We have been making a number of changes to our museum including renovating older exhibits and adding new ones. This January saw one of our biggest renovations yet with the expansion of seven exhibits and the addition of three. The idea to renovate our displays began with wanting to refresh our indoor and outdoor Leechtown exhibits as this is the 150th year since the gold rush. Since we were moving the location of the indoor exhibit we decided to go ahead and renovate the displays surrounding it and add a few more. This week we will be talking about the expansion of our mining and Leechtown exhibits, which were given complete overhauls including new text, pictures, artifacts and the creation of lifelike scenes.
The mining exhibit features artifacts such as rock samples, tools and headgear and the related history focuses on activity in East Sooke, Jordan River and Valentine Mountain. An exciting addition to the mining display is the very realistic mine shaft. Approximately 10 sheets of foam were glued together and carved out using an electric knife. Then the structure was covered with a dry wall compound in order to give the paint something to adhere to and provide texture. The mine shaft has proven to be a huge hit among visitors, especially children. The rocks used for the ground of the display were re-purposed from our West Coast Trail exhibit, which will be updated in early 2015.
Next down the line is the Leechtown display. All of the artifacts in this exhibit were found near or at Leechtown including a claim stake, clay tobacco pipe, gunpowder flask, cutlery and various tools. On display are numerous photos, including one showing Lieutenant Peter John Leech’s grave at Ross Bay Cemetery. Lt. Leech was the second in command of the Vancouver Island Exploratory Expedition and his crew discovered placer gold in July 1864 about 12 miles from Sooke in an unnamed tributary, subsequently named the Leech River. The discovery of gold was the beginning of the gold rush in this region.
The lifelike river component in the Leechtown exhibit was also created by gluing foam together and carving it out. It was painted to mimic the emerald green colours of the Leech River. We also painted small rocks to represent placer gold, but if you look closely you will find real gold panned from the Leech River (remember, we sell Leech River gold in our gift shop).
On display outside we have parts of the original Leechtown memorial cairn that was destroyed by vandals. In the same location, we have a time capsule containing a collection of documents that were buried in the summer of 1987 and will be opened in 2037 and again in 2087. We took down the old worn out signs and added a 5’ x 5’ aluminum weather proof sign that explains the Time Capsule and gold rush in detail.
On Saturday, July 19, from 12-4 p.m., we are hosting an event commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Leechtown gold rush. The event is sponsored by Spinnakers Brewpub and you can expect an afternoon of fun including games and music. The Sooke Harbour Players will also be performing theatre skits. One of the biggest draws of the day will be the roasting of traditional Leechtown beef in a pit dug up on the museum grounds. For more details on our summer events please visit our website www.sookeregionmuseum.com.
Collections and Exhibits
Manager Sooke Region Museum