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Do you know all the uses for copper?

Britannia Mine Museum exhibit 'Connected by Copper: From Cells to Cell Phones' on now until September.
It is fitting that the first Britannia Mine Museum exhibit of the 2021 summer season under loosened pandemic restrictions should be about copper, which has germ-killing properties.

“Connected by Copper: From Cells to Cell Phones," is on now until Sept. 7 in the Museum’s Machine Shop.

The exhibit showcases how valuable copper is in our daily lives and has been since ancient times.

What will you see?

Attendees are greeted in the Machine Shop by a "veil of copper," said Laura Minta Holland, acting curator at the museum.

There's a floor-to-ceiling 3D DNA spiral structure that features examples of how copper has been used to create items that keep us safe.

"[This includes] weaponry, knives, shields, axes, but also machinery like phones, instruments — so thinking about very different ways that copper has been in our lives and has been used to keep us safe," Minta Holland said, adding that copper also plays a role in lighting and mining.

"Within the helix and throughout the exhibition, there is an "I-Spy" game that asks guests to find five miniature copper items.

A big focus of the display is how copper has been used for millennia for its health benefits.

"The Romans and the Greeks and the Egyptians were all using copper within bandages to cover cuts and things like that," Minta Holland said. "This has been known for such a long time in human existence, and now we are looking at other ways we can use copper in that way."

TransLink has used copper to help kill bacteria on buses and SkyTrain cars and provided the museum with a copper-covered pole to display.

In partnership with Teck Resources Limited, Vancouver Coastal Health, VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation, Coalition for Healthcare Acquired Infection Reduction, and UBC, TransLink was the first transit agency in North America to test copper on transit surfaces.

"Based on sample-testing performed on transit and in a lab, the study concluded that select copper products on transit are durable and kill up to 99.9% of all bacteria within one hour of the bacteria’s contact with the surface," according to a Britannia Mine news release.

Copper is also needed in our diet, and the museum touches on that aspect of the metal.

"We are really trying to show the diversity of how copper is around us every day," said Minta Holland.

Of course, being a tourist attraction in the Sea to Sky, there is also a copper "selfie station," where visitors can snap a pic to share.

Loosened restrictions

The museum is fully reopened — with access to all aspects of the site — though there are capacity restrictions.

"Every building and site is mask recommended, but not required," said executive director Cheryl Hendrickson, adding the only area you are still required to wear a mask is in the underground tunnel because groups are closer together.

The train is kept below capacity and will stay that way for the summer.

"Definitely our revenue is being affected by that, by reducing the number of people, but you can't ever put safety behind revenue. We would rather have safety first," Hendrickson said.

The business of COVID

Hendrickson said that while every organization, including the non-profit attraction, took a revenue hit with COVID-19 drops in visitors — they were closed for 10 weeks in 2020 — the opening of The Chatterbox Cafe at the museum one year ago, has helped.

The cafe is open seven days a week.

"That has been a fabulous addition to our revenue," Hendrickson said.

"But once again, once local travel closed and Whistler closed, we saw the crunch," she acknowledged.

With the restrictions loosened, there has been an increase in visitors since the middle of June.

The museum is open seven days a week and has extended its hours of operation: on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, it is open until 7 p.m. with 16 tours a day.

"We welcome the world," said Hendrickson, "Even though our world is quite small right now."

Check the museum’s website for specific tour times and to purchase tickets in advance, which is recommended for weekends.


**Please note, we swapped out the video after the story was originally published to include one with more details about the exhibit.

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