Coffee with: Creating historical connections in Delta

New Delta Museum curator hopes to deliver a product all residents can take pride in

Darryl MacKenzie

As the brand new curator at the Delta Museum & Archives Society, Darryl MacKenzie has compiled a lengthy “to-do” list.

One of his first items of housekeeping is to move his office from the lower back corner of the museum building in Ladner Village to a more prominent spot on the main exhibit floor.

“That will definitely raise my profile within the museum and the accessibility that people have to me. And it will allow for me to be able to communicate more effectively with people,” says MacKenzie, who is taking over for outgoing curator Jordana Kerry.

As MacKenzie takes steps to become more visible at work, the Delta Museum & Archives Society is also strengthening its presence in Delta, striving to create connections between different communities and reflect a message that speaks to all residents.

“We need to take a look at the fact that there has been a very strong European voice to the exhibits,” says MacKenzie. “We have seen over the past few decades changing demographics and we need to put the voice of those various communities that exist in Delta into the museum.”

One of the first projects MacKenzie is working on is a community mapping project, which will attempt to better understand how North Delta residents see their community.

“The mandate from the (museum) board has been that we need to have a better connection with, certainly, North Delta,” he says. “We need to have better understanding and connection with the Tsawwassen First Nation. We need to better understand what our capabilities are and deliver a product for the community that all parts of Delta can take pride in.”

MacKenzie, a Hamilton, Ontario native, earned a bachelors of speech and language pathology at the University of Western Ontario, a masters in archaeology at the University of Leicester in England, and a diploma in museum studies through the University of Victoria.

He was drawn to the curatorial field after noticing how people surround themselves with material to communicate their identity, culture and beliefs.

Previously, MacKenzie was the museum director in Oliver, B.C. for five years until the facility shut its doors last summer due to a lack of funding.

While he still has plenty to learn about the details of Delta’s past, MacKenzie says he started the job with a general understanding of the history of the Lower Mainland.

“It really is the gateway to British Columbia and the gateway to understanding the entire history of British Columbia going back millennia,” he says.

Delta has a very different origin than Oliver, which MacKenzie said developed in the 1920s as a “social experiment” under the direction of then B.C. premier John Oliver—a Deltan—who promoted an irrigation project to reclaim the lands of the southern Interior.

Located at the mouth of the Fraser River, MacKenzie says Delta has a less manmade, more “organic” history.

“It was only natural that people would settle here, and as European settlement progressed, the natural landscape dictated where settlement was going to occur,” he said, adding the museum’s collection has also accumulated organically.

“Because of the different communities, you’ve got such a wide variety of materials,” he says. “The collection has been quite well curated in the past and the people in the area have been extremely generous in offering their personal collections to the museum for the community as a whole.”

Surrey North Delta Leader

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