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Heather Ramsay on our upcoming Writing Workshop

Posted on: March 7th, 2018 by

Guest Blog by Heather Ramsay

I’ve always been intrigued by the number of different stories that evolve out of one place.

Heather on Elk Mountain overlooking Ryder Lake.

Heather on Elk Mountain overlooking Ryder Lake.

The paths we follow in our daily routines, the people we encounter, our histories, our connections all influence what we observe. These details add layers to our stories and the stories of the places where we live.

I’m a relative newcomer to this area. Before coming here, I lived in Smithers and Haida Gwaii, both places with a lot of stories. I wrote many stories about these communities while working for the local newspapers. Since moving to the Fraser Valley, I’ve completed a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and have deepened the way I think about stories.

When I think about Chilliwack, my mind goes to mountains, rivers and fields, but also to the minute details of the aging a-frame house where I live in Ryder Lake. The creaking noise in the hallway and the warp in the windows that distort the view. The elongated hoof prints in my garden. The soggy patch where the rain drips off the roof into the yard. Through these details a narrative can grow.

The idea for this workshop is to let your concrete observations conjure a story about place. I was inspired by Douglas Glover in creating this workshop. The author of several books, including the Governor General award-winning novel, Elle, Glover is also a gifted creative writing teacher. In his on-line magazine Numero Cinq, he created a community where writers could learn and discuss stories and techniques — where they could meander and be among people who shared his passion for words. He encouraged this community to think more deeply about many things, including place.

His series, What It’s like Living Here, inspired writers from Edmonton, Minneapolis, Saskatoon, Nantucket, South Korea and more.

“Stick to concrete evocation of a series of places. Pack in as many concrete evocative details as you can. Don’t be seduced into talking too much about motives, relationships, the past, etc. Let the self arrive through the details of place. That said, sometimes a lovely narrative arises through the details of place. Let it,” he wrote in his instructions to those who wanted to submit.

Although Glover shut down his site to new submissions in Fall 2017, all the words and lessons he curated remain. And his teaching continues in workshops like this. I invite you to join me in an exploration of this place. “My Chilliwack: What It’s Like Living Here” will be held on March 17 from 10 to 4 at the Chilliwack Museum. Come and write about your house, your neighbourhood, a favourite street. Bring photos to inspire you or write about the things you see in the Chilliwack Museum. Take us on a tour of this place through your eyes. Maybe your story will be in the Chilliwack Museum blog next time.

Register for “My Chilliwack: What It’s Like Living Here” online here.

Frederick Walter Lee: the life of a Painter, Teacher, Photographer, Poet, Musician, and Activist

Posted on: February 21st, 2018 by

Watercolour of Mt. Cheam by F. W. Lee. [P5821]

Watercolour of Lhilheqey (Mt. Cheam) by F. W. Lee. [P5821]

Chilliwack’s rich history is blessed with artists of varying trades.  If you put together all the artists and their works at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives, any nominations list for well-rounded artist would be incomplete without mentioning Frederick Walter Lee.  A painter, teacher, photographer, poet, musician, and activist, F. W. Lee scraped together a living in Chilliwack from his arrival in 1904 until his death in 1948.


Born in England in 1863, Lee ran away from home at the age of 19 to attend the South Kensington Art School.  Lee received early notoriety and was invited by Queen Victoria to make sketches of the Buckingham palace in 1894 and 1895.  In 1899, Lee immigrated to Canada and exhibited at the Royal Canadian Academy.  Lee initially settled in Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan until a fire destroyed nearly all of his possessions.  Undeterred, Lee set out on a year long trek armed only with his camera, sketchbook, and painting materials across Canada and the United States camping wherever there was water and grass for his horses.  A more detailed account of his travels can be found in his writings at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives (CMA, AM 0021, File 3).


Photograph of Frederick Walter Lee sitting on a fence post. [P5344]

Photograph of Frederick Walter Lee sitting on a fence post. [P5344]

F. W. Lee eventually settled in Chilliwack in 1904 where he remained with the exception of a brief temporary move to Vancouver in 1919. Lee attempted to cultivate land in the area but gave up shortly and moved to a small cabin at 747 DeWolfe Avenue (now 46719 Portage Avenue) where he set up an art studio. Unhappy with the road conditions on DeWolfe, Lee moved to 106 Second Avenue (now 46122 Second Avenue) upon his return to Chilliwack from Vancouver.  Inundated by ill health and hardship, Frederick Walter Lee never achieved the high status his early career indicated.


In Chilliwack, Lee did everything he could to stay afloat.  In addition to his art studio, Lee organized drawing and painting classes during which a student could take a class once a week for one month at $2.50 (drawing lesson) and $3.50 (painting lesson).  Lee also worked at the Wilson Photography Studio for much of his career and sold his own photographs.  In 1907 he published a poem, The Prairie, (written in Qu’Apelle in 1902) in Chilliwack’s The Progress newspaper.  Although there is no evidence he ever made an income from his music, Lee also composed music for the guitar.


Watercolour painting by F. W. Lee [P5823]

Watercolour painting by F. W. Lee [P5823]

When Lee wasn’t working, his favourite pastime may have been as a citizen activist addressing issues to City Council and writing letters to the paper.  Lee addressed City Council and The Progress about unsightly fences on DeWolfe Avenue, having to endure shootings and sieges in his studio, a “preponderance of thistles” in the lot next to his property, and requested to move a streetlamp 60 feet down the road.  In my personal favourite letter to The Progress in which Lee argued with City Council about his road condition and lot size he said of a council member:


“under penalty of being forcibly removed and forever denied the beautific vision of his august countenance, in fact the offended Deity assured me the process would leave me a shameless withered mass burnt to ashes under aldermanicire, should I ever hint or whisper such a thing as that there is a road leading to my lot.”


Although many secondary sources incorrectly state that Lee died in 1941, he actually passed away in Chilliwack in 1948.  Today, Lee is best known for his natural watercolour paintings of the Fraser Valley.  Many of his artworks, writings, photographs, his memoir, and other biographical information can be viewed at the Archives under the Frederick Walter Lee collection, AM 0021.

Developing Local History Kits: Flooding Chilliwack

Posted on: February 14th, 2018 by

Over the last half year I have been working on a third Local History Kit for teachers to use in the classroom. Last spring I worked with our team of SD33 teachers to create lessons around Flooding in Chilliwack. The kit focuses specifically on the floods of 1894 and 1948 which are well represented in our collection.

Chilliwack Progress Newspaper Clipping, April 21, 1948, page 5.

Chilliwack Progress Newspaper Clipping, April 21, 1948, page 5.

Flooding has affected many aspects of life in the Fraser Valley. Over the last 150 years since colonization it has resulted in major changes to the landscape around us. Dykes surround many areas of our city and the once Sumas Lake is now drained and pumped into the Fraser River, in part for ongoing flood protection. Learning about the historic flooding in the area helps us to understand the efforts that are made today in flood protection and gain a better understanding of the man-made and natural changes in our landscape.

The new kit has students exploring a variety of aspects of historic flooding in Chilliwack. In Grades 1 and 2 students can explore historic photographs to find out how a community comes together during times of emergencies and what changes after a major flood. In Grade 5 students explore the changes to First Nations communities when they were made to settle permanently on reserves, often in unprotected flood zones. In Grade 6 students can look at the consequences of living on a floodplain and investigate emergency preparedness today.

Chilliwack Progress Newspaper Clipping, June 2, 1948, page 8.

“Fight to rescue stock” Chilliwack Progress Newspaper Clipping, June 2, 1948, page 8.

The primary source reproductions in this kit span a wide variety of media, from official reports from the Fraser Valley Rehabilitation Authority to personal handwritten accounts. One of my favourite documents we uncovered during our research is a handwritten account of the 1894 flood by Rory Knight, who lived in Popkum at the time of the flood. At the end of his account he writes, “There was no such luck as no school for Gertie and I as we had Miss Harris and we went to school every-day,” [AM 0029]. Being able to share personal and local stories like this is what makes these historical events really come alive for students and helps them connect to the bigger ideas they are studying in school.

If you’re interested in exploring more about Flooding in Chilliwack you can check out our online exhibit Flooding Chilliwack: A History of High Water. I also found K. J. Watt’s book High Water: Living with the Fraser Floods an invaluable resource while beginning our research for this kit, the book can be accessed in our reference library at the archives.

The Flooding Chilliwack kit will be available to book in schools in April 2018. Booking can be done online through our shop or by phone at 604-795-5210.

Pilot Project to take place in the New Year

Posted on: December 20th, 2017 by

If you’ve been to the museum in the last month or so you may have noticed a new face around the office. Lena Yacyshen has joined us as our Classroom in Residence Project Coordinator to help us launch a new education program this spring. Lena is joining us through the Building Careers in Heritage grant which helps to provide new graduates with work experience in heritage. She’ll be helping to coordinate this new project over the next few months.

Lena Yacyshen is our new Classroom in Residence Project Coordinator.

Lena Yacyshen is our new Classroom in Residence Project Coordinator.

The Classroom in Residence Program

This new pilot project aims to offer local students and teachers a chance to move their classroom to the museum for a full week of school. The program is designed following the concept of the Campus Calgary/Open Minds programs in Calgary which have been using local locations as learning spaces for students for over a decade.

The program brings a classroom into the museum for a full week of place-based and hands-on learning. Students will be interacting with the Museum and Archives collection, visiting community members and establishments, and putting what they have learned in the classroom to practical use. The program will aim to foster strong critical thinking and writing skills through careful observation of our local surroundings, while helping students to build a deeper understanding of their community. With our historic downtown and many community and cultural spaces close by, we will be able to learn, explore and reflect at these important spaces.

During their week here, students will be focusing on slowing down and taking time to observe and reflect on their surroundings. Using journals to record their observations, they will have a record of their experiences at the museum and archives to use for further learning back at their schools. By the end of their residency, they will have a strong understanding of Chilliwack’s rich history and of the variety of places they can explore within their own community.

Getting Ready

Students will be using journals to record their observations.

Students will be using journals to record their observations.

Over the next few months, myself and Lena will be getting ready to launch the pilot program. We are working with two SD33 classes alongside the classroom teachers to develop an engaging program for the residency. We’ll be pursuing funding opportunities to bring the classes here for little to no cost and we’ll be looking to connect with the community to expand the reach of the pilot.

Learning from other successful projects such as the museum school program at the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives, the Beyond Classrooms network in Kingston, ON and the Museum School network in London, ON, we’re hoping to be able to open the Classroom in Residence program to more classes in future years.

What are we looking forward to?

“Often when I have classes visit the museum for a 1-1.5 hour program I don’t have the time to answer fully students’ questions about what they see here at the museum and about the work of the museum itself. I’m looking forward to helping the Classroom in Residence take a deeper dive into the resources we have here and gain a meaningful understanding of our community and its history.” – Stephanie

“I am excited to show our Classroom in Residence students that the classroom is not just confined by their school’s physical walls and that learning opportunities are all around us. I am thrilled that Chilliwack and our community’s history will be used as a platform for learning and investigation for students. I believe it is valuable for students to experience education styles that put emphasis on slowing down and carefully observing, while relying on critical thinking and problem solving to complete a task. I also strongly believe this model will get students more excited about education both inside and outside of the traditional classroom, because of the sense of pride students get in applied learning.” – Lena


Find out more about the educational theory behind the Classroom in Residence program by checking out this post by long time educator David Barnum for the University of British Columbia: http://teljournal.educ.ubc.ca/2017/05/open-minds-constructing-learning-in-the-community/ .

Are you a teacher in Chilliwack interested in taking part in the Classroom in Residence program? Feel free to get in touch with me at [email protected]

Learning with Primary Sources

Posted on: October 13th, 2017 by

“[The students] loved that the museum came to them,” commented a teacher who recently rented our newest local history kit, Community of Villages, which contains primary source reproductions from our archives. “Being in my class, instead of in the museum, they felt more freedom to ask questions and to interact with the materials provided.”

Over the past year we’ve been working on creating our local history kits in collaboration with the Chilliwack School District. These kits compliment our traditional 1-1.5 hr school programs as they expand on specific local history topics and allow teachers and students the freedom to explore the materials at their own pace.

Some of the reproductions in the Community of Villages kit.

Some of the reproductions in the Community of Villages kit.

With the new BC Curriculum in full swing this year, these kits focus on helping both teachers and students learn curricular competencies while exploring local topics. The Community of Villages kit specifically focuses on exploring the concept of “Continuity and Change” and helps students learn how to explain why some aspects of their communities have changed over time while others have stayed the same.

Learning with the primary sources in their hands provides a concrete real connection to the past for the students. Each kit comes with specific lesson plans and activity suggestions for a variety of grades, but sometimes all you need is a few simple prompts to get students talking and exploring on their own. Here are a few hints for learning with primary sources from our Community of Villages kit:

  • Sequencing – Have students work together to sequence a series of photographs from oldest to newest. This will get them talking about the quality of the photographs, the clothes people are wearing, the different modes of transportation and so on.
  • Compare and Contrast – Using photographs or newspaper articles, have students compare one from the past and one contemporary example. Have them chart the differences and similarities they can find.
  • Maps – Have students compare a current map of Chilliwack with an historic one. Questions come naturally about the changes in the city over time.
  • Location Mapping – Have students match historic photos to a current map or vice versa. Get them to locate their home or school on the map to see how their area has changed or stayed the same over time.

In many cases, I’ve found that the primary sources speak for themselves and that student’s curiosity is sparked and questions come naturally when they get to interact with the materials first hand.

If you have any questions or suggestions about learning with primary sources, feel free to get in touch with me at [email protected]!

Getting Ready for the 2017-2018 School Year

Posted on: September 6th, 2017 by

It seems like the school year just ended and we were getting ready for our summer programming only days ago, but here we are again with another year of school upon us! Aligning with the new BC Curriculum, we’re excited to be able to offer a variety of programs and resources that help teachers bring relevant local content into their classrooms.

What’s New?

Chilliwack's Chinatowns Kit

Chilliwack’s Chinatowns Kit

Our local history kits, created in collaboration with SD33 teachers, are currently available to book. We have two kits, with a third expected in late 2017.

  • Explore Chilliwack’s two lost Chinatowns with our Chilliwack’s Chinatowns kit, containing primary source reproductions, lesson plans and supplementary resources for your class. This kit is recommended for Grades 1-6, however the primary sources can be adapted for use with a variety of grades. Follow up your exploration of the kit with an exhibit tour of Gold Mountain Dream, exhibit open until Oct. 9th.
  • New this year is our Community of Villages kit. Recommended for Grades 6+, this kit contains 10-12 reproductions for each of five unique communities in Chilliwack: Downtown Chilliwack, Rosedale, Greendale, Yarrow, and Sardis/Vedder. Teach primary source analysis skills with this kit while introducing the historical thinking concept of continuity and change.
  • Currently under development is our ‘Flooding Chilliwack’ kit. This kit focuses on major floods in Chilliwack which have changed the surrounding area into what we know today. Stay tuned for further details!

Starting this week, our school programs are available to book online or by phone at 604-795-5210.

  • Our popular My Community program for Grades 1 and 2 has two new community options available. Learn about key developments and events in your local area with options to focus on Downtown Chilliwack, Sardis, Yarrow or Greendale.
  • Guided Exhibit Tours are available throughout the year. Our current exhibit, Gold Mountain Dream, focuses on Chinese immigration during the gold rush and contains local content on Chilliwack’s lost Chinatowns. Gold Mountain Dream closes Oct. 9th and our new exhibit will open Nov. 2nd.
  •  Back by popular demand is our Family Christmas program. Explore what it would have been like to celebrate Christmas in Chilliwack in the late 1800’s with hands-on activities.

Browse our 2017-2018 school program brochure here and book online!

Can’t find a program that fits your needs? If there is a specific local history topic you are interested in exploring with your students, you can always contact me with your program requests and questions at [email protected]

Museum Round 2

Posted on: August 16th, 2017 by
Stephanie and I playing Mahjong in the Gold Mountain Dream exhibit.

Stephanie and I playing Mahjong in the Gold Mountain Dream exhibit.

By Kelsey Ablitt, Education Assistant

Once again, I find myself shocked that the summer is nearing its end and my time at the museum is coming to an end. This summer, I was given the opportunity to work at the museum as a summer student for a second year. Last summer was a major learning curve, as I was newer to the museum and how it worked. This year, I was familiar with the place and the staff, creating a comfortable environment to jump right in!

May was an exciting and busy month as we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the historical society and hosted the British Columbia Historical Federation Conference. During the conference, I had the opportunity to go on a Hops Tour. Learning about a major industry for both Chilliwack’s past and present was an exciting experience. We toured hop fields that had been used decades ago when hops were a booming industry in Chilliwack.

One of my favourite things from this summer was our Cardboard City, held in the Chambers Gallery. After mapping out a section of the downtown area, we used larger cardboard to create the blocks. Once we had our blocks and streets mapped out, we decided to add a few historic buildings such as the museum, the British Columbia Electric Railway Station, the Paramount and a few historic hotels. Once this basic outline of “Chilliwhack” (our unofficial name for the cardboard city) was complete, we opened our city up for construction for two weeks. Within the first day we saw a great turn out, new buildings such as Sticky’s Candy and the Book Man were added. Over the course of the two weeks, members of the community continued to take part and add to Chilliwhack. By the end, our city limits were jam packed with various buildings, vehicles, people, even piper-cleaner powerlines and Cultus Lake. Cardboard City was one of the projects I was most excited for this summer, and I am beyond happy with how successful it was!

Overhead view of Cardboard City.

Overhead view of Cardboard City.

Having built a strong connection with the museum, I’ve learned more about Chilliwack’s history. Whenever I drive around town, I think of all the random facts I know about the various places in the community. As sad as I am to be leaving in a few weeks, I cannot help but look forward to working along side the archives and Stephanie, the Education and Engagement Coordinator, this fall as I will be creating a local history kit for my directed studies course. If I had not built strong connections at the museum, I may not have had the opportunity to combine my love of local history and education. I’ve had amazing experiences these last two summers and I cannot wait to see what opportunities will continue to come from having worked here.

Something Completely Different

Posted on: July 19th, 2017 by

And now for something completely different!

One of the things I most love about running summer family drop-ins is the flexibility they offer visiting families. It’s interesting watching a simple concept we decide to focus on for a week become something completely different when the variety of voices that join in change and adapt it.

Cardboard Chilliwack Museum.

Cardboard Chilliwack Museum.

For the past two weeks we took over our upstairs programming room (we call it the Chambers Gallery as it’s the room where city council used to sit when this building was city hall) and transformed it into a cardboard City of Chilliwack. It was a simple idea, we’d map out an area around five corners, including some of the historic buildings in (roughly) the correct space. The rest we’d leave open, setting up tables of craft supplies for inspiration and creation stations for our visiting city builders.

Sometimes all you need to do is provide a small spark for inspiration and the creativity follows. We didn’t try to create an accurate representation of five corners from any one era, but let our city builders (visiting families and children) decide what the city needed. Some of the buildings were recognizable, staples of downtown like The Bookman, complete with Nietzsche watching in the window, Sticky’s candy and even a “Boozeny’s” (Bozzini’s). But other additions were wishful like the two cupcake factories that popped up and the house that opened up to the front door of Sticky’s. By the end of the two weeks of cardboard city we had connected (pipecleaner) power, streets filled with interesting businesses and people scattered throughout.

Is this all silliness?

Well yes, but maybe not all silliness. This is an informal learning environment – we had an idea of what might be learned from co-creating a cardboard city with our visitors, but there was lots of room for new discoveries. Not only did our visitors pick up on the few historic buildings we put in place beforehand and wonder about their history, but they were inspired to add something that they wanted to see in the city too. Ok, so maybe two cupcake factories is a little unrealistic, but what if we were inspired by our (real) city in the same way our visitors were by the cardboard city?

Cardboard BC Electric Railway Station.

Cardboard BC Electric Railway Station.

As our cardboard city grew and changed over the two weeks it was interesting to hear some of the conversations it sparked and listen to the enthusiasm of visitors. I’ll leave you with the words of one of our more reluctant city builders when he first saw the city, “Ok, this is pretty cool.”


While cardboard city may be over, we’re still offering a great line-up of activities throughout the summer. Check out our Summer Family Drop-in schedule!

Summer Outreach and Activities

Posted on: June 14th, 2017 by

This past weekend we were at Cultus Lake for our first summer outreach event. We had a great time sharing information about the museum and archives, chatting about Cultus Lake history with visitors and playing our ‘match the date’ game with historic photographs. Its days like these that remind me how important and meaningful our work is to the community. Hearing phrases like “that was fun!”, seeing our displays spark multi-generational conversations and watching them prompt a group of long-time Cultus residents to reminisce about the past make all the office work in between worth it!

It’s been a busy spring, with hosting the BCHF Conference and our 60th Anniversary celebration this May, but we’re not slowing down for summer!

What’s On

Our tent at Cultus Lake Day 2017

Our tent at Cultus Lake Day 2017

In addition to heading out to events like Canada Day, Party in the Park and the Garrison Village Festival, we’ll be hosting a number of events and activities here in the museum.

Author Shelley O’Callaghan will be here on June 22nd for a talk on her book How Deep is the Lake: A Century at Chilliwack Lake. We’re also opening a new exhibit Gold Mountain Dream on June 29th which we are in the midst of installing as I type!

For July and August we’re hosting Family Drop-in Activities on Tuesdays and Thursdays focusing on a different theme and activity each week. From July 3-14 we’ll be building a miniature cardboard Five Corners in the Chambers Gallery. Young and old alike are invited to come add your own buildings, cars, trees etc. to the landscape throughout the two weeks!

On July 15th, storyteller Shayna Jones will be joining us for a morning performance for families and we’ll be offering a special puppet making workshop after the performance.


We’re always working hard to share our resources with the community and to make Chilliwack’s diverse story accessible to all ages. We hope to see you over the summer either at the museum or around town at community events!

Getting ready for the 2017 BCHF Conference

Posted on: May 10th, 2017 by

Over the past 7 months I’ve been lucky to sit on the BCHF Conference Committee to help bring a fantastic lineup of lectures, field trips, and events to our community.

The BC Historical Federation was established in 1922 and acts as an umbrella association for historical societies in British Columbia. As the BCHF conference hosts for 2017, the Chilliwack Museum and Historical Society has been organizing tours and lectures which highlight our local history. Having been able to sit on the organizing committee since the start, I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it has been to cut down the options for tours and lectures for just 4 days of programming. Chilliwack has such a wealth of historical sites and information to share!

BCHF conference tours include a trip to the New Siberia Farm, a 92 year old farm!

BCHF conference tours include a trip to the New Siberia Farm, a 92 year old farm!

That being said, we have been able to put together a fantastic lineup that really showcases the diversity of our area and highlights the importance of preserving and caring for our history today. This is a 4 day festival of history that is accessible and open to everyone, not just those working in the field.

What can you expect?

Whether you’re new to Chilliwack or have lived here all your life, there’s something new for you to explore. The lineup includes workshops, lectures, field trips and evening presentations around the conference theme of “Land, Water, People”. For example:

  • Learn how to take care of your family artifacts, photographs and personal papers with accomplished family historians Brenda L. Smith and Diane Rogers. Get behind the scenes tours of the Chilliwack Archives and learn more about the work of the archives at our Archives Bootcamp.
  • Join for lectures by experts in their fields. Topics range from ‘Flood Management’, ‘Modern Treaties and Reconciliation’ to ‘Finding Chilliwack’s Fallen’, addressing our past, current, and future relationship with the land, water, and people of Chilliwack.
  • Hop on a bus and explore sites around Chilliwack, including tours to local hop and dairy farms, Stó:lō nation, historic river boat landings, and more!

Conference registration is open to all. Sign up for the full 4 days, 1 day packagesindividual event tickets, or workshops. If you’re a Chilliwack Museum and Historical Society member, don’t forget you receive BCHF Member pricing for the conference!

See you May 25-28!