Comox museum looking for new home

Lewis Bartholomew, Founder and Director of HMCS Alberni Museum and Alberni Project stands proudly next to a model of HMCS Alberni.

Lewis Bartholomew, Founder and Director of HMCS Alberni Museum and Alberni Project, stands proudly next to a model of HMCS Alberni.

Rachel Lallouz, Staff Writer ~

Founder and Director of the HMCS Alberni Museum and Alberni Project Lewis Bartholomew is searching for a new location for his beloved museum, which was served with a notice to vacate its three-year-old home at the Comox Centre Mall in June, due to the mall’s overhaul planned by its most recent owners.

The museum has been given until the end of September to secure a new location that their tight rental budget of $800 per month can afford.

The mall’s previous owners, explains Bartholomew, were supportive of the museum’s project to share pivotal moments in Canadian history with visitors, and charged a reduced fee of $500 per month rent.

“We now are in the position where we need to find a space large enough to house our current exhibits on First World War, Second World War, HMCS Alberni’s crew and history, and any potential visiting exhibits that we may take on in the future,” says Bartholomew, who adds he hopes that the new location can remain in Comox to maintain its deep ties to HMCS Quadra and CFB Comox.

Bartholomew, who is originally from Seattle, quit his job in grocery management a few years ago to start the museum after hearing about the 1944 sinking of HMCS Alberni during the Second World War. He was deeply touched by the loss of 59 lives.

“I grew up with the heartbeat of the Second World War as my father served in the U.S. military during that time. It was his stories I heard continually as a child. But a lot of young people nowadays don’t have grandparents or living history to explain what transpired back then,” says Bartholomew. “For that reason, I am compelled to do this work.”

The museum relies on a small staff of volunteers, donations made to the museum by individual guests, and sponsorship by local businesses to make ends meet, but Bartholomew says he finds himself dipping into his personal finances to support the museum when money is scarce.

“We have basically been put out into the street, even though this museum is incredibly important for the community. We have a number of retirees in the Comox area that lived or worked during the Second World War period,” he says. “This museum gives them a safe space to touch base with their memories. Some come every single week.”

Shortly after their current exhibit, “War Brides – One Way Passage,” was installed at the museum, Bartholomew says he received a call from a war bride in Ontario who was receiving full health care in a hospital. She shared her hospital room with her husband, and the two had recently celebrated their 72nd anniversary.

“From her bedside table, she thanked me for telling their story,” he says. “It’s moments like this that demonstrate the importance of the museum and make keeping it open worth it.”

To save the museum, Bartholomew is seeking local sponsorship and donations from interested businesses.

“I feel this museum is incredibly important for Canadians – for the young and the old and especially for those whose life stories we are telling,” he says. “I really don’t want to see this disappear. We’ve always prided ourselves on being a community-supported museum and I would love to see it continue that way.”

For more information on the museum, please visit www.alberniproject.org. To speak with Bartholomew about donations or sponsorship, please email him at mrbarth@alberniproject.org.

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