Mr. Tyee is always a favourite with museum visitors, though he can’t always be on display. Photo by Mike Chouinard/Campbell River Museum

Museum Day gives visitors rare glimpse of collection

Campbell River’s museum had opened its artifacts room to visitors once before

This year, the Museum at Campbell River, as part of its International Museum Day on May 18, decided to let visitors in on some parts of the collection they don’t often get to see.

International Museum Day has taken place every year since 1977 to stress the cultural importance of museums.

For part of the afternoon, the museum let groups of visitors into the collections for short tours, so they could get a look at some of the items.

“In honour of International Museums Day, we wanted to give people a chance to come down here and see the fun things that we get to see every day and most people don’t,” says Megan Purcell, museum collections manager.

There were a few ground rules for visitors considering the delicate nature of some of the items, so people were asked not to touch items, nor were they allowed to take pictures, except at the entrance to the exhibit. (The Mirror did receive permission to take pictures and video of some of the items on display.)

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“The back room, our storage room, is one place in the museum that people rarely get to see,” says Purcell. “This is where we store everything that isn’t on exhibit.”

This year was not the first time the museum opened its artifacts collection to the public. Back in 2017, it conducted tours of the collections room after the museum added some new shelving.

“It was so immensely popular that we thought we’d try it again,” she says.

On Saturday, there was a range of items on view for the public, including the familiar favourite mascot in Campbell River, Mr. Tyee – whom the public was allowed to photograph.

While he’s always a favourite, Purcell says, he cannot be on exhibit all the time.

Other popular items include an old commode chair and the compactum from an old steamship, which unfolds into a sink and other features like a mirror that would have aided ship passengers with their daily ablutions.

There were projectile points, masks and other First Nations artifacts, which make up the oldest part of the collection, and old newspapers from the community.

When asked what the most popular items, Purcell says Mr. Tyee, perhaps not surprisingly, comes out on top, but after that, the old newspaper collections tend to be favourites among visitors.

“Every one has a story they want to look up,” she says.

Often, this can be from the day when someone was born, when their parents were born or the day they got married. The museum has newspapers dating back to 1917, so there’s a good chance there will be a paper from whatever day the person is looking up.

Purcell says one fact that surprises people coming to view the artifacts is the size of the museum’s behind-the-scenes collection.

“I think the sheer volume of objects we have down here is usually a surprise to them,” she says. “There are a lot of objects down here that we just can’t have on display permanently.


International Museum Day offered the Museum at Campbell River a chance to show some of the collection that people often don’t get the chance to see. Photo by Mike Chouinard/Campbell River Mirror