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Nelson Museum volunteer Michael Wicks wins provincial heritage award

Wicks won the Outstanding Impact Volunteer award
Michael Wicks, second from right, was presented with an Outstanding Impact Volunteer award at the Heritage BC awards event May 2 in Nelson. L-R: NMAG social justice lead Lesley Garlow, public program coordinator Stephanie Myers, archives and Collections manager JP Stienne, and executive director Jennifer Dunkerson. Photo: Submitted

Longtime Nelson resident and Nelson Museum volunteer Michael Wicks has been recognized for his exemplary volunteer work at last week’s Heritage BC annual conference held in Nelson.

Wicks was recognized for an Outstanding Impact Volunteer Award in part for the extensive work he has done in collecting, growing, and caring for the Queer Archives at the Nelson Museum for the last three decades.

When he first came out as a gay man in the 1970s, Wicks yearned to educate himself about the broader gay community and how he fit into it and began collecting information from gay liberation groups. When he moved to Nelson in 1976, he added local ephemera to his collection because he was amazed at how the culture was growing and becoming more accessible, particularly in a rural area.

In 2019, he approached the Nelson Museum looking for a home for his collection of queer materials, including journals, stickers, buttons, tickets, flags, articles, photos, videotapes, newspaper articles, and more. His collection became the core of the Queer Archives held in the Nelson Museum, Archives and Gallery.

“Michael is a collector, historian, and educator at heart,” says JP Stienne, collections manager at the Nelson Museum. “Michael’s passion for the community, yearning for knowledge, and generous nature have made a significant impact by adding a Queer History to the collection.”

Once the Queer Archives opened, Wicks reached out to the community with the social media campaign entitled Out of the Closets and Into the Archive, to acquire more content, and the collection continues to grow, thanks in large part to his outreach.

“Michael stands out for his initiative and vision”, says Britney Dack, Chair of Heritage BC.

“By recording and subsequently sharing Nelson’s Queer History,” she said, “Michael created a project that was destined to grow and impact his community in innumerable ways. His work has broadened perspectives, increased representation, and documented a history that would have otherwise been buried. We recognize the bravery of collecting records at a time when queer folks faced widespread discrimination, both socially and institutionally.”

The material in the Queer Archives became the core of the 2021 exhibition Kootenay Pride: We Love a Parade!, which also included the production of the documentary film Queering the Interior, produced by Watershed Productions and the Nelson Museum, and directed by Amy Bohigian. Both the exhibition and the film continue to educate and inspire the local community through film screenings, educator resources, and a new permanent installation in the Museum stairwell.