The Hugh Keenleyside Dam near Castlegar was one of three built as part of the Columbia River Treaty. It has had a huge impact on the Columbia River valley all the way to Revelstoke. Photo: Contributed

COLUMN: Nakusp museum is a living time machine

Preserving our history is vital

ANGUS SCHROFF

Special to the News

We would like to introduce you to some of the museum’s history and its role in present-day Nakusp in light of this year being the 50th anniversary and renegotiation year for the Columbia River Treaty.

In the late 1960’s, the land clearing for the Hugh Keenleyside Dam was ramping up to a fever pitch. In the hustle and bustle, hardly a thought was spared for the old, abandoned, or outmoded machinery of farm and home. As properties burned and belongings were moved—as lives were forced to change—it was easy to forget the past in the face of the quickly-changing present. The history of Nakusp and the rest of the valley was in danger of being swept away.

But a BC Hydro employee, Doreen Desrochers, noticed. It would be a shame for all this history to be lost, she thought—perhaps it could be gathered, put into a museum? The Kinettes Club of Nakusp were contacted, and they set to collecting as much as they could. Efforts were lead by Doreen Desrochers and Rosemarie Johnson. The Village Council allowed the museum to be housed in the basement of their centennial building, where it remains to this day.

Following their efforts to start the museum various groups and individuals have volunteered their time and effort to keep it going.

The museum has arrived at its present state only with your help. Running a museum does not garner enough admission to cover costs, even at peak tourist season. Donations from townspeople, memberships, fundraising drives, grant money keep our doors open. Our volunteers are wonderful help, but it’s not feasible to try and get people to volunteer for 35 hours a week. We rely on you to provide us with the funding to preserve and showcase our history.

Our museum houses artifacts from over a hundred years ago, and from all around the area—from Trout Lake and Galena Bay, Edgewood to Rosebery. It might be easy to take local history for granted, but that’s the heart of the matter — it’s easy to forget. Without the archives, names and people would be lost in time. Without the museum, we wouldn’t have concrete physical examples of the ways of the past, to point to for everyone to easily understand. Written history is a great source, but kids and adults alike aren’t often given to reading multiple pages of history unprompted. What your museum provides is an eyecatch, a gateway; tell children about a paddlewheeler, they might not really “get” it. Show them the size of the reconstructed wheel, let them hear the whistle… then you might just have a future historian. Our home in Nakusp is a great place now, but without context, it might just be another town.

If not for the museum, many tourists might pass by not knowing that we were once a transportation hub; that we ever went through the booms and busts of the peak of the mining days. If not for the museum, even people who’ve lived here most of their lives wouldn’t know what transpired on the ground they walk upon. So keep in mind that we’re more than just a stop-over. We’re a living time machine. And every time machine needs a little grease.

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