Community Papers

Coffee with: Mark Sakai

Mark Sakai, executive director of the Delta Museum and Archives Society, is moving on after four years in historic Ladner Village. - Adrian MacNair
Mark Sakai, executive director of the Delta Museum and Archives Society, is moving on after four years in historic Ladner Village.
— image credit: Adrian MacNair

For over a decade, Mark Sakai has worked in history and heritage, but today marks his last day as executive director of Delta's Museum and Archives Society.

"Delta's a unique place," says Sakai, sitting in his office on Delta Street in Ladner. "I'll certainly miss the people I've been working with here."

Sakai, who has spent the past four years i n L a d n e r, begins a new job with the Greater Vancouver Home Builders Association in Surrey on Jan. 3.

"It's actually kind of a return to familiar ground," he explains.

After graduating from the University of B.C. in commerce with a specialty in Urban Land Economics, he worked seven years at a real estate consulting firm. He then worked for a decade with his father building custom homes.

A resident of Steveston, Richmond, Sakai was later involved with the historical Gulf of Georgia Cannery, spending seven years there before coming to Delta, three of those on the board of directors.

The cannery gave him the opportunity to move into heritage and history, which was apropos in Richmond's Steveston village.

"It's been very enriching," says Sakai. "It's awakened the inner history geek in me. It's given me the knowledge I needed to run a museum and heritage site."

Sakai says that history isn't just something that happens in books, it happens to people.

As a person of Japanese descent whose family was interned during the Second World War, it's a reminder he has made sure to teach to his children.

Sakai says one of the most rewarding things about working in Ladner has been going out into the community and telling people about the stories the museum is trying to preserve.

It's not always as easy it sounds.

He refers to the "three solitudes of Delta" in describing the difficulty of connecting issues that resonate between the disparate communities of Ladner, Tsawwassen, and North Delta.

"It's difficult to say history means the same thing to everyone, because it doesn't," he says, using the Southlands development as an example that doesn't generate as much interest in Ladner as it does in Tsawwassen.

Sakai's challenge has been to find find ways to connect people on issues of mutual importance in order to provide Deltans with a shared history.

Although funding museums and archives can be a challenge for the government of the day, Sakai says it's important to find the money to help preserve history and knowledge.

"It's like the old saying, you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."

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