When the Museum of Surrey opens this fall, it will not only offer new spaces and exhibits but also new perspectives.
The $15.7-million expansion project was well underway when the Cloverdale Reporter visited the construction site in early May.
The expansion adds 12,000 square feet of space to the museum’s current footprint of 24,000 square feet. As well as adding a new exhibition space, it will triple the size of the Kids Explore Zone, create an Indigenous Hall, and allow for updates to the existing permanent exhibition space.
Designs for the Kids Explore Zone were almost completed when Museum Manager Lynn Saffery spoke to the Reporter in early May. The space will focus on sustainability initiatives in the City of Surrey — showcasing, for instance, the city’s new bio-fuel facility. It will be a permanent exhibition with “flexible components” that adapt to the temporary exhibition in a neighbouring gallery.
The Indigenous Hall will be created in the upper east wing of the existing museum. It is being built and designed by the Seyem’ Qwantlen Business Group, a Kwantlen First Nation company.
“They are building that from a completely local Surrey perspective. They are engaging with Kwantlen First Nation, Katzie First Nation and Semiahmoo First Nation so that the theme and the storyline is completely local,” said Saffery.
Museums and archives, he explained, are often guilty of presenting “a sort of pan-Indigenous work … forgetting [what] the local First Nation perspective can give us.”
Opening a space where the community can tell its own story falls into the Museum of Surrey’s new vision of being a “people museum.”
“Traditionally, museums have used objects and archival images to tell a story,” said Saffery. “Now people and communities will tell a story, and we will use those objects and images to support those stories.”
What it means is that the museum’s curator, researchers and programming teams will reach out to experts in the community to gather information, rather than telling communities the information that they derive from artifacts and images.
“It kind of turns everything on its head,” said Saffery. “The community has ownership and the power to tell their stories.”
The permanent exhibitions in the existing gallery will also be updated to showcase more of Surrey’s diversity.
“In the celebrations area of the museum, for instance, there was previously three cases on the Cloverdale Rodeo. Now there will be a case on Vaisakhi, a case about the rodeo, and a case about the Chinese New Year.”
Behind the scenes, there will be improvements to the areas of the museum used by staff and volunteers — a new fabrication shop is in the works, as are upgrades to office space and collection storage.
Outside of the upgraded museum and the new 12,000 square-foot addition will be a heritage square. The Anderson Cabin, already located at the museum site, will be moved to a new foundation, and the Anniedale School and the 1881 Town Hall will be moved to the site during the summer months.
The 1881 Town Hall is located inside the BC Vintage Truck Museum building a short distance away from the Museum of Surrey. Volunteers at the truck museum have made appeals to the Surrey Heritage Advisory Commission to request the hall be left where it is, as moving the town hall will directly impact their site. Support beams run through the town hall, and it is unclear how much of the building will need to be demolished in order to extract the town hall.
“Right now [the city is] working on planning the way the 1881 Town Hall will be extracted from the truck museum,” said Saffery. “The way they’re going to do it is with little impact as possible. However, the reality is that we’re moving a whole building out of another building, so there’s going to be quite an impact.”
The expansion project is proceeding on schedule, according to Saffery, and although a date for the grand opening has not yet been set, he said that it would be before the end of October.