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Manager sees bright future for historic site

Sharon Oldaker bringing plenty of innovative ideas to new post at White Rock Museum and Archives
Sharon Oldaker is the new Manager of the White Rock Museum and Archives.
Sharon Oldaker is the new manager of the White Rock Museum and Archives.

Sharon Oldaker has an overriding philosophy about the White Rock Museum and Archives.

“To move forward, you have to look at the past,” the newly appointed museum manager said.

And she’s hoping to bring a fresh perspective to the museum at a crucial point in its own history – the latter stages of the museum’s current revitalization project, expected to be completed ready for opening, and a community open house, early this summer.

Just as the project will return the museum building – the former Great Northern Railway station – to its original 1913 configuration, while maximizing its potential for new and exciting uses, so Oldaker, too, wants to use awareness of White Rock’s past as a starting point for organic growth rather than simply change for change’s sake.

“We’re hoping to make the museum more interactive than it has been in the past, so we want to have more programs for youth and children,” she said.

“We’re always looking for fresh new volunteers, so we’re hoping to draw in new faces.”

Oldaker said this aspect of her new job is a good fit for her skills in a number of ways.

Her management experience includes being director of operations for a large early childhood education program in Calgary, and as an entrepreneur she was also the owner and manager of the Inner Garden in Crescent Beach – a gift boutique which also functioned as a studio where young people could “come and gain life skills.”

“I also did a lot of work with the White Rock Youth Ambassadors for many years as a volunteer,” she said.

That also speaks to another advantage she feels she has for guiding the museum into a new era – “longevity in the community.”

She and her husband, well known property developer and builder George Oldaker, have lived on the Peninsula since 1988, she said.

“George has done a lot of volunteering in the community – I expect he’ll be doing even more now,” she added, with a laugh.

She said she’s also looking forward to working with the museum’s core staff to make the revitalized facility a new focal point for the waterfront.

“We have a very strong staff here, including our very passionate collections and exhibits co-ordinator, Camille Owens, and our archives manager, Hugh Ellenwood,” she said. “They’re both very well-regarded in the field, and they have done an amazing job working through this transition. They’re very excited to get back in the building, and they’ve got some plans they want to put in place that will be very exciting for the community – Camille’s got the whole year plotted out already.”

First show, tentatively scheduled for early August, will be a Royal B.C. Museum travelling exhibit “Aliens Among Us” – a title which, while it may conjure mental images of science fiction pulp covers and movie posters, actually refers to a fascinating study of the invasive species that have found their way to B.C. shores – and the impacts they have had on our native flora and fauna.

Three separate galleries in the reconfigured interior will maximize display space, Oldaker said, while the building will still feature a meeting room as well as expanded, disabled-accessible washrooms.

One popular exhibit won’t change, Oldaker said – the historic ticket office, a reminder of the museum’s origins, will be preserved as close as possible to the way it was when the building was a functioning station in the first half of the 20th century.

It’s not just the exhibits that will draw the public, Oldaker predicted. The newly redesigned gift shop – which will now be known as the Museum Shop – will be a welcoming feature of a new light and bright entrance from the breezeway (a return to the 1913 layout) that will connect Marine Drive and the promenade.

“We’re hoping to feature a lot more items produced by local artists – and we’re going to try to tie gifts to the current exhibition so that the selection is ever-changing,” Oldaker said.

Talks and special events will also continue to be a feature of the museum, Oldakers said.

“We want this to be a hit for White Rock – to draw the public in all kinds of ways,” she added.

“We want lectures and art experiences and a space that’s as interactive as possible so that the community can take ownership of it. A place where people can come and plan to bring their families to. We want to partner with groups and include them in the process – and make everyone feel welcome.”

For more information on the progress of the revitalization project and other museum initiatives, visit


About the Author: Alex Browne

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