By Lori Bradish
With the help of a professional museum design team the first step in developing the new main exhibit for Fernie’s downtown museum is underway.
“This is the second of three phases of our plan which was put into motion when we were given the Hydro building on main street. Phase one was restoring the inside of the building, phase two is to develop this core exhibit,” says Laura Nelson, Fernie Historical Society president.
A museum design firm – Double Dare Design was chosen through a proposal application process earlier this winter. The company, represented by three designers, each bringing different skills to the table, led a brain storming session at the beginning of March.
Twenty community participants attended the session. They represented a broad range of perspectives and ages including interested educators, historians, citizens, high school students, councillors, and leaders from the sports and tourism industry. The design team led participants through a structured session to determine the kinds of experiences they would like to have in the new exhibit.
“Our goal is to have an engaging exhibit that will maximize the use of the space and elevate our displays to a new level of design, professionalism and impact on our audience,” says Nelson. In preparation for this stage Nelson says they’ve held focus groups, visioning sessions and conducted a community survey. .
Natalie Fisher was one of the participants. “I think that what we were able to do was to give them (Double Dare Design) a real sense of what kind of a community Fernie is- the people, the landscape, its unique history, and a sense that although everyone had and still has different reasons for coming here we have managed to create a vibrant, healthy and active community, and that was the case historically as well.”
While in Fernie the Double Dare Design team also interviewed a number of residents as part of their information gathering. They met with a number of businesses and artisans assessing local resources that may be required for the project. Part of the project mandate is to use local services and supplies when they conform to the budget. The team also assessed the museum’s archival information and its artifact collection.
“It’s really exciting to have new energy and ideas to pour into this phase of the museum project. We want to create a memorable experience for visitors and locals of all ages, something that will honour Fernie’s rich history and draw people back again and again,” says Nelson.
Three Phase Project
The initial plan for the redevelopment of the Fernie museum had three phases – the first was to refurbish the interior and conform to building codes and accessibility guidelines including the installation of an elevator between floors. Some finishing and inspection on the elevator are left to be completed in this phase. All this work was financed through donations and grants including numerous donations of materials, labour and expertise from the local community.
The second phase of the redevelopment is the core exhibit implementation which will be completed this fall. Museum Director Mike Pennock has been continually working on project financing and has been writing numerous grants applications to bolster the budget.
“As a result (of the budget constraints) we may not be able to achieve some of the technical elements we had hoped for,” says Nelson. “That may need to come later. So we do need more money to accomplish that, and from what we’ve learned thus far, a minimum of $40,000 would really help. “
The final phase of the project is to restore and repair the building’s exterior. Work that needs to be completed includes repairing water damage on the cornices, erosion on the sandstone along the base of the building and restoring the damaged bricks over the front windows. Fund raising and grant applications processes will be ongoing to finance this aspect of the project.
Fernie ski exhibit on display
As this core exhibit planning work is going on behind the scenes at the museum The Power of Powder, Tracing Fernie’s Ski Heritage will continue to be on display until the end of April. This display traces the early days of the ski hill and follows its development and progress until present day. The story of Fernie Snow Valley is told through historical photos and narrative following the progress from the two lift ski area to the opening of the Polar Peak lift this season. The display also includes stories about the various departments at the ski hill, from the ski school and ski patrol to the events and competitions held at the mountain. There are also sections about the development of the ski racing team, successful athletes who came from Fernie and the progress of activities like telemarking, ski touring and snowboarding.
The exhibit also features a short video, created by Fernie’s Powder Highway Productions, which also traces the ski area’s growth from the hills around Fernie to its present location. The DVD is available for purchase at the museum.
The Fernie Museum is open 7 days a week from 10 am until 5:30 pm.