Langley Centennial Museum History: Visit Before it Closes on September 30, 2022
Langley Centennial Museum is preparing to close after serving the community for 64 years. Many people in Langley might recall trips to the museum as school children, parents, and grandparents, but the galleries at 9135 King Street are now set to close forever on September 30. The Museum’s new home, Salishan Place by the River, is expected to open across the street in 2023. Visitors are invited to say farewell and experience the final exhibit featured in its space, Beginning’s End: An Artistic and Celebratory Send-Off. This exhibit celebrates the local arts groups and artists who have exhibited here over the decades, including the Langley Arts Council, Fort Langley Artists Group, Fraser Valley Potters Guild, Langley Weavers’ and Spinners’ Guild, Fraser Valley Watermedia Society, and local Indigenous and Metis artists coordinated in collaboration with stɑl̓əw̓ Arts & Cultural Society.
Langley Centennial Museum in 2004
Langley’s museum is one of the oldest community museums in the province, originally established through the efforts of the Native Sons of B.C., a fraternal organization. After purchasing the last remaining Hudson’s Bay Company fort building, the Storehouse (with the 3 acres surrounding it) from the Mavis family in the 1920s, the group collected items from the Langley area and beyond. The old Storehouse opened as a museum in 1931.
With the 1958 centennial of the declaration of the Colony of British Columbia fast approaching, a Centennial Committee established in 1956 with representatives from Township of Langley Council and from the Native Sons and Daughters proposed that a new museum be built as a Centennial project. During this same period, the Federal Department of Northern Affairs and Natural Resources began planning the reconstruction of Fort Langley. It was decided that the material collected by the Native Sons of BC would be divided to form the nucleus of the collections for the restored Fort Langley, and for the new museum.
The Langley Centennial Museum officially opened July 1, 1958, followed by a community picnic. However, many remember the July 22 visit of Princess Margaret as the Museum’s opening, when she visited two new community attractions. Around this time, Mrs. Dagmar Umphrey became the first curator custodian of the Museum.
Princess Margaret helped open Langley Centennial Museum at 9135 King Street in 1958. The Museum will close its doors on September 30, 2022 in preparation for its move across the street to Salishan Place by the River.
In 1974, the Government of Canada launched the National Exhibition Centres (NEC) program, and the Langley Centennial Museum in Fort Langley was chosen as one of four museums in British Columbia to join eighteen other museums across Canada receiving the NEC designation. Along with the designation came funding to expand the footprint of its building. This additional gallery space enabled the Museum to welcome travelling exhibits from around the globe, and to highlight local arts and culture for almost five decades. The renovation also allowed for collections and archives storage, and a programming space.
In 1979, Warren Sommer joined the Museum as its first full-time Director/Curator and with the help of a group of dedicated volunteers, they launched the museum’s important docent program. For over forty years, this award-winning group of volunteer educators built a thriving and diverse catalogue of programs that allowed students from across the Lower Mainland to experience history with hands-on activities. In 1988, a second extension to the building was completed, allowing for office spaces and a volunteers’ room supporting the individuals who organized the many exhibitions, programs, and events held in the Museum over time. It is estimated that over 1.3 million people have visited this museum in the 64 years that it has served the community.
The Museum was also one of the first community museums in Canada to digitize its oral history collection. You can search that collection, as well as photographs, archives, objects, and art any time at museum.tol.ca
Promotional photo of Langley Centennial Museum’s N. Booth Store display in 2006.
With only days to go, it’s a great time to visit the Museum, and to bid the building a fond farewell.
The Museum is open Tuesday – Saturday from 10:00am – 4:00pm until September 30, 2022.