The Salmon Arm Museum & Heritage Association received its annual Community Gaming Grant last week and this Curator let out a breath she felt like she’d been holding for three months. What a relief!

The application was made the first week of March. Then the pandemic struck. The Museum Association responded immediately on March 17th when the City of Salmon Arm shut down the museum and all its other leased properties. Salmon Arm was acting on instructions from B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. 

The Museum Executive, Advisory Committee, and Senior Staff held a virtual meeting. We discussed Dr. Henry’s recommendations and acted quickly:

  • Events were cancelled because they have each always attracted an attendance of more than fifty people. 7,201 people attended value added programming last year generated $157,242 in income;
  • Dinner Theatre was also cancelled. 2,914 people attended last year;
  • School programming was cancelled. 768 children attended last year;
  • All income-generating third party rentals were cancelled. The Association received no spring booking enquiries. Rentals brought in $22,202 last year;
  • The opening of the Association’s new Sprig of Heather Tea Room was put off. Last year, food sales generated an income of $48,464;
  • Advertising was cancelled;
  • Seasonal plant orders were put on hold;
  • Payment of the playwright’s contract was deferred until 2021;
  • Notices were posted at the closed gate. Last year 7,775 daily visitors passed through the gates earning $27,235 in admissions.

Treasurer Gary Cruikshank came to the meeting prepared. He had a revised budget, and provided the group with a barebones alternative. He called it a “moving budget.” His slashed budget was approved. 

With no potential for earned income in 2020, the grant from Gaming is crucial, now more than ever.

What was the season going to be? Only a skeletal essential staff returned to work, much later than their usual schedule and work was reassigned. Cooks became painters. The Administrative Assistant was given maintenance duties.

The Curator spoke against opening R.J. Haney Heritage House. Artefacts and heritage buildings could not be sanitized with the chemicals approved to eliminate COVID-19 germs on surfaces. Other key features of the site needed to remain closed until health advisories were lifted or a vaccine becomes available.

But there are positive aspects to this very strange season. With help from Gaming, the Government of Canada, B.C. Arts Council, B.C. Hydro and others:[1]

  • Regular returning seasonal and senior year-round staff were not laid off,
  • Skeletal staff are maintaining the site’s artefacts and built heritage,
  • Work on exhibits that are being created to finish the streetscape of the heritage village is continuing,
  • The Association is able to pay its utilities,
  • And, something no one considered, the roads can be cleared in winter.

This pandemic was a shock to us all. The Salmon Arm Museum Board and senior staff have responded. We took the advice of provincial health authorities and cancelled all programmes.  We are all working as hard as ever, behind the scenes, readying for the day when visitors can be welcomed safely.

What will you see when the gates re-open?

  • A popular as ever local play after dining in a new commercial restaurant,
  • A completed Observer print shop,
  • A completed Demers and Tillman Pool Hall and Barber Shop,
  • A completed Lingford and Honey Photography Studio,
  • A new Chinese laundry on ‘main street’, and
  • A top notch exhibit that celebrates the life and work of Elder Mary Thomas.

The Museum staff members are continuing to maintain and develop exhibits and the Village and can hardly wait to show you what we’ve been working on! It may be a while….


[1] The Salmon Arm Museum and Heritage Association is fortunate to have received help from the Province of British Columbia’s Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, B.C. Arts Council, Federal Government’s Small Business Wage Subsidy and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Programs, the Canada Emergency Business Account, Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage, and Sport Organizations, and B.C. Hydro.