White Rock Museum curator Kate Petrusa has fun with a magnetic mural created by artist Lauralee LaMarche; the City By The Salish Sea permanent exhibit celebrates both Semiahmoo Nation culture and White Rock's past as a destination for holidaymakers.

White Rock Museum curator Kate Petrusa has fun with a magnetic mural created by artist Lauralee LaMarche; the City By The Salish Sea permanent exhibit celebrates both Semiahmoo Nation culture and White Rock's past as a destination for holidaymakers.

White Rock Museum unveils permanent exhibits

Key artifacts, interactive children's area featured in ongoing, year-round display

There’s a new look to White Rock Museum and Archives – launched this week at the facility in the former BNR station on Marine Drive.

City By The Salish Sea and We (Heart) White Rock are the names of two permanent gallery exhibits at the museum created with the support of the city and the provincial government.

“We’ve taken the existing footprint and halved it,” WRMA curator Kate Petrusa explained Wednesday, prior to the launch reception at the museum.

“Half of the space is a permanent exhibition – it’s a realistic thing for us with this space,” she said, adding that the galleries will be flexible enough to evolve over time with changes to media screen presentations and some rotation of artifacts.

The role of the galleries, she said, is to accentuate elements long deemed central to White Rock’s identity, while creating a framework and an enhancement for travelling and guest exhibits at the museum.

City By The Salish Sea uses artifacts in glass cases – as well as storyboards, historic photos and media screens – to provide a snapshot of key components of the White Rock story, from the Semiahmoo First Nation, to the railway, to the building of the city and its first schools, the seaside appeal of the waterfront and the pier, not forgetting the actual white rock itself.

The We (Heart) White Rock exhibit is an “interactive kids gallery” that covers some of the same ideas but in a children-friendly way,” Petrusa said.

“We want to engage children in a way that is helpful for them and also fun,” she added, noting that “having a kids’ area has been a vision of (executive director) Sharon Oldaker for a long time.”

One part of the children’s exhibit is a mural painting created by White Rock artist Lauralee La Marche which depicts a natural landscape including the forest and the sea – “like imagining White Rock as it was 150 years ago,” Petrusa said.

The undersea portion is bound to captivate children, she said, because it’s a magnetic wall on which they can place sea creatures – also created by La Marche – wherever they wish.

“We’re very lucky to have Lauralee involved,” Petrusa said.

Also bound to appeal to children, she said, is a mini-train-engine play area.

“That’s really cool – the kids can climb inside the engine and have photos taken. In the future, we’re hoping to have an interactive display of the kind of levers that a train engineer would have operated in the 1920s and 1930s – they’ll have a chance to find out what it would have been like to have been a train engineer.”

Another part of the children’s gallery is a tent and campfire space in which they can learn through play using real and simulated artifacts from the museum’s educational collection.

“Tents were used by the early settlers but also people who came here for vacations from the U.S. and other areas of Canada,” Petrusa said.

“This area is right outside my office – so I’ll be able to hear how successful it is.”

Among items permanently on display as part of the City By The Salish Sea exhibit will be a typical cedar-style woven hat and a blanket created by the Semiahmoo First Nation and presented to a city arts mover and shaker and former museum volunteer, the late Elizabeth Keeling, as well as stone tools, bone pins and harpoons created by the aboriginal occupants of the Peninsula.

Petrusa said the permanent exhibit happens to harmonize well with the P’eqOl’es: Living Memory and Stories of the Place exhibit organized by Semiahmoo First Nation artist Roxanne Charles and which continues until Feb. 28.

Petrusa said the museum has been gathering important feedback from the public as the permanent galleries concept took shape over the last couple of years.

“Visitors wanted to know more about White Rock beyond the station, why there was a white rock on the beach, and when the pier was built and why.”

But the railway was inevitably part of the fascination,” Petrusa said.

“Even though the ticket office has been preserved as it was in the ’50s, a lot of people didn’t seem to understand that they were in the actual train station which has been here, in one form or another, since 1913.”

Keeping the historical significance of the railway alive has been the Train Plaque program, in which donors to the museum are acknowledged by having their names placed on commemorative plaques.

Mayor Wayne Baldwin unveiled a special plaque honouring the 10th anniversary of the program as part of the galleries launch Wednesday evening.