Cortes Island Museum

The Cortes Island Museum Is Back

The Cortes Museum opened its doors to the community in 1998, Most of us know it as a seasonal facility, open two half days during the winter and coming out of semi-hibernation during the warmer tourism months. There were a number of special activities scheduled for 2020: a Spring film screening, an extravaganza Creative Spaces tour, Walks & Talks, a new Art in the Garden. All of that changed last March, when most of Cortes Island’s gatherings were cancelled because of COVID. Now British Columbia is reopening and, as of July 1st, the Cortes Island Museum is back. 


“Like many other organizations across the globe, after closing down in the middle of March we sat fallow trying to figure out how best to run online programs and remain connected with our patrons, members and our community,” explained Jane Newman, Managing Director of the Cortes Island Museum & Archives Society.

She added, “People should start visiting the Heritage Garden because it is looking absolutely fabulous. It is always there, whether we are open or not.” 

“That Was Then, This Is Now” exhibit – Cortes Island Museum & Archives Society (CIMAS)

The First Exhibit

They started planning the reopening two months ago. 

Visitors will enter the building through the front door and exit by another. Key spots are marked out on the floor, so that people will know how far to stay apart. 

The museum will be open, Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Monday), from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We haven’t changed any of our exhibits, so our first show is “That Was Then, This Is Now.” It is a twenty year reflective of the museum’s history, the building, the people that founded the museum, the processes and things that have influenced us over the years. This exhibit tells a lot of stories. It talks about where we are at, in terms of best practises, and what we are doing differently because we know more.”

Another view of “That Was Then, This Is Now” exhibit – Courtesy CIMAS

Telling The Story Of First Nations

“We want to tell the story of First Nations from their perspective, with their involvement We haven’t had the Klahoose, or any other First Nations come in and do their own exhibit, but it is something that we would really like to work towards. If they are interested and want to engage, we really want to be that organization that can support what they need,” says Newman.

The museum is at 957 Beasley Road, Mansons Landing, in the traditional territory of the toq qaymɩxʷ (Klahoose), ɬəʔamɛn qaymɩxʷ (Tla’amin) and ʔop qaymɩxʷ (Homalco) Nations.

One of the museum’s board members, Rose Hanson, is also a member a of the Klahoose Nation.

Over the last couple of years, the museum has also worked with Jodi Simpkin, President of the British Columbia Museum Association and Director of Cultural Affairs and Heritage for the Klahoose First Nation.  

“She spoke about the “Have You Seen Our Grandmothers?” project at our 2019 AGM,” explained Newman. 

This is a worldwide search to identify and repatriate the ancestral remains of Klahoose First Nation Ancestors.

A performance in the Heritage Garden – Courtesy CIMAS

Now Or Never

“The Cortes Island Museum & Archives is launching a collecting initiative, Now or Never, to gather materials relating to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has changed our lives, disrupted our daily routines and sparked unexpected shifts in community life. To document this time of change we are inviting the Cortes community to submit stories, drawings, poems, journal entries, blog and social media posts, letters, music, photos, videos, or whatever else has supported, challenged or inspired you.”

“ … Digital content can be submitted by email to at any time using Now or Never as the email subject. Original copies of photographs, written accounts and artwork can also be submitted. Email or call the museum at 250-935-6340 to arrange an appointment.” – Cortes Museum website.

The Museum’s front door – Courtesy CIMAS

Misty Isles Adventures

The museum’s first day cruise in partnership with Misty Isles is less than a week away. The destination is Mitlenatch Island, home to hundreds of harbour seals, the largest seabird breeding colony in the strait of Georgia and “a continuous progression in the blooming of wildflowers – starting with sea blush and blue-eyed Mary in April, to chocolate lilies, tiger lilies, common camas, death camas, and prickly pear cactus in high summer.”  

Jonas and Amy are in their second year of operations, which must be a difficult year – when you are facing COVID 19 restrictions right, left and centre,” says Newman.

Misty Isles has an extensive list of COVID 19 operating procedures. The maximum number of passengers has been reduced from 12 to 8. Everyone needs to sanitize their hands upon arrival at the dock and must have a face mask. Only two people at a time are allowed in the pilot house etc. 

“We really want to support Misty Isles. We really want people to know the history of the area, what happens and happened at Mitlenatch and just get out and have a great day together,” said Newman. 

“The First Nations used Mitlenatch for fishing, clamming and harvesting camas. [After Europeans arrived] the Manson family raised sheep out there and probably owned it up until it became a provincial park.”   

These cruises have been a fundraiser for the museum in previous years, but this year the proceeds will go towards supporting the Misty Isles.

This Year’s Day Trips: 

  • Mitlenatch Island – $145 – Saturday, June 27, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Desolation Sound – $145 – August 8 and September 5, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Sutil Channel – $130 – August 23, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Click here to book a trip or call Misty Isles Adventures at 250-935-6756 for more information.

This Year’s Summer Host

Maëve Leduc is the museum’s summer host for 2020. 

“I am a graduate from the University of Victoria where I earned a BA in Anthropology and Gender Studies, and had the opportunity to attend an archaeological field school on San Cristobal of the Galapagos Islands. Most recently, I’ve been working remotely as a research transcriptionist for Kwusen Research & Media where I was able to deepen my understanding of the rich pre-colonial histories across Turtle Island and how history relates to and informs present-day relations,” she writes.

“My introduction to Cortes Island was through my grandpa Lindy, who I have fond memories of visiting over the years amongst his bustling flower gardens and jazzy piano jams.” 

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