New blood highlights heritage

Jared Monkman/NNSL photo Linda Carter, left, Kirk Vander Ploeg, and Sheila Cook stand by a boat that sits in the newly renovated outdoor area of the Hay River Museum.

Jared Monkman/NNSL photo
Linda Carter, left, Kirk Vander Ploeg, and Sheila Cook stand by a boat that sits in the newly renovated outdoor area of the Hay River Museum.

With a little new effort and a lot of hard work, the Hay River Museum is looking better than ever.

A revived outdoor space and constantly updated displays inside have attracted more visitors from outside the community, but also some returning familiar faces from much closer to home.

“It doesn’t happen overnight,” said board member Sheila Cook, explaining that each display is being refurbished individually by young employees. “It’s exciting. We started with a good base, and we’re enhancing things, not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

Cook credits the four young employees the museum hired this summer with much of the revitalization efforts, saying that it’s important for younger generations to have their part in preserving local history.

“I don’t think many of the kids who have lived here their whole lives have ever been in here before,” she said.

Beyond the inside, the newest addition to the museum is an outdoor component. A path winds from the Fisherman’s Wharf through several several large artifacts toward the museum itself. The work took the better part of a week and while the grass has yet to fill it all in, the site is ready for visitors.

“We thought we needed to make it more open to the public,” said board member Linda Carter. “So we made a path from the Wharf. We want to make it a venue for so much more.”

The path is still under construction and some finishing touches are still awaiting delivery. Museum manager Kirk Vander Ploeg said he is most looking forward to getting the mural that currently adorns the old slaughterhouse building, which is set to take up pride of place on the side of the museum building.

“The thing is, there’s a lot to do but at least we’ve got the footprint done out here,” he told The Hub. “We hope people see the value. Give it a couple of weeks and it’ll look really nice.”

To that end, both Cook and Carter were keen to ask people to come to the museum with not only their artifacts, but also their stories. Carter said there are many objects in the facility that are beautiful on their own, but could only be enhanced by the names and tales that go with them.

“It’s important that people make a connection,” she said. “That they feel a part of this.”

— Sarah Ladik