NO, REALLY: We should take a marketing tip from Port Alberni

We have two museums in Campbell River that are world class, but I don’t think the world knows that

We have two museums in Campbell River that are world class, but I don’t think the world knows that.

They’re pretty small compared to the Royal BC Museum in Victoria which – on a world scale – is mid-sized, but it’s quality not size that matters in museums.

The Museum at Campbell River is exceptional and not just because it has the world’s biggest rain gutter. The exhibits are expertly displayed and provide a true sensory experience that brings our region’s history to life.

Even my folks – Torontonians, world travellers and avid history buffs – remarked on the beauty of the exhibits and how refreshing and surprising it was to visit an excellent museum in a small community.

I’m sure they will also be impressed by the Maritime Heritage Centre. We tried to visit around the Christmas season, but it was closed. The best we could do was peer through the windows at the immaculately restored fishing vessel, the BCP 45, which forms the centrepiece of the museum.

Next time I’ll take them inside for a closer look and to check out all the old naval gear, especially the cutlasses which makes me think of the swashbuckling era on the high seas.

I thoroughly enjoy both museums, but I don’t visit often and the same goes for the rest of Campbell River. With the exception of the summer tourism season, the parking lots at both venues are pretty empty for the rest of the year.

They do fill up for social functions, but that’s not the same as someone making a dedicated visit to see the artifacts and to learn more about this region. And that kind of support starts at home. You know, be a tourist in your own community.

As well, more students should be visiting both venues. I recently spoke with a representative of the Maritime Heritage Centre who said some classes visit, but it largely depends on the teacher.

I wondered aloud that perhaps they should develop specific learning programs and tools, and pitch these directly to the school board.

Put it this way, instead of having Mr. Smith’s Grade 6 class visiting once a year, would it not be better to have every Grade 6 student in the district visit the centre?

As well, to attract local people to our local venues, there must be a co-ordinated approach to marketing. This is not a new idea and was specifically identified in winter 2011 by a number of local organizations in meetings hosted by Rivercorp.

I do hope they are moving forward because it’s desperately needed. You  only have to look to Port Alberni which has already done so with its heritage attractions.

The website alberniheritage.com is devoted to the town’s museum, steam-operated McLean Mill, steam train and the maritime centre.

In comparison, the Museum at Campbell River and Maritime Heritage Centre both have decent websites, but they barely make mention of each other.

The only way I found out about the centre through the museum’s website was by typing in “Maritime Heritage Centre” under the search window. And the same was true about finding out about the museum on the centre’s webpage.

The museum does include a masthead link to the Haig-Brown House, mostly because the museum is responsible for the heritage property.

Both museums literally need to be on the same page and the same goes for the new waterfront aquarium, whenever that arrives.

In the meantime, if you haven’t visited either museum recently, have a look, you won’t be disappointed. And just one last nitpick, the Maritime Heritage Centre needs to open more often than Monday to Friday, noon to 3 p.m.

paulr@campbellrivermirror.com