Rather than the definitive statement put forward by my esteemed colleague and editor in a previous article, “History Doesn’t Sell”, I believe this should be framed more as a question; “Does History Sell?”. To this question, the answer can be a yes…if done properly.

Riley’s argument that a museum in the Shipyards Pipe Shop building wont work is based on a direct comparison with the ill-fated Storyeum in Gastown. Therein lies the problem, Storyeum sucked and was never going to succeed. The proposed North Van Museum is different in many ways from the folly that was Storyeum.

Storyeum was 70,000 sq. feet of space in a basement in Gastown that closed in 2006; its biggest claim to fame was it had the largest passenger elevators in the world. I work in Gastown and walked past the “attraction” every day. Even as a history buff, never once did I have even a faint desire to go to Storyeum. The fact that it was a 70-minute guided tour was unappealing to me personally. The image in my head was that of a dreaded school field trip that you were forced to attend as a child. In addition to this, the entry fee was a rather exorbitant $22. If and when I attend a museum or science centre as an adult, I want to have the freedom to roam around as I wish.

This fact alone puts the North Van Museum head and shoulders above Storyeum. Also, Storyeum was just too damn big. 70,000 sq. feet is daunting for any tourist; the Pipe Shop building is just under 10,000 sq. feet and even with a possible mezzanine level added the North Van Museum will be less than a quarter the size of Storyeum, far more manageable and less intimidating.

In my opinion, the North Van Museum can be more accurately compared to Burnaby Village Museum. There, the visitor is allowed to wander freely and interact with actors and displays on their own terms. I’ve been there multiple times (of course it IS free to get in, but I’ll guarantee the North Van Museum will be far less than $22 admission) with kids, and we’ve always had a great time. They didn’t even realize they were learning.

The truth is, even higher priced historic attractions can thrive; case in point the Capilano Suspension Bridge. This North Shore destination is rather ridiculously priced (in my mind) at $38 for an adult, $12 for kids. Even still, the park does phenomenal business. I’ll say again, if the admission for the North Van Museum is even close to half that price, I’ll eat one of their old-timey fedoras.

All I’m saying is, let’s not write off the prospect of an interactive museum in the Pipe Shop building. In my mind, it will make a fine cultural bookend to the Polygon Gallery being built at the foot of Lonsdale. Learning can be fun AND economically viable.

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