The Exploration Place has missed its visitors just as much as the community has missed walking through our doors to experience exhibits, participate in programs, and interact with the most popular members of the team, the Animal Ambassadors. The museum closed to the public in March 2020 at the onset of COVID-19 and has remained closed as the building goes through the first major renovation to its gallery spaces since its expansion in 2001.
We are thrilled to have a Pop-Up location in Pine Centre Mall, running until April, with an anticipated grand reopening of our main building in May. The Pop-Up has been buzzing with visitors to our gift shop, KEVA exhibit, and kids’ programming.
We were expecting a nationally travelling exhibit, Trailblazing: Women In Canada since 1867, to arrive in time for the opening of our Pop-Up. Unfortunately, the day before the truck was supposed to leave the Lower Mainland for Prince George, the severe storms led to flooding and washouts, stranding the exhibit in Vancouver.
As we’ve had to so many times in the past couple of years, it was time to pivot once again. What were we going to do with all this space?
The Exploration Place is excited to bring back a version of our community Heritage Tree. In the Pop-Up exhibit space, you will find a beautiful festive holiday display, complete with a rideable replica of Champ, the Northern Hardware horse, and several trees filled with Heritage Tree ornaments, perfect for a photo op with your family.
You may remember from previous years the arrival of a 16-foot natural tree to the museum atrium each winter. The Heritage Tree is the centrepiece of the museum’s Christmas celebrations and has been raised almost every year since the tradition began in 1995. Our community version of a traditional family tree, the museum tree houses a collection of community memories symbolic of the people of Prince George that have become a part of the museum’s permanent curatorial collection and our community’s history.
Over the past 26 years, we have collected hundreds of ornaments donated from citizens of Prince George that commemorate important personal and community events. The tree is full of special moments like Baby’s First Christmas, graduations, and remembrances of passed loved ones. The tree uniquely captures memories of everyone who has contributed to it.
In 1995, the first year the Heritage Tree was established, the Dunbar family hung a bell with a message that says, “The bell for us symbolizes the ringing of the news of Christ’s birth and the music of Christmas.” The same year, Anne Martin donated a watering can ornament that spoke of her love of gardening. Our CEO Tracy Calogheros donated an ornament to celebrate the memory of her mentor, previous Executive Director of The Exploration Place, George Phillips. Some ornaments are delicate antiques, some are handmade, and some are more recent commercial decorations. But each ornament has its own unique story to tell.
The tree still has plenty of room for memories, and we invite you to come and take your place in the growing history of our museum family tree. When you bring in an ornament, we will affix a small tag that tells its story, and from there, it will be accessioned and become a permanent part of the museum collection. Each Christmas, it will be returned to the tree, and everyone who comes to visit will be reminded of those who have contributed to the culture of our community.
The Heritage Tree display is open every day during mall hours until January. Bring in your ornaments, take a holiday photo of your kids, play with KEVA, and explore Elements Retail. And (fingers crossed!) come and check out the Trailblazing exhibit, scheduled to open mid-January.