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Big changes could be coming to Museum of Surrey gallery

Museum seeking public input to help transform permanent Surrey Stories Gallery

The Museum of Surrey plans to transform its permanent gallery space.

The Surrey Stories Gallery, replete with memorabilia from the history of the growth of Surrey as a city, is slated for, what seems to be, fundamental change—according to information contained in an online survey.

As part of the process of change, the museum has come up with a “Surrey Stories Gallery Interpretive Master Plan,” which seems to still be in the draft phase. Now they want public feedback to help shape the plan of how the new permanent gallery will look.

“This exciting plan was created with input from community members,” museum manager Lynn Saffery said in a press release about the new survey. “It aims to provide all communities in Surrey with the opportunity to tell their stories.”

Saffrey said the renovated gallery space “will be flexible, interactive, and importantly, relevant to Surrey residents and visitors.”

Saffrey did not indicate where and when the first round of community input was taken to form the current version of the “Surrey Stories Gallery Interpretive Master Plan,” but the next round of input will cover how the gallery will look—what items and types of interactive displays will be available to the public in the transformed gallery.

“The Surrey Stories Gallery, open since 2005, is a space dedicated to telling the stories of Surrey residents and celebrating the rich history of the region,” the release noted. “In order to better serve the community and make the gallery more inclusive and accessible, the gallery needs thematic, design, and technological upgrades.”

According to information contained in the online survey, the Museum of Surrey feels the displays in the Surrey Stories Gallery “do not reflect the diverse communities of Surrey.”

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Introduction information in the survey noted, “In many areas there is an outdated narrative which does not support Museum of Surrey values of being inclusive, accessible, and giving all communities a voice.”

The survey also indicated, “Many of the displays are static and worn, not meeting the expectations of contemporary audiences for interactivity, hands-on exploration, and rotating content.”

The online survey revealed that as part of the plan for the museum’s transformation, the space will split the old Surrey Stories Gallery into five sections covering the themes: 1.) Ocean and Rivers, 2.) Gathering and Celebrating, 3.) Forests, Farms and Parklands, 4.) Urban and Industrial Centre, and 5.) Orientation to Surrey/Distinct Neighbourhoods.

The press release noted that by taking the survey, “participants can learn about and provide input on the plan, which will provide a foundation for all Surrey Stories Gallery future exhibits and the stories that are important to the community.”

The Royal B.C. Museum closed its “Old Town” pioneer section about 1.5 years ago and saw a massive rush to view it before it was closed. The idea was to gut the display and open something very different several years later. But after public backlash, including a lengthy consultation period, the popular gallery returned as “Old Town, New Approach” in just 18 months.

During that consultation process, there was agreement among most respondents to upgrade the displays to present them in an updated context with universal representation, but there was universal agreement not to erase history.

Athenas Angulo, communications coordinator for the museum, said she didn’t think the majority of the displays would be removed, but she could not confirm exactly how much of the current displays would be boxed and put in storage.

“I think what they want is to be more inclusive,” Angulo told the Cloverdale Reporter. “They also want to add new features, make it more interactive, because right now it’s not very interactive.”

Angulo said there are a few sketches already made (see second pic above) to give the general public an idea of what could be done.

“We are still working on the master plan,” she added. “Nothing has been set up. We’re still gathering ideas and taking public input to see what they think this gallery should look like.”

The online survey can be found by visiting, clicking on “art and culture” from the menu bar, and then clicking on “Museum of Surrey.” From there, scroll down and click on “Take the Survey.”

The survey is open until March 3.

Malin Jordan

About the Author: Malin Jordan

Malin is the editor of the Cloverdale Reporter.
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