More than 15 years ago the Campbell River Museum captured David Leverton’s imagination. Now, it has captured the rest of him.
In the mid to late 1990s, Leverton and his artist wife Anne Doyle were living in the Yukon and nurturing what would become an abiding interest in heritage-based public attractions. In 1997, Leverton had opened the Watson Lake Northern Lights Space and Science Centre and then went on to work with the Teslin Tlingit First Nation to oversee the development of a heritage centre.
“Living in the Yukon, our idea of a great escape was to travel to Vancouver Island. I had the privilege of coming here and visiting the Campbell River Museum and seeing the incredible talking mask display.
“I was absolutely transfixed by the experience.”
Back in the Yukon he shared his experience. While trying to figure out what might be the best kinds of displays the Tlingit might consider he realized “one of the most amazing facilities I have even seen is on Vancouver Island in Campbell River.”
“This facility is one of the best iconic regional museum attractions in all British Columbia ... the staff, the designers, the people involved in creating the exhibits here have done an amazing job. It is magical what they’ve done here. The team here was thinking outside the box. It wasn’t about static displays it was about interconnectivity. There’s a lot more going on inside this space than meets the eye. I perceived that when I was first here and it still ranks as one of my top experiences.
“I’ve always been hugely inspired by this museum.”
More than a decade later Leverton is the executive director of the museum that was a source of inspiration.
And, Campbell River is the perfect playground for him and his wife to enjoy boating, kayaking, photography, painting and cross-country skiing.
“When I go back to the beginning of my career I worked here in the mid-70s with the forest service and the museum was a vacant lot. To think I’d be back here 35 years later overseeing this museum.”
Leverton says being new allows him to ask questions and consider new ways to deliver the museum’s message. The new executive director will be taking his staff through a strategic planning process in 2013.
“We certainly don’t want to re-invent the wheel,” he said. “This museum belongs to the citizens of Campbell River and the region. We’ve got our 20th anniversary coming up in 2014 and our 25th in 2019. They will be two wonderful opportunities to engage with the community and plan special projects.
“Anniversaries are very special times. After 20 years it will be a testament to the people who were involved in the visioning exercise to build this museum.”
Leverton says one of his immediate goals is to explore expanded collaborative relationships with other North Island public attractions providers in places like Alert Bay, Port McNeill, Port Hardy, and Port Alberni.
“One of the challenges of this sector is that when you are a small to mid-sized museum it is harder to identify exhibits that can be brought in,” he said. “It would be great if we can find ways to collaborate and share larger exhibits because we are all challenged by space limitations.”
Leverton says “the museum is an expression of the community” and his job is “about relationship building.” That involves reaching out to Campbell River citizens and First Nations in the region. That process starts immediately with two open house receptions planned for today, Wednesday.
The first is from 1 to 3 p.m. and the second is from 5 to 7 p.m. at the museum.