Touchstones director is moving on

Leah Best has a new job at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria.

Leah Best is leaving her job as executive director of Touchstones Nelson to take a job at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria.

Leah Best is leaving her job at Touchstones Museum of Art and History in Nelson for a position at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria.

Best was the first executive director of Touchstones, which was founded 12 years ago as Nelson’s first public museum, gallery and archives. She came to Touchstones from the Vancouver Art Gallery.

“Thank you, Nelson, and I will miss you,” she said in an interview with the Star this week. “It has been the best personal and professional period of my life.”

She said her legacy was getting Touchtones up and running 11 years ago.

“It is now a well-functioning organization that has policies and procedures in place and that also has an excellent team of staff who know what they are doing,” she said.

“It was my job to come up with all the systems, what the hours would be, coming up with a membership program, taking an organization from a forming stage to a performing stage.”

Mayor Deb Kozak says she’s sad to lose Best but she’s happy for her.

“She came in as a very young executive director with real energy and imagination. Whenever you are starting something new there are twists and turns, and Leah handled them very gracefully and she did a superb job of setting up the gallery.”

In Victoria, Best will supervise up to two dozen curators.

“They are the scientists and the curators who help to interpret a massive museum collection. They do research and field work,” said Best.

“They collect specimens and archival material, and they work with other departments to develop exhibitions and programs.”

Best says the biggest challenge for museums is relevance. She thinks museums have to look at contemporary issues and put them in their historical context so the public can better understand them.

She cites Touchstones’ Roll On Columbia exhibit from 2015.

“We took the Columbia River Treaty negotiation that is going to happen sometime before 2024 and said, ‘Here is the context for it, and here are the public values we have now and how are they different from the 1960s.’”

She is also proud of the “intellectual activism” undertaken in some exhibits in the Touchstones gallery including Shelter and What I Eat, which looked at local housing and food, currently and historically.

Best’s last day at Touchstones will be August 19.

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