For 50 years the Fernie and District Historical Society has been keeping history alive. On Thursday, February 27 the society celebrated their fiftieth anniversary with a party and the entire community of Fernie was invited. From 4 to 7 pm the society hosted an open house at the Fernie Museum complete with snacks, beverages, and cupcakes.
“Just last summer we finished our Fernie Museum project and it took five years to do so. What we are celebrating and recognizing is how we were able to do it in the first place,” explained Mike Pennock with the Fernie and District Historical Society. “We took the opportunity of the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Historical Society in 1964 to tell the story of how the opportunity to upgrade and take over this museum space came about, and that involved the people, and the personalities, and the activities of the historical society from 1964 until 2008.”
As Pennock explained in his presentation to the crowd, several key players have contributed to the society’s history.
“In the early years, 1965 to 1972, there was involvement from Fernie citizens like Ella Verkerk, who was actually the secretary-treasurer of the Historical Society from 1964 until she passed away in 2001. Loretta Mangan was also a huge part of the continuity of those early years, so was Douglas Fink,” said Pennock. “In 1972, other people started turning up, primarily William Quail. He was a large part of getting the Historical Society organized so that it was able to move into the old Catholic church rectory in 1979 and maintained there until 1999.”
From 1985 until around 2005 John Kinnear became involved, bringing a more modern approach to the society. Another notable mention is Bev Gregr, who with the help of Ella Verkerk, documented and computerized the society’s collection into records.
“It was those records that we accessed beginning in the late 90’s. Myself and Randal Macnair used that information to good effect,” commented Pennock. “Because we had lost the museum space in 1999, all of our artifacts had gone into storage and we started to do some community outreach with our satellite exhibits located all around town.”
From 1999 until 2008 exhibits were held in The Arts Station and in 2004, the Society opened a temporary museum space on Second Avenue during the City of Fernie’s centennial celebration. It was such a success, the museum remained open there until 2010 when they relocated to their current location at the corner of Second Avenue and Fifth Street.
For the last five years, it has been a huge effort from the Society’s board of directors to restore and renovate the building to the finished state it is in today.
Over the course of the evening on Thursday, community members packed the Fernie Museum to recognize all of the hard work that has gone into the building over the last five years, and the Historical Society over the last 50 years.
“During this five year project many dedicated volunteers came forward, not only as individuals but as businesses, that contributed their time and expertise to the project,” said Pennock. “Without that involvement we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what we did.”