Haida Gwaii Museum gets vital repairs

A major roof repair is fixing leaks and protecting treasured objects at the Haida Gwaii Museum.

A major roof repair is stopping leaks at the Haida Gwaii Museum.

“I’m thrilled,” says Lin Armstrong, executive director of the Gwaalagaa Naay Corporation in Skidegate, which manages the museum building and other parts of the Haida Heritage Centre at Kay Llnagaay.

“Every time it rains, one of the first things I think of is, ‘Oh my God it’s raining and the museum roof leaks.’”

For years, museum staff have had to place buckets in some rooms to catch drips. Seeping water has also damaged drywall and flooring.

More recently, leaks appeared above the hall and classrooms that connect the museum, built in 1976, to the rest of the Haida Heritage Centre, which opened in 2008.

Altogether, the repairs are expected to cost upwards of $280,000.

So far, the non-profit museum society has received $150,000 from the Gwaii Trust Society, and another $130,000 from the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure program.

“We have been funded, thank goodness,” said Armstrong, noting that Scott Marsden, the museum’s executive director, and Dana Moraes, a Skidegate band councillor, have both worked extra hard on writing grant proposals.

But as roofing crews get a closer look at the damage, the repair cost is likely to rise.

Armstrong said most of the leaks started a few years ago when a storm-blown tree damaged the roof on the museum’s wind-exposed south side.

Insurance adjustors recommended a patch, but more storms blew it apart.

Scott Marsden said the most important thing is that the work is getting done now before the leaks can grow any worse.

“Luckily there’s no damage to the archives, no damage to the artwork,” he said.

“We’re protecting the collection, protecting the archives, protecting the artwork, because that’s what we’re here to do. It’s called the Saving Things House for a reason,” he said, referring to the museum’s Haida language name, Saahlinda Naay.

The roof repairs are expected to finish this summer, and the interior repairs will start in October once the busiest part of the tourist season is over.

Crews will also install window glazing as well as a special glass door at the museum entrance, both of which will help stabilize temperature and humidity in the exhibit spaces.

Nathalie Macfarlane, a former director of the Haida Gwaii Museum who now works as a curatorial consultant, said the museum roof was last replaced in 1992.

It’s a big job, she said, noting that the museum has 5,000 square feet of floor space, and the roof is larger still.

Along with Armstrong and Marsden, Macfarlane said she is glad to see the repairs underway. “I never thought I’d be around to see two roofs, but that’s just the way we have to live here,” she said.