Langley Centennial Museum is preparing to close next week, after serving the community for 64 years.
But that doesn’t mean an end to local heritage preservation efforts, not by any stretch, assured Peter Tulumello.
In fact, it’s the launch of a new chapter for the local museum, a future that will be welcomed by local history lovers.
Many people in Langley might recall trips to the museum as school children, parents, and grandparents, but the galleries at 9135 King St. are now set to close forever on Sept. 30, explained Tulumello, Township of Langley’s director of arts, culture, and community initiatives.
The museum’s new home, Salishan Place by the River, is expected to open across the street in 2023.
In the final days, visitors are invited to say farewell and experience the final exhibit featured in its space, Beginning’s End: An Artistic and Celebratory Send-Off, he said.
This exhibit celebrates the local arts groups and artists who have exhibited there through the decades, including the Langley Arts Council, Fort Langley Artists Group, Fraser Valley Potters Guild, Langley Weavers’ and Spinners’ Guild, Fraser Valley Watermedia Society, and local Indigenous and Metis artists coordinated in collaboration with stɑl̓əw̓ Arts & Cultural Society.
“It’s difficult to say goodbye to a facility like this, after it served the community so well for over 64 years,” Tulumello said.
”The museum has been like an old friend. Many wonderful memories were kept and made here.”
That said, Tulumello is looking forward to what’s next.
“The new museum at Salishan Place by the River will be modern and spacious. It will accommodate improved programming and larger exhibition spaces that will be more accessible and inclusive of multiple community perspectives, and arts and cultural learning experiences.”
Visit Langley Centennial Museum before it closes on September 30. You might recall trips to the museum as school children, parents, and grandparents, but the galleries at 9135 King Street are now set to close forever. Find out more about the Museum at https://t.co/SmLij6pBzx pic.twitter.com/RhB7Rqsnm8
— Township of Langley (@LangleyTownship) September 17, 2022
WALK DOWN MUSEUM’S MEMORY LANE
Langley’s museum is one of the oldest community museums in the province, originally established through the efforts of the Native Sons of B.C., a fraternal organization. After purchasing the last remaining Hudson’s Bay Company fort building, the Storehouse (with the three-acres surrounding it) from the Mavis family in the 1920s, the group collected items from the Langley area and beyond.
The old Storehouse opened as a museum in 1931.
With the 1958 centennial of the declaration of the Colony of British Columbia fast approaching, a Centennial committee established in 1956 with representatives from Township of Langley council and from the Native Sons and Daughters proposed that a new museum be built as a centennial project, Tulumello explained, offering a bit of history to the centre of history.
During this same period, the federal department of northern affairs and natural resources began planning the reconstruction of Fort Langley.
It was decided that the material collected by the Native Sons of BC would be divided to form the nucleus of the collections for the restored Fort Langley, and for the new museum of the day.
Langley Centennial Museum officially opened July 1, 1958, followed by a community picnic.
However, many remember the July 22 visit of Princess Margaret as the museum’s opening, when she visited two new community attractions.
Around this time, Mrs. Dagmar Umphrey became the first curator custodian of the museum.
In 1974, the Government of Canada launched the National Exhibition Centres (NEC) program, and the Langley Centennial Museum in Fort Langley was chosen as one of four museums in B.C. to join 18 other museums across the country receiving the NEC designation.
Along with the designation came funding to expand the footprint of its building. This additional gallery space enabled the museum to welcome travelling exhibits from around the globe, and to highlight local arts and culture for almost five decades. The renovation also allowed for collections and archives storage, and a programming space, Tulumello recounted.
In 1979, Warren Sommer joined the museum as its first full-time director/curator and with the help of a group of dedicated volunteers, they launched the museum’s important docent program.
For more than 40 years, this award-winning group of volunteer educators built a thriving and diverse catalogue of programs that allowed students from across the Lower Mainland to experience history with hands-on activities.
In 1988, a second extension to the building was completed, allowing for office spaces and a volunteers’ room, supporting the individuals who organized the many exhibitions, programs, and events held in the museum over time.
It is estimated that over 1.3 million people have visited this museum in the 64 years that it has served the community.
The museum was also one of the first community museums in Canada to digitize its oral history collection. People can search that collection, as well as photographs, archives, objects, and art any time at museum.tol.ca.
“With only days to go, it’s a great time to visit the museum, and to bid the building a fond farewell,” said Tulumello.
The museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
To learn more about the history of the museum, or to plan a visit, people can call 604-532-3536 or go online.
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