In 2022 the Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives celebrated our 20th anniversary, but many will remember the museums that came before – one was even in the same location on 716 Winn Road. The first of these local museums formed in the basement of Lester Peterson as his collection of local treasures started to fill up the lower part of his house.
Peterson arrived on the Sunshine Coast as a young boy in 1923 and grew up to become an English teacher and local historian. His interest in history led him to write several books and a substantial amount of newspaper columns and articles, which were digitized between 2012 and 2014 as one of the SCMA’s projects. Peterson was an avid collector and many of his friends and community connections gave him artifacts and related their own stories to him. Eventually, this collection outgrew the Abbs Road house that Peterson shared with his family.
In 1965 the Elphinstone Pioneer Museum Society, which included Les Peterson, was formed and were quick to get the museum a more suitable home. The first “permanent” home for the museum was in yet another basement, this time located in what was then the new Municipal Hall building on South Fletcher. Once situated, the museum was able to offer memberships for a large sum of $1 per member! Other collections came to join Peterson’s, including Don Cruikshank’s pipes, Charles Smith’s weapons, Charles Bedford’s shells, and our beloved butterfly cabinet was donated by an anonymous community member.
The Elphinstone Pioneer Museum moved in 1974 when a new building was constructed at the south end of Holland Park specifically for the museum. The museum was able to add an archive and library to its collection with the extra space and even went on the expanded again with an addition of a second storey. But it didn’t stop growing there!
Sunshine Coast Maritime History Society formed in 1986 to construct of full-size replica of Captain George Vancouver’s sloop, the Discovery, for the 200th anniversary of its voyage of exploration. While this project did not come to fruition, the SCMHS was able to open a new museum dedicated to maritime history in 1991. This Molly’s Lane museum was called the Sunshine Coast Maritime Museum and was open from 1991 to 2002 when it amalgamated with the Elphinstone Pioneer Museum. This merger happened 20 years ago to form the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives as we know it.
After 20 years of the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives, we would like to thank the innumerable people who have helped the museum through the years. Our volunteers, board members, staff, and, of course, our visitors have all been an incredible source of support! Our community of heritage societies and museums on the Sunshine Coast is a tight-knit group and we look forward to our museum's future work alongside the Sechelt Archives, tems swiya Museum, Pender Harbour Living Heritage Society, the Egmont Heritage Centre, and the many other groups that make the Coast what it is.