Newsletters & News Articles
Click here to see the electronic version of our Spring/Summer Newsletter for 2013 or stop by the museum to pick up your copy! Below is a sneak peek of what’s featured in our latest issue.
New around the house: The Coquitlam Heritage Society is honouring significant Coquitlam heritage homes with historical plaques. These plaques are made possible through a Spirit of Coquitlam grant. Above is a photo of Rosaleen Morgan, owner of Booth House, beside her heritage plaque.
OPINION – It’s time: Coquitlam needs its own museum
Tri-City News, Oct 12, 2012
The following opinion piece was submitted by the board of the Coquitlam Heritage Society. The board members are: Hazel Postma (chair), John Perry (vice-chair), Pat Cooper, Don Cunnings, Darla Furlani, Rhian Piprell, Richard Rainey, Anna Tremere and Chris Worsley.
The BC Museums Association counts 191 museums among its members. Some are heritage homes like Coquitlam’s Mackin House Museum. Proper name notwithstanding, however, Mackin House is not a museum.
Mackin House is a heritage home and while the building is a splendid asset, it is not a suitable space for a museum.
A museum implies display space and exhibits; it offers the place and protection for an eclectic range of artifacts that represent a community’s history. Heritage houses are interpretative houses that are staged with artifacts to reflect a snapshot in time.
With the closure of the Riverview Museum, Coquitlam became acutely aware of the need for a comprehensive museum. The Riverview artifacts are now in storage — they have been “saved” but, sadly, they are of no particular use to us if they are tucked away. Artifacts are valuable for what they tell us and teach us so they are, arguably, worthless unless they are accessed, displayed and contextualized.
Is Coquitlam ready for a museum? Do we need one? Do we have the requisite “stuff” to fill one?
Readiness implies a collective energy and desire to make it happen. It was a visit to the Surrey Museum that focused the will of the Coquitlam Heritage Society on the goal of building a museum here. Surrey is a stunning example of what a community mobilizing its resources and working with all governments and stakeholders can do.
And it is not just larger communities that have succeeded in their quest for a museum. Creston (population 5,000) has a beautiful small museum and offers a wide range of programs. The museum in Princeton (population 12,131) received the makeover of a lifetime in 2011 when it doubled its square footage. Powell River (regional population 35,000) has a constellation of museums and heritage buildings that tell its rich history.
But Coquitlam (population 126,000) is a community with a range of historical assets and artifacts that are essentially homeless. Some of these artifacts are in basements, in churches, in storage or at Mackin House.
When Surrey planned for its museum, it spent a number of years collecting and consolidating in advance. When its doors opened, the museum was replete with significant artifacts of solid historical and interpretative value.
Coquitlam could do this. We know that the essential ingredients are there for us.
Coquitlam Heritage Society has been working behind the scenes to secure space for a museum. Recently, we proposed to city council that the Innovation Centre (located at Pinetree and Guildford ways, next to the Evergreen Cultural Centre, and now dedicated to office space for city employees) be converted to museum space. The cost would be small, but the payback would be large. The proposal is available on our website at www.coquitlamheritage.ca. Another possibility is a purpose-built area as part of the Beedie Group’s development of the Fraser Mills site.
There are other options that could be explored. A dual-purpose museum and Francophone community centre located in the heart of historic Maillardville might make sense. It would honour this unique and founding part of our heritage and also be a cultural investment opportunity that would appeal to all levels of government. The attraction of re-purposing a building on the Riverview site is compelling. East Lawn comes to mind.
There is a case to be made, though, for thinking smaller. Secure a small store-front or corner of an existing building and start with modest display space as we plan for a secure future. This could be accomplished with a temporary location that would give the society the time to consolidate the artifacts and begin the careful planning for a permanent home. This is perhaps the most realistic and achievable plan of all.
Coquitlam Heritage Society is not short on ideas but we can’t move forward without support from our community. It is time. Coquitlam residents deserve to have their heritage preserved in a dedicated and sustainable way.
We need a museum.
“A Proposal to Repurpose Public Space to Create a Coquitlam Heritage Centre”
The Coquitlam Heritage Society proposes that the public building located at 1207/09 Pinetree Way in Coquitlam, adjacent to Lafarge Lake and the Evergreen Cultural Centre, be repurposed to become the central showcase for the city’s history and heritage and the home for the community’s archives. The creation of the “Coquitlam Heritage Centre” satisfies an imperative to consolidate, better organize, and preserve Coquitlam’s culturally significant collections and artifacts. When opened in 2016, as a major element of the City’s 125 year anniversary celebrations, the Coquitlam Heritage Centre will be a source of civic pride and a legacy for generations to come.
The existing building and the location are ideal for the establishment of the “Coquitlam Heritage Centre”. The structure is suitable for the Heritage Centre operations with virtually no modification. The overall design already includes appropriate space for public exhibitions, displays and events, meeting and activity/resource rooms, artifact storage, and public archives. The building location is visible and easily accessed by the public. Locating the Coquitlam Heritage Centre at this city centre location adds further credibility to the area as being a cultural and tourism hub for Coquitlam.
There are multiple benefits in proceeding with this proposal. The establishment of the Coquitlam Heritage Centre is an opportunity to finally and successfully achieve the full potential of a unique, presently underutilized, public building. Synergies and efficiencies are achieved by bringing together scattered heritage collections and resources. The credibility of the City’s cultural and tourism hub will be furthered. The City will be able to mark the 125th anniversary celebrations with an outstanding legacy development with minimal capital cost.
Historical Collections and Archives in Coquitlam
The presence of a locally focused museum/ heritage centre is a measure of a mature and culturally vibrant community. Many cities celebrate their history by leveraging a tangible structure as one of the cornerstones to awareness building. Dedicated museums and archives also provide a basis for newcomers to understand the richness and context of their surroundings.
Coquitlam has a significant history – from its first nations to the pioneer experience -from periods of immigration and growth through the construction of the railway, hospitals and mills. This history and progress is reflected through artifacts, archives, and stories. Currently, artifacts and archives are scattered throughout Coquitlam and beyond. Collections and their Interpretation are not well coordinated or comprehensive.
There are several elements that can be brought together effectively. The Riverview site is home to both the Riverview Museum and the SPARC Radio Museum, but public awareness and access is limited. The Railway station at Heritage Square is home to a core collection of RR memorabilia, but the small volunteer group maintaining it has limited capacity to open it to the public. Mackin House Museum holds key pieces from the Fraser Mills site but has little space to display the collection and much remains stored away. Community archives are located in churches, libraries, city hall, SFU and UBC, as well as the Port Moody Museum. Some important collections are literally held in people’s basements. A consolidation and preservation of these historically important documents and artifacts is essential. Future generations are dependent on the actions taken now to ensure their rich heritage is captured, preserved, and not lost.
The Centre will establish an accessible “front door” to the city’s rich history. It will connect and build linkages to resources and discrete collections. It will create public awareness and provide public education through its events and programming. Heritage resources of various kinds can be integrated thematically and creatively to stimulate public interest and appreciation for our past and roots. It will bring home and appropriately house community archives.
Suitability of the Pinetree Way building
The proposed Pinetree Way location for the Coquitlam Heritage Centre, at approximately 12,500 square feet. The space will be satisfactory for indoor exhibitions and community archives. Use would be made of the outdoor public space, and the opportunity for using the Evergreen Cultural Centre theatre space. For comparison, the new Coquiltlam Public Library space is ~ 36,000 square feet.
The Pinetree Way space, with modest modification, will be suitable to accommodate the broad variety of Coquitlam Heritage Centre functions envisaged. The facilities will include workshop/ project development space, display areas, meeting rooms, and collection storage. Public community archives will be a core function.
It is recognized that this project will create an ongoing increase in operational costs within a base operating budget. There are likely to be some net operational efficiencies achieved through the relocation of existing collections. This will require further consideration as details become available.
Revenue generation may be possible through Heritage Canada’s program “Canada Cultural Spaces”.
Particular Location Advantages
The building is beautifully located beside LaFarge Lake, adjacent to the Evergreen Cultural Centre, across the street from Douglas College and around the corner from the newly expanded Coquitlam City Centre library. The Evergreen line will pass by its front door and the area will hum as a cultural
precinct. Access by visitors will be straightforward. Parking for visitors can be accommodated. Natural synergies will be fostered.
Detailed space allocation decisions and retrofit planning have not been undertaken at this stage. However, a review of the building, combined with a rough understanding of current space use, suggests that the arrangement is feasible and appropriate for the intended Centre. A City decision on the assignment of the building space will enable the access necessary to complete the required detailed planning.
Coquitlam Heritage Centre – Success Potential
The Coquitlam Heritage Society has taken the critical first steps towards a successful centre. The Society has identified the need, the key operational elements, and perhaps most critically, suitable available infrastructure. The Coquitlam Heritage Society, with the City’s support, is prepared to take the lead in moving the Coquitlam Heritage Centre from concept to reality. It is directly within the scope of the Coquitlam Heritage Society’s mandate to do so. The Society has the capability and leadership to take this on and is prepared to reallocate some of its existing management talent to the project. The Coquitlam Heritage Society has a proven record of success as demonstrated most recently with the sharp turnaround it has already achieved at Mackin House Museum.
Past News Articles
- “Riverview a time capsule for early Coquitlam” by Jill Cook
Published August 24th, 2012 in the Tri-City Newspaper
Click here for the Tri-Cities’ online version of this article.