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New permanent exhibition opens at Qualicum Beach Museum

‘We Have the Power’ looks at past and future of local energy generation
The Qualicum Beach Museum has unveiled a new exhibit about power generation and climate change in the Powerhouse heritage building. (Kevin Forsyth photo)

A new exhibit explores the history and future of power generation and climate change in the Qualicum Beach area.

‘We Have the Power’ is housed in the newly-restored Powerhouse heritage building on the Qualicum Beach Museum grounds and takes the viewer through the history of local energy generation, as well as reminding people to think about the future.

It chronicles the history of power generation, from the discovery of coal fields on the Island in 1850 to the first steam engine’s arrival in town (1914) to the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

The displays were created to be as environmentally friendly as possible, according to Lorraine Bell, museum manager.

“We minimized the use of plastic by printing directly onto plywood,” Bell said. “We chose against creating an energy-consuming, climate control system. Instead it might be a bit warm in the summer, it might be a bit cool in the winter. We can wear a sweater and still see the exhibit and use a lot less fossil fuels.”

Bell added she hopes the exhibit can encourage visitors to think about climate change solutions in a new way. Although it is a permanent exhibit, it is mobile and can be moved out to make way for other exhibits, or to travel to another museum.

“We wanted to have that opportunity to make it a community space of ongoing learning,” Bell said, adding that the museum would like to host some temporary exhibits related to power and energy, such as food security and sustainable energy.

The exhibit is the result of a lot research, which included many diverse perspectives from scientists, hydro workers, artists, First Nations, different levels of government and youth climate activists.

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“We really wanted to centre the land and give the land a voice,” Bell said. “The exhibit features some very important ecosystems that are right here in Qualicum Beach, with the reminder that they’re not only beautiful places to walk and relax, but they also play a crucial role in our health and well-being.”

Bell also thanked Carrie Reid and assistant manager Kisselle Reid for helping the museum centre Indigenous ecological knowledge in understanding and addressing the impacts of climate change.

The powerhouse project began in 2021 thanks to funding from the province via the Community Economic Recovery Investment Program (CERIP) – Unique Heritage Infrastructure Program.

The building, constructed in 1929, was updated in keeping with its heritage status. It is one of 12 sites listed in Qualicum Beach as part of Canada’s Historical Places.

The Qualicum Beach Museum (587 Beach Rd.) is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays for its summer hours, which last until the end of September. “We Have the Power” opened on June 23.

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Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
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