Face to Face: Preserving our common past
Every photograph, document, and artifact at the Delta Museum and Archives tells a story. For acting executive director Gabrielle Martin, the responsibility of collecting, protecting, and sharing these stories is one she takes very seriously.
“People entrust us with their history, with their memories,” she says. “It’s a big responsibility to preserve it and to pass it on to future generations.”
With the departure of executive director Mark Sakai in December, Martin has taken over the head of the Delta Museum and Archives. Originally hailing from New Zealand, by way of Australia, Martin’s background is in fine arts and non-profit administration, and her deep appreciation for local history is obvious.
The museum spans Delta’s history from the Musqueam and Tsawwassen First Nations to European and Asian settlement, to the transformation from farming and fishing village to modern commuter suburb.
“It’s not just about who settled here, but what brought them here, why did they come, what did they contribute and pass on,” says Martin. Creating a bridge to the past prevents the lessons of the past from being forgotten.
“That continuity is so important.”
That’s why when residents drop off historic items, Martin says it’s important to find out what the story is behind the item, as that is where the item’s true value lies.
“We’re not really concerned with objects if they don’t have a story,” she says. “They help tell the story, not the other way around.”
The non-profit society was started in 1969 in a grassroots effort to preserve Delta’s rich history. Much of the work the Delta Museum and Archives does is educational, as staff routinely lead programs for local school children, and assist university students, researchers, people who are looking up their family history.
The Delta Museum and Archives currently operate three facilities: The Delta Museum, the Delta Archives and Edgar Dunning Reading Room, as well as an administrative annex. However, being split between three facilities doesn’t make things easy for staff, and the Delta Museum has outgrown its present site in downtown Ladner. While historic, the building has its accessibility and safety issues.
Martin hopes the coming years will bring a new direction for the society, and possibly a new facility.
“But it’s really up to the people of Delta what form, what direction [the Delta Museum and Archives] will take,” says Martin.
• B.C. Heritage Week is Feb. 18 to 24. For more information about the Delta Museum and Archives, visit www.deltamuseum.ca