Charlotte Murray at the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel.

Charlotte Murray at the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel.

New rail museum director excited about expansion

A new executive director has taken the helm of the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel in Cranbrook.

A new executive director has taken the helm of the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel in Cranbrook.

Charlotte Murray took over in late August after the departure of former executive director Damon Colgan.

Murray worked at the museum previously as exhibit co-ordinator and curator in October of last year for a six month contract. Once that was complete, she spent time has the executive director and curator of the Boundary Museum and Interpretive Centre in Grand Forks.

“Then I got a call to come home, which was wonderful,” Murray said.

Murray received her Museology education through Athabasca University. She also has experience in tourism and office administration.

“I’m originally from Regina, but I came here when I was six years old and spent most of my life here, so Cranbrook is home,” she said. “I’m invested in the community.”

She said a new vision for the museum should be up and running in December or January. That includes a rebranding and relaunch of the museum which will complement the railway portion.

“We’ve all waited for a Cranbrook museum for a long time,” she said. “So exciting new things are happening here.”

The Cranbrook Museum will be under the umbrella of the Cranbrook History Centre, which will also include the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel and the Cranbrook archives.

“We have the potential to have four or five more galleries here and I’m hoping in six to eight months we will expand on the Cranbrook Museum and make a natural history gallery,” she said.

Murray wants to create a community museum where everybody is welcome.

“There will be tours where you pay to do the tours; there will be things where you can enter by donation only,” she explained. “It doesn’t matter what their social economic status is. So this will be a community museum. We’re hoping to instil civic pride, appreciation for culture, heritage, conservation. That creates volunteerism and desire to save some of our old buildings.”

The museum world is changing and she noted that those involved are realizing museums are no longer just “closets of curiosity” that simply house artifacts and displays.

“Part of our public trust responsibility is that we open our doors to our community — it is their tax dollars that are funding many of these organizations, so we want to invite them in,” she said. “So we are trying to extend a hand of hospitality and welcome and create inspiring and engaging exhibits and programs.”

The Cranbrook Museum exhibit will be a permanent one. That will include interpretive panels which will explain the history of Cranbrook and the area. They will also be developing interactive displays.

“Things that you can engage in, do and touch,” she said. “Museums used to be that you came and you looked only and you were very quiet. We want to create dialogue and conversation, so you can come with your friends. Upstairs there will be temporary exhibits, so those will be constantly changing.”

Murray said they are hoping to get an HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system so that they can borrow other museums’ exhibits as well. Most museums require the system is in place before they will lend out exhibits.

“We will have permanent exhibits and then temporary ones,” she said.

She said that among the other new revenue generating ideas is the promotion of the Royal Alexandra Hall for weddings, events, workshops, seminars and Christmas parties. Citizenship presentations were ongoing at the time of the interview on Tuesday.

She said the staff at the museum constantly hear people say that they didn’t even know the hall was there, or that it was available for rental.

The museum is always looking for new members and volunteers and can be contacted at 250-489-3918.