Voices of the Valley permanent exhibit opens at The Reach

The display presents a unique look at regional history

The new Voices of the Valley permanent exhibit opened Thursday night at The Reach Gallery Museum Abbotsford.

The new Voices of the Valley permanent exhibit opened Thursday night at The Reach Gallery Museum Abbotsford.

The Reach Gallery Museum Abbotsford has launched its Voices of the Valley permanent museum exhibition, which provides a unique look at regional history.

An opening reception for the exhibit was held Thursday evening.

The exhibition invites everyone, from avid history buffs to school children, to explore the rich collections of historical objects, photographs, and archival materials that tell the story of the community through the eyes of individuals who have shaped it.

The exhibition was designed through a partnership between The Reach and the MSA Museum Society, and brings together two significant historical collections.

In addition, the exhibition has received support from the local business community and has been developed through a five-year investment in culture made by Columbia Kitchen Cabinets Ltd.

“One of the stories that runs throughout the exhibition is the impact of local business and industry in shaping the community we see today,” said Laura Schneider, executive director of The Reach. “In supporting this exhibition, our generous sponsors have shown that this tradition is alive and well in Abbotsford.”

“In our business culture we believe that a society that doesn’t celebrate its heritage seldom demonstrates a vision for the future,” said Hans Kruger, president of Columbia Kitchen Cabinets Ltd.

Kris Foulds, curator of historical collections at The Reach, said the exhibit presents a unique approach to history.

“We want our visitors to understand that history is a series of past actions that reverberate in the present. We hope that our audience will come to the exhibition in the spirit of curiosity and use the abundance of primary documents available to reach their own conclusions. We want to go beyond teaching history, and teach historians,” she said.

Students, educators and the general public can access and review primary-source documents through touchscreen tablets located throughout the exhibition. This technological enhancement is made possible through support from the Lohn Foundation and a host of local donors.

The exhibition is shaped around the themes and events that have impacted the community since the time of settler colonization, and uses graphic cues to demonstrate how the stories of the community are linked and continue to have impact today.

It also presents multiple viewpoints. For example, a section of the exhibition dedicated to the drainage of Sumas Lake examines how settlers benefited from this agricultural development while it had devastating repercussions for the Stό:lō people.

“By bringing to life the diversity of our local heritage, Voices in the Valley urges us to think about our roles as history makers, encouraging us to make responsible and informed decisions in our community,” said Mayor Henry Braun. “It helps us to grow as a complete community – a community that understands its past and moves forward into the future with understanding.”

The exhibition was also designed with educators in mind. Voices of the Valley connects directly to the classroom and addresses many of the prescribed learning outcomes in the new B.C. curriculum documents.

The learning program, including the new portable Heritage Learning Kits funded by the Rotary Club of Abbotsford, will support educators by offering a suite of options based on critical-thinking strategies.

The Voices of the Valley museum is located adjacent to the community archives at The Reach (32388 Veterans Way).

The archives are open to the public and offer 31,000 digitized images that are publicly accessible online. The Reach continues to add to this repository through its Abbotsford Living History Project that is supported by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.

For more information, visit thereach.ca.

For more photos from the opening reception, visit the Abbotsford News Facebook page.