for various museum-related projects and upgrading their existing exhibits. Borsato said that as they work with these originations, however, museum-funding opportunities will become available rather than the simple project grants he is applying for now.

The next big takeaway from the AGM for Borsato was that the City of Williams Lake will be beginning renovations of the museum’s space in the next few weeks, something he said they are really looking forward to. Spring of 2019 is the projected completion date of the upgrade and Borsato hopes it will be done in time for the May long weekend when they traditionally switch to their summer hours.

“We’ll have all new exhibits in this area, the walls will be finished and the floors will be finished,” Borsato said. “We’ve been working with this space, which is functional, but you know it has been a little wild that we’ve had it like this and I’d really like to see things become a little more professional.”

Read More: VIDEO: Museum renovation contract awarded in Williams Lake

In addition to their usual exhibits they’ll be bringing back fully, like the sports-related exhibits and the Cowboy Hall of Fame, Borsato is looking to add a few new ones. Specifically, he’s working currently on helping to facilitate the creation of several exhibits dedicated to local stories about the residential school at St. Joseph’s Mission.

“I’m working with some community members, we have funding from Heritage BC’s Heritage Legacy Fund, so we’ll be working with all three nations that will be really significant, working with several individuals from each nation,” Borsato said. “I’ve had a few interviews so far and that’s been really successful. Everyone who I’ve contacted about it has been very interested so I think it’s an important step forward to fulfilling the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

Another exhibit he is working on is a personal passion project of his: Cartography in the Cariboo. As a huge “cartophile” Borsato said he’s excited to bring a comprehensive exhibit centred on the early colonial maps of the Cariboo Chilcotin and old forestry maps from the 1930s on.

“I think there’s a lot of researchers can learn from these maps and I’d really like to see these maps become a focal point because they tell us a lot about space and place,” Borsato said. “It really dives into the human dimension of cartography which I think is really important.”

The AGM also covered the drastic increase of the museum’s digital presence, Borsato said. In 18 months they went from 250 Facebook followers to 440 and from having no Instagram to an account with 130 followers.

This summer, Borsato said, their summer students, in addition to helping patrons, did some really important cataloguing work with the museum’s collection of “tens of thousands” of artifacts, photographs and documents. The old catalogue they had of their collection was 15 years old and Borsato said after the move they realized it was outdated and incomplete.

“This summer the students catalogued over 3,000 photographs, 1,200 library items, all of our gift shop and 1,500 objects in archives so that took us from about, just under 8,000 items in our catalogue to roughly 11,500,” Borsato listed. “I think its more progress in one year than we’ve made ever before.”

All of this work and more is integral to upholding the museum’s chief mandate, Borsato said, of telling the story and history of Williams Lake and the Cariboo Chilcotin.



patrick.davies@wltribune.com

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