Mary Vine Falls in Sea to Sea Regional Park. The photo will be used for documentation and display at Sooke Region Museum. (Patricia Handy - Sooke Region Museum)

CURATOR’S CORNER: Sooke Region Museum in the time of COVID-19

Museum staff kept busy during pandemic

Montana Stanley | Contributed

A new virus, disease, and subsequent pandemic, has disrupted normalcy for every one of us. In a time where our spare time is normally spent gathering with others celebrating the arrival of springtime, we have never been further apart. I can’t help but think about the events leading up to when our director, Lee Boyko, made the announcement that the museum was closing to the public.

In March, health professionals shared the news: If we didn’t take measures to “flatten the curve,” we could overwhelm our health-care system.

A few days before that announcement, the museum’s power had gone out. After work, I bought more water for my earthquake kit.

I had just finished content for our summer exhibit, and while skimming through the newspapers, I came across an article on the polio outbreak in Sooke in 1953, with pictures of two Sooke men in an iron lung.

After a Zoom meeting and updating project lists, we got to work on new and existing duties in a surreal new world.

With public events and programs scheduled up to the end of April cancelled, Wendy, our programming manager, is working to have some of your programming favourites online. Our first virtual Sooke history quiz was a hit! As for the Night Market, she will continue to review longer term activities based on the advice of the public health professionals.

Paddy, our office manager, updated our visitor board outside, and took many lovely pictures of local parks, though, unfortunately, shortly after many of the parks closed.

Beverley, our gift shop manager, has focused on more of a researcher role lately. She has been sharing, and reminiscing on some of the stories in our bound newspapers we were able to take home to read.

Our maintenance man, Willy, has been working hard at spring cleaning and restoration projects, as well as putting up new fencing for our grounds closure.

We are missing our volunteers, who are taking a break from museum duties.

While much of the collections management work I do is behind the scenes, sometimes masked or gloved up, I am adjusting to sharing the collection with audiences in distant ways. That means developing content for virtual exhibits, and putting our photograph collection online.

As we wait for a vaccine, as we have seen throughout history, our resilient Sooke region communities will adapt. We are history in the making. When the day comes to re-open, we will have some updated exhibits, new programming, all new spring stock, and a renewed appreciation for enjoying the museum and visitor centre in-person.

Our hats go off to all essential service workers.

Take care, and keep washing your hands!

•••

Montana Stanley is the curator of the Sooke Region Museum.

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