The Sunshine Valley Tashme Museum will be re-opening Saturday (June 13) after many requests from members of the Japanese Canadian community to visit the space.
The museum, which closed March 14 as the coronavirus pandemic restrictions came into force in B.C., houses exhibits, artifacts and a replica tar paper shack from the Tashme internment camp – active between 1942 and 1946 in the Sunshine Valley, 15 minutes from Hope along the Highway 3. The camp housed at its height 2,644 people and was part of a forced relocation of over 22,000 Japanese Canadians who were declared ‘enemy aliens’, stripped of their possessions and shipped to inland camps by the Canadian government during World War II.
Museum founder Ryan Ellan said now is the right time to re-open with strict policies and procedures in place to keep guests safe. “People are starting to get cabin fever, people just want to get out and do something,” he said. Together with the Nikkei National Museum and the Vancouver Japanese Language School, Ellan has been promoting ‘staycations’ and local tourism during the pandemic and he expects a busy season.
The soft-opening will involve being open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., private tours are also happening by reservation. There will be a dedicated entrance and exit door, only eight visitors will be allowed in at one time and there is signage already up about COVID-19. Visitors are encouraged to wear their own masks, and Ellan says he will be wearing a mask.
The museum is coming up on its four year anniversary August 1, and in this time 12,000 people have visited. As the history of Japanese Canadian interment during World War II has now become a part of the B.C. curriculum for Grades 5, 6 and 10, the museum has become a place to organize field trips to. During the last school year, 600 students from across the Lower Mainland visited Ellan said.
In 2019, Star Trek actor George Takei toured the museum during the launch of his book They Called Us Enemy – a graphic novel about his experiences growing up in a U.S. internment camp.
The museum is ever-evolving Ellan said, and there are some projects that will be announced in the near future. For now, all we can do is speculate that it may have something to do with the relocation of a building, the former kindergarten schoolhouse, onto museum property last September.