Three mainstays are still keeping the BC Farm Museum going strong in Fort Langley after 50 years – committed volunteers, curious patrons, and devoted supporters.
This weekend, that team of volunteers who are intent on keeping the King Street museum open and vibrant, are hosting a sold-out party to recognize all the work that has brought them to this point, said Grace Muller, the chair of the anniversary committee.
Saturday features a special one-hour open house at the museum from 3 to 4 p.m., followed by a procession to the Fort Langley Community Hall where a crowd of more than 150 museum supporters, local dignitaries, and provincial diplomats will feast, revel on the accomplishments of the past half century, and then groove to the musical stylings of Langley-based musicians from Tiller’s Folly.
Muller has been elated with how all the components for this weekend’s celebrations have come together, including the fact that the lieutenant governor “right off the bat so gracious accepted” their invitation, how Tiller’s Folly wrote and recorded a song – called Pioneer Days – to mark the museum milestone, how so many local businesses quickly donated items to their silent auction, and how the gala dinner at the historic hall sold out more than a month ahead of the event.
“It’s going really well, and it’s going to be an amazing day,” she said.
Concept took root
The concept for the museum took root in 1953, when the Coleman family donated Robert Alfred Coleman’s handcrafted high-cut plow – which earned him countless victories in plowing competitions around the province – to the University of B.C.
It spurred the idea to create a museum, which was initially going to be on the university’s endowment lands in Point Grey.
When it was determined that wasn’t the most ideal location, the focus was turned to Fort Langley – near the B.C. Farm Machinery Association – which had been formed in February 1958 with the goal of funding and operating a museum.
In June 1966, the association broke ground on the current site, and an 8,000-square-foot building officially opened Nov. 19, 1966 with 115 artifacts – from small hand tools to a threshing machine.
Sir Robert Bellinger, Lord Mayor of London England, as well as B.C. Premier W.A.C. Bennett, and Lieutenant Governor of B.C. G.R. Pearkes were on hand for the opening.
Fast forward five decades, and B.C.’s Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon will be in town this weekend to tour the museum and join the team for the gala marking this institution’s 50th anniversary.
Marking 50 years
The museum crew have undertaken three major projects this year to help mark this milestone – besides the party.
The first was the placement of interactive presentation terminals around the museum.
“As pioneers are slowly become extinct, the terminals contain information and videos on the artifacts being displayed in the museum based on the ‘stories’ of people who at one time actually used the artifacts in their daily life,” Muller explained.
Second on this year’s to-do-list was murals depicting the women’s contributions to pioneer life, the forestry industry, the early surveyors, and the progression of agricultural development.
Local artist have been contracted to paint this series of murals featuring artifacts exhibited in the museum.
Finally, they’re moving walls to produce more room for both the mechanical and woodworking shops in the basement.
This is where volunteers spend countless hours every week restoring and repairing artifacts, and the space is in need of electrical, heating, and ventilation upgrades, Muller said.
On top of these projects, the museum volunteers have been working for the better part of a year to plan this weekend’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
And, next on the list, Muller said, is a challenge the association has been facing almost from the first day it opened its doors: the need for more exhibit space.
Muller said a third building is desperately needed “as artifacts are on display, literally, to the rafters.”
Today, a team of some 130 members (including 45 “incredibly active” volunteers serve as guardians of the museum collection, which is made up of more than 5,000 historical artifacts – not only farming equipment but now historic artifacts depicting all aspects of pioneer life in British Columbia.