Project Impact
The expansion of the Shawnigan Lake Museum



The current space limitations in the museum make it challenging to do the great programming and community work that the Society has become known for. Project Impact will significantly increase our programming, gathering and engagement space which will provide a direct benefit to the community, and to the people, from local to international, that visit annually.

A museum is not just about the past. It is as much
about informing the future.

The Shawnigan Lake Historical Society is a not-for-profit, charitable organization established by volunteers, in 1977, to protect and promote the history of Shawnigan Lake and the surrounding area.

This dedicated group immediately began collecting artifacts and archival material to represent the stories of the area. They also took workshops and museum related courses to prepare themselves for the day that they would open a museum.

In 1983, opportunity knocked. The volunteer firemen had outgrown their fire hall (built in 1950) in the village and built a new one down the road. The historical society took over the redundant building with enthusiasm.

Garth Harvey, who helped to shape the old fire hall into a museum, said that, “For a while, we will rattle around like a few peas in a saucepan.” Thirty eight years later, the Shawnigan Lake Museum is still in the same building (now on the CVRD Heritage Registry) and “packed like sardines” would be a more apt description.

After decades of donations of artifacts, and archival material, mostly from the Shawnigan community, the museum has outgrown the space. This hampers the ability to provide the programming and service to the community.

An expansion plan for the museum is underway, that will add a more space, roughly 3000 square feet, and will seamlessly connect to the current building. 

The building form is derived from local context and historic images. i.e. a simplistic gable roof not dissimilar to historic hotels, mill structures, railway stations, rowing club etc. Likewise, the finishes and materials are also local reference.

To put the scale of the building in perspective, this isn’t a particularly big building. The footprint is, of course a reflection of the space the museum requires and budget realities.

The result is a building that it is comparable (6000sq.ft.) to the size of buildings in the immediate vicinity. The service station next door, the strip plaza kitty corner, even Aitken & Fraser are all of similar scale.

This project will offer many benefits to the community, and region as a whole, including

  • two public washroom for the village that will be accessible from Elsie Miles Park
  • a courtyard/plaza space that will serve as a welcoming place for residents and visitors to gather
  • a new entrance to the museum that will allow visitors and groups to assemble safely, and under shelter, rather than on the road allowance; space to adequately offer regular school programming
  • space to engage visitors through community outreach with events and speakers;
  • an increased gift shop area to attract tourists and residents; more volunteer and summer student opportunities
  • a much needed transfusion of energy for the Village of Shawnigan Lake, and a museum that will continue to flourish as a heritage attraction/destination

The need for more space at the museum is not as much a need for additional exhibit space as it is about space to expand services to the community. One of the fundamental objectives of any museum is to educate:

  • Museums possess the resource materials to enrich and improve the school curriculum and can be an integral component the education system. Many school groups visit the Shawnigan Lake Museum but it is difficult in the cramped space to accommodate classes of twenty to thirty students; the teachers; the parents and the volunteers that are necessary to ensure a rewarding experience. 
  • Pre-school groups, Cubs and Brownies schedule visits to the museum as well.
  • Visits from seniors clubs; residents from care homes and organized bus tours can be a challenge in the current space especially accommodate larger groups and/or visitors in wheelchairs or using walkers.
  • Another objective of a museum is to provide an attraction that draws people to the area.

Heritage and tourism go hand in hand. Research shows that Heritage Tourism is an integral part of successful tourism and therefore contributes greatly to the economic benefits of an area.

  • According to research, travellers are seeking experiences that that are distinct and authentic, and they prefer trips that will teach them something new.
  • The Shawnigan Lake Museum is at the gateway to the Cowichan Valley and attracts people from far and wide.
    • Our visitor book indicates that, at this point, 29% of our visitors are from the Shawnigan area; 40% are from the Cowichan Valley and the rest of Vancouver Island; 17% from other parts of Canada and 13% from around the world. In addition, our website stats indicate that we are getting hits from all over the world – with the number one query - Kinsol Trestle.
  • The museum is in a position to service the increasing number of visitors to the Kinsol Trestle, most of whom access it through Shawnigan Lake. We currently have two scale models of the trestle (one is 12 feet long) and several video presentations that are available for people who want more information.

The new space will include:

  • a large activity room for programming and events

  • a community living room 

  • a larger gift shop

  • a larger E.J. Hughes Gallery

  • accessible public washrooms - inside and out

  • an archives and research area

  • a beautiful outdoor gathering space

  • a storage area

  • a kitchen 

The purpose of the expansion is to open our doors more widely, both figuratively and literally, to the public and invite people to engage in a shared experience. The Society has shown its commitment to this purpose for over forty years of service in the area.

Thank you for your support for our project. 

To date, the Shawnigan Lake Historical Society has raised roughly $1,000,000 for the expansion project

If you wish to contribute, please click here to go to the "How to Help" page.

How to help
For more information, please contact:

Lori Treloar, Executive Director
Shawnigan Lake Historical Society
1775 Shawnigan-Mill Bay Road
Shawnigan Lake, BC V0R 2W0
p: 250-743-8675

What to Find at the Museum

Contact The Museum 
Provided by The Shawnigan Lake Historical Society

The Shawnigan Lake Museum
Box 331 - 1775 Shawnigan-Mill Bay Road , Shawnigan Lake, BC Canada V0R 2W0
Phone: 250-743-8675