One of Pemberton’s longest-serving community organizations is preparing to celebrate a significant milestone, as the Pemberton & District Museum and Archives Society is approaching 30 years of service to the Spud Valley.
The society was first established in the fall of 1982, with the museum opening the following spring. The facility has thrived due in large part to the support of community members throughout its existence, said curator Niki Madigan.
“We’re calling it ‘Pemberton’s longest-running community project, with no end in sight,’” laughed Madigan, who has been curator since 2008. “For a little society, it has probably consistently gathered more than 1,000 volunteer hours per year since 1982.
“We have some members that have been with the society since it started in ’82. That’s pretty neat, to be part of an organization that has that kind of legs.”
In fact, until the Village of Pemberton created a museum tax requisition in 2004, the museum depended entirely on volunteer efforts to re-tell the region’s history dating back to the 1850s.
Margaret Fougberg — co-author of a 1958 book titled Pemberton: The History of a Settlement — was the museum’s first curator and gave up her summers to keep the museum open, said Madigan.
Madigan said she’s been doing plenty of research about the museum itself in anticipation of the anniversary and has been impressed by the “political will” for the community to establish a museum three decades ago, which she finds unique.
“It wasn’t really a fight to create a museum and in some small towns … arts and culture are often things that fall by the wayside,” she said. “I guess when Margaret Fougberg had the concept, council of the day received her delegation wholeheartedly, our society was formed and the village donated land.
“I tell you: It just seems too easy. I did all these interviews looking for some kind of dirt or drama, but there really wasn’t any. It was just what everybody thought needed to be done.”
Madigan described the mid-‘90s as the “toughest” stretch for the museum, a period following Fougberg’s departure when “a lot of newcomers were coming to Pemberton that may not have been aware there was a museum.”
“It’s because of people like Flo Bilenduke, who just opened up the doors and spent all summer at the museum, that it was able to carry on through that time,” said Madigan.
Not surprisingly, the museum has seen its share of changes over the years, but one of the most significant for Madigan is how the Prospect Street property has become a “community hub” for events and gatherings of local residents over time.
“Definitely more in the last decade than ever before in its history, just because our ability to keep the place open was dependent on volunteers,” she said. “Now that we’re funded, there are a lot more opportunities to collaborate with the library, the arts council. We’re looking forward to more collaboration with other community groups and using the museum site as a platform for a variety of things.”
Beyond 2012 marking the museum’s 30th anniversary, it’s been a year for the facility to celebrate because officials are now in the process of moving into the new archives and exhibit building under construction on the grounds.
Meanwhile, the process of digitizing the museum’s archives has been an ongoing project that’s expanding the society’s online presence.
“We scanned and uploaded our 2,000th photo this summer to our website,” said Madigan. “We’re getting a lot of traffic now on our website, because maybe people are doing a search for a family name, and our website comes up because we have a photo. That’s allowed us to be year-round in our connection with members and people from out of town.”
A fundraiser and celebration of the museum’s 30 years is scheduled for Oct. 13 at 6:30 p.m., featuring a slideshow of the facility’s history and other festivities.
The Question has teamed up with the museum for another historical issue of the Pemberton Gazette, which begins on page 24 of this week’s issue.