After five years of extensive planning and renovations, the Fernie Museum and Information Centre has been completely revamped to tell the history of Fernie.
Laura Nelson was integral in the museum’s transformation. As a volunteer, Nelson spent countless hours orchestrating a team of volunteers and contractors as they did the renovations.
“All the construction was done at cost by generous contractors who redid plumbing, electrical, flooring, piping, drywalling and attic insulations,” said Nelson. “Every single person was key to the success of this project.”
All the donations also allowed the gallery space upstairs to be maximized which means revenue potential.
Over 60 people and businesses were thanked for going “above and beyond”.
“Great leadership brought all this together,” said City Councillor Randal Mcnair. “The quality of the museum stands up to anywhere on this planet.”
Mcnair spoke about the passion and care that made the transformation happen.
“Major funders like the City of Fernie had a role in securing $400,000 in funding to purchase the building. Mayor Mary Giuliano’s gentle nudging helped get a couple key players onboard. MP David Wilkes, who I still think of as the mayor of Sparwood, brought two funding pots that brought tens of thousands of dollars and Teck came in at the crunch donating $100,000.”
Members of the board took turns describing the different phases of the five-year project.
“The design process for displays was overwhelming,” said Steve Kuijt president of the Fernie and District Historical Society (FDHS). “We formed a committee and hired Double Dare Designs who we’re very happy with as they designed a fun and engaging exhibit to tell the story. It was a lofty goal with a little space.”
“Artifacts have a story,” said Leanne Walker. “People came and left Fernie. A lot of people had to endure to live here in the past. We tried to create sensory experiences of Fernie in the museum with animal tracks so you can feel them and small boxes of smells and touch objects. There is inside information that locals would tell you like the local lore of the ghostrider and what is the griz on the grizzly face. I’m so excited to bring my grandchildren to play on the train table.”
One of the exhibits, the Five Faces of Fernie is an audio and touch screen display which focuses on each of the lives of Grace (Arbuckle) Dvorak, Sydney Hutcheson, Michael Phillips, Annie Balayti, Tom Uphill and William Fernie. Five Fernie writers recreated their life stories in words and an award winning videographer from Banff created the onscreen content.
“It’s remarkable to see the sweat equity of the people who did all the work,” said Teck representative Nic Milligan. “History is important to know where you’re coming from. I’m humbled by what you’ve accomplished.”
The FDHS board presented Nelson with a sculpture made of glass and steel by Stephanie Rogers. Etched in the recycled glass was a quote by Nelson, which they and fellow volunteers found inspirational over the five year project.