Bella Coola Museum Develops New First Nations and Voyageurs Historical Tourism Experiences

Bella Coola Valley Museum Society

The Bella Coola Valley Museum reflects the eclectic history of the valley from the early explorers to the coming of the pioneers up to 1955. Formerly a schoolhouse and a surveyor's cabin, the museum is housed in a heritage log building that dates back to 1892. On display are items brought by Norwegians to the New World, and artifacts and photographs that tell tales of the early trading days when the Hudson's Bay Company thrived.

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    Lorna Dishkin
    Museum Director
    Bella Coola Valley Museum Society

    Dean McKinley
    Director, Economic Development
    Northern Development Initiative Trust

  • In 2006, the Bella Coola Museum Society conducted a study to enable the society to effectively enage with tourists and residents, allowing visitors to relive the vibrant history of the Bella Coola Valley. For generations, the Nuxalk have occupied the Bella Coola Valley amidst the magnificent mountains and lush forests of the central coast of British Columbia.

    The Nuxalk's culture, rich in material and ceremonial wealth, was first encountered by Europeans in 1793, when explorer Alexander Mackenzie, his voyageurs, and native guides completed the first recorded crossing of North America. Seven weeks prior to Mackenzie's visit, Captain George Vancouver's surveyors had charted North Bentinck Arm. Traveling the historic Nuxalk-Carrier Grease Trail, Mackenzie's party preceded the American government-financed Lewis and Clark expedition by twelve years.

    The museum completed a detailed consultation process on how to effectively portray these historic events that included major facility layout changes that has made the Bella Coola Valley Museum's exhibits more appealing to visitors and more effective in generating much needed revenue to support the Society.

    Positive Economic Impacts in Bella Coola

    In recent years, the region's economy has shifted from resource extraction to the tourism sector in order to provide a more sustainable employment base. This shift increases the significance of tourism-based organizations and businesses, such as the museum.

    The Bella Coola Valley Museum is heavily relied upon by local tourism operators and visitors to provide an educational and entertaining experience that complements the many outdoor activities the region offers.The museum is often a first stop for visitors, making a positive first impression imperative, as any improvements made to the museum directly benefits the local tourism industry. Providing innovative representations of local history and quality exhibits within a well thought out design is assisting in increasing visitor satisfaction and encouraging longer visitor stays in the Bella Coola Valley and surrounding region.

    The success of the museum also sustains local employment in Bella Coola, as the organization employs, summer students and several others throughout the year involved in seasonal contract positions. This project has important economic benefits linked to diversification of Bella Coola's local economy. The infrastructure improvements informed by this project and capacity building of the museum society are also positive steps forward for the local tourism sector.

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