Pioneering historian Marl Brown may have passed, but his spirit is very much alive at the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum.
The eccentric and well-loved Brown came to the community in 1957 to work as a mechanic for the Royal Canadian Army, working maintenance at Mile 245, and passed away at the end of June.
His protégé Jayme Unruh will be the museum’s next curator and has trained under the local legend since she was 14, learning everything she could from Brown about the collection he started 60 years ago.
“We got very close, he started imposing wisdom very early on,” said Unruh, now 25, who started at the museum as a tour guide.
“He was a character, and didn’t take life too seriously. He approached everything with a sense of humour,” Unruh added. “He thought everything was one day a time, there was never a problem you couldn’t fix.”
Unruh will continue to take courses online, training in archival management and more.
“I don’t think you could ever fill his shoes, it’s not possible. But I hope that I can work with my board and my staff to make the best of this place, and just continue to make him proud,” said Unruh.
A new addition is also planned for the museum, with ground broken this month. The space will be used to house a new office and possibly interactive displays in the future.
Plans are still being finalized, though wheelchair accessible washrooms and other quality of life upgrades are part of the plan, says Business Development Manager Kim Eglinski with the Fort Nelson Heritage Society.
The museum continues to be home to thousands of historical items and treasures unique to the Northern Rockies.
“Marl collected everything. People were throwing this stuff away, but he saw a need to preserve our history and our culture,” says Eglinski. “He really took that upon himself. This place is a hidden gem and we never want to lose that.”
Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News