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A Year Into a Pandemic
A year ago, like many others, I was sat on my laptop at my dining room table (a.k.a. my newly-minted home office), trying to make sense of it all. Grateful to still be employed and feeling for my furloughed colleagues. And like the rest of the leadership team at the Museum, the question was ‘what next?’.
Would we be able to reopen for summer? If we did, would we have visitors? How would we keep them safe? How would we keep our staff safe? How could we pivot to make the best of a bad situation? So many questions with no rule book to draw from.
And so, like many museums and other public-facing organizations, we ploughed onwards as best as we could. We planned for a summer reopening. One eye on our immediate future; the other on the time beyond the pandemic. Like the Britannia community of the 1920s, fresh from their own pandemic and community downturn, we believed that This Too Shall Pass.
We reopened in June and the visitors did come back. Our operations were adapted. We moved online for reservations and capacity on our ever-popular underground experience was significantly cut. Cleaning was enhanced. Oh the cleaning. Between reopening and the Labour Day weekend, hard hats were sanitized in the region of twelve thousand times. Our Interpreter and Front of House teams were phenomenal. Despite their additional sanitizing duties and the uncertainty of being in proximity to others, they continued to give each visitor the best museum experience possible.
Over the ensuing months, it became clear that we were developing a reputation as a safe place to visit. Comments on this came daily from visitors. We have a spacious site, an on-the-ball team, and carefully thought out COVID-safety procedures. We began to see a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel.
A silver lining of summer was our temporary exhibit. As I sat at my laptop, envisioning some kind of summer offering, a lightbulb moment burned bright. Copper. It’s antimicrobial. We’re in a pandemic. Let’s do a temporary exhibit on this. And so Copper: Bug Busters was born. A look at how copper has played a role for the over three thousand years in preventing disease. The exhibit was picked up enthusiastically, including making front page of the Vancouver Sun and getting us on to CTV. In the middle of a pandemic, with bad news about organizations at every turn, our exhibit was a good news story that was a breath of fresh air to our peers in the tourism and museum world.
Fast forward to this spring. We continue to follow the public health guidelines, adapting as they change. We reimagined our previously popular events such as Halloween, Santa and Easter to be safe, physically distanced, alternative offerings that met all the safety standards but still gave our local family bubble groups a way to celebrate these holidays safely.
We even managed to complete and open our newest permanent exhibit in the Terralab, and open a new cafe. We also developed two new homeschool programs to support local families and developed a rock & mineral inquiry rental kit for groups who can’t visit. We are also working on enhancing our digital assets which will be a longer term project.
Reflecting on a year of challenges and achievements, I am proud of the team I work with. At all levels of the organization, we are a hard-working bunch. We believe in the Museum and what it offers to the Sea to Sky Corridor and Vancouver Lower Mainland. We can’t wait to welcome back tourists when the time is right. As for the local schools, we can’t wait to see them all when field trips are once again a common occurrence. But in the meantime, we will continue to navigate this pandemic - adapting, responding, forging ahead.
Would you consider donating?
We are resilient in the face of the challenges this pandemic continues to bring, just as the Britannia community was resilient a century ago in the face of adversity. But we need your support.
Unlike most Museums, the Britannia Mine Museum is a self-sustaining non-profit, charitable organization. We are almost entirely reliant on revenues from admissions, gift shop sales, memberships and site rentals.
The COVID-19 pandemic has therefore had an enormous impact on our ability to earn the revenue we need to keep our doors open, as fewer visitors are coming through our doors and site rentals are limited in scope.
By donating today, you will be helping keep this National Historic Site and award-winning attraction alive. We thank you for your consideration of this.
By Diane Mitchell | Curator of Education & Collections