There are many reasons to take the ferry from Powell River over to Texada Island, ranging from the sprawling solitary beaches to the predator-free wooded trails. Lesser known to some is the local museum, a bountiful stop for history buffs and curious folks alike. If you drive by without glancing up, you may miss the quirky building entirely.
The Texada Island Museum originally opened in 2002 near the ferry terminal and has only been at its current location in Van Anda since 2008. After a quick 10-minute drive from the ferry, you’ll find it at 2003 Waterman Avenue next to the school. The wooden exterior hints at a time long gone, with facades designed to replicate the old Van Anda buildings. The structure itself once housed the elementary school, and it’s hard not to notice its previous identity when you step inside. A long hallway stretches to a back office with doors on either side leading the way to the exhibition rooms.
It has never been a better time to visit, since 2023 marks the 35th year of the Texada Heritage Society. The museum is undergoing some developments, with new exhibits and a gift shop display in the works.
Planning your visit
You’ll quickly realize that this is no ordinary museum. For starters, the schedule is anything but traditional. As a primarily volunteer-run establishment, hours are limited from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm on Wednesdays, with an extended schedule in the summer. From July to Labour Day weekend in early September, the museum is also open from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm from Thursday through Sunday, as well as on holiday Mondays. If the purpose of your visit to the island is to see the museum, call first to avoid making the trip over and finding it closed.
The setup is quite informal, and you won’t find a ticket booth (or tickets for that matter) at the entrance. Instead, look for a wall-mounted box for donations—any amount is gratefully accepted—and a guestbook.
Depending on your interest in old relics and the island’s colourful past, a visit can take between half an hour and an hour. If you’re interested in learning more about the exhibits, feel free to ask for a one-on-one tour to get the full story. In the summer, high school and university students are often employed for the job, and a steady stream of retirees and islanders make up the balance of the volunteers.
What to expect
Almost 100% of the items you’ll see have been donated by local families over the years. From one generation to the next, relatives have shared pieces of the island’s history they thought were worth holding onto. The result is a medley of artifacts ranging in wear, that together depict an interesting tale of a buzzing society.
Inside the Little Billie Mine
For visitors whose reality is distant from that of a miner’s, the museum’s mine exhibit takes you right in. You’ll see detailed images of the old mines along with countless artifacts from the late 1800s to early 1900s when gold and copper were mined. Logbooks, pieces of rock mined on the island, and tools line the walls, filling in every empty space. Further into the exhibit, you can go through a narrow doorway to experience the underground life of a mine worker. If you’re the claustrophobic type, be forewarned. Kids are sure to love the unique layout and its make-believe possibilities.
Schoolhouse and teacherage
If the rough lifestyle of the average miner in the 1900s isn’t for you, you’ll be more at ease venturing onward to the classroom. The recreated setup of the old schoolhouse includes rows of tiny desks, schoolbooks, and an old blackboard. If you’re visiting with kids, they’ll enjoy sitting in the desks in the hallway, but you’ll want to avoid getting stuck if you’re a full-grown adult. Still, elderly adults are particularly fond of the space, as it contains an image frozen in time of the schoolrooms they remember.
This isn’t just any old schoolhouse; next door you’ll get a glimpse into Miss Emily’s teacherage. As the first teacher at the Van Anda school in 1898, the intimate peak into her dwelling is especially charming for visitors. Not to mention, if you find yourself on a walk to nearby Emily Lake, you’ll feel a certain kinship with its namesake.
The hallway itself is one large exhibit. Groups of finely dressed folks posing in front of buildings that have long since burned down are prominent. Check out the Opera House (the first north of San Francisco), the old hotels, and numerous maps of the townships as they once were. Another board features photos of the different boats that have connected islanders to the mainland over the years. Close to the far end of the hallway, a glass case holds various models of old ships. Nearby, a collection of images of the Centenarians of Texada is proudly on display.
Extra museum displays
A few locations around the island showcase monuments that are an extension of the museum. At the nearby Government Dock in Van Anda, a memorial embellished with Texada flower rock pays tribute to the people who drowned when the Union Steamship Cheslakee sunk in a storm.
Partway between Van Anda and Gillies Bay at the intersection with Paxton Road, a large cairn represents the location of the Marshall School. Here, local kids studied for about a decade from 1912, and the building was eventually demolished during World War II.
Close to Blubber Bay, cairns representing the Pacific Lime Company and the local logging industry are on open-air display.
With its convenient location by the school, the museum and heritage society continue to collaborate with students to keep the island’s history alive. While the activity has slowed down in the past few years, regional schools also visit the Texada Island Museum on field trips, sometimes combining it with a bicycle tour and a night of camping out at Shelter Point.
The Heritage Society regularly shares stories of the island’s history in a local publications called Express Lines. Tales of previous residents, including old diary entries and letters, paint a vivid picture that is further enhanced by a visit to the museum.
Click here to learn more about visiting Texada Island.