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Archive for the ‘Exhibitions’ Category

The Case for Cases

Posted on: September 21st, 2017 by

Early in 1958, just after our organization was established – the Chilliwack Museum and Historical Society  President, Oliver Wells, did what all good Museum leaders do at some point: he sent out a fundraising letter.

SPOILER ALERT! That’s what this blog post is really about too

But why don’t we have some good ole’ historical fun while we’re at it, eh?

Oliver Wells serves as the founding Chairman of the Chilliwack Museum and Historical Society.

Oliver Wells served as the founding Chairman of the Chilliwack Museum and Historical Society.

In that letter, Mr. Wells made a very logical point:

“…we must be able to give assurance that [valuable historical material] will be safely stored and displayed.” 

Oliver Wells fundraising letter, Feb. 1958.

Oliver Wells fundraising letter, February, 1958.

Some things have not changed. Then, as now, this is still one of the most basic principles of preservation and conservation. Museums have a responsibility to care for their collections. We have been doing just that here in Chilliwack for sixty years.

The Chilliwack Museum and Archives cares for: 

  • Over one million items in our Archival records, including hundreds of thousands of photographic images. Our Archives are a trusted repository, well-respected by historians and researchers;
  • Over ten thousand historic objects – also known as artifacts or belongings, each one shedding light upon a unique person, place, memory, or moment that matters to Chilliwack – to you.

Did you know, however, that less than 1% of our collection is exhibited at any given time? Why?

  • For starters, there just isn’t enough gallery space in our National Historic Site Museum building to exhibit too much more of the collection in a way that ensure artifact conservation, AND;
  • The existing cases that we have were not purpose-built for the task of displaying many of the more vulnerable objects from our collections.

From the late 1950s until now, our skilled and creative professional staff have done their very best, working with the kinds of exhibit cases that we have had available. Many of these have been greatly appreciated hand-me-downs, cascaded to us from other institutions, such as the Museum of Vancouver.

In other cases, we have had cases purpose-built for our exhibitions by local carpenters – with plywood structure, plinths and plexi-glass. They look pretty good, and do a serviceable job of presenting your historic objects (which we steward for the public good).

The cases we have, however, are not built to last forever, and do not fully achieve the kinds of conservation standards that Chilliwack’s significant material culture truly deserves. They don’t have the kinds of security features we expect today, such as hidden cam-locks, and they don’t offer the same level of environmental protection (from such factors as UV light, moisture, pests, contact) to ensure fragile and precious materials are safeguarded for future generations.

Back in 2011, when the Archives facility was expanded at Evergreen Hall, you helped us to acquire high-quality, rolling, shelving. This shelving, however, is intended for storage, and not for exhibition purposes.

In short: we need new exhibit cases – yesterday

Thanks to the support of the Government of Canada’s Canadian Cultural Spaces Program, the City of Chilliwack, and the Chilliwack Foundation – all of which provided significant grants – our need is being met!

The new cases are expected to arrive in late October, and our exhibits will transition into them, with our next exhibit opening into them in early November, 2017.

The Chilliwack Museum and Archives will soon have the highest quality, Canadian-made exhibit cases, which will strengthen our curatorial program for decades to come.  Custom-constructed to meet our local needs by the highly regarded Zone Display Cases, nineteen (19!) new exhibit cases will give us tremendous flexibility to show you more of our rich collections.

Best of all, many of these units are completely modular, allowing for set-up in a broad range of different ways, allowing for versatility. You will be able to connect with your history in an amazing new way! 

So now, following in Mr. Well’s footsteps, I’m going to let you all know…

2015-07-francis

We need your help!

The total cost for 19 cases is $142, 000, and that is the largest purchase that the Chilliwack Museum and Historical Society has ever made. While we have raised over $100, 000 to date, we still need to raise just over $30, 000 in 2017 to complete the exhibit case project. Will you partner with us?

If you’d like to give to honour or in memory of someone special, recognition opportunities are available. 

Thank you for the amazing generosity of those caring individuals and Chilliwack businesses that have already contributed.

No gift is too small – every contribution makes a difference! 

For all the details, you can check out our Chilliwack Museum 60th Annivesary – Case Renewal Legacy Project.

How to give?

  1. Make your gift easily and securely ONLINE through our Chilliwack Museum and Archives Canada Helps Page:
  1. By Mail…

Send your cheque to:

Chilliwack Museum and Archives

45820 Spadina Avenue

Chilliwack, BC, V2P 1T3

  1. By Phone – Give us a call!

Our phone number is (604) 795-5210.

  1. In Person

Drop by the Museum during opening hours.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me, Matthew Francis, Executive Director, any time. 

Exploring Chinese-Canadian history in the Fraser Valley

Posted on: July 12th, 2017 by

The Chilliwack Museum and Archives’ latest exhibition 金山梦! 勇闯菲沙河谷 (Gold Mountain Dream: Bravely Venture into the Fraser Valley) is now open! From rare archival images and artifacts, to detailed storytelling and interactive elements, this exhibition focuses on early Chinese-Canadian history in the Fraser Valley.

Installation view of exhibition.

Installation view of the exhibition.

The Background Story

In the 1800s, gold fever consumed the world. Masses of people from all corners of the world voluntarily migrated to far-off locations such as Australia, New Zealand, California and British Columbia. Their goal was to find not only gold, but a better life for themselves and their families. By 1858 the territory now known as BC saw its first major gold rush along the Fraser Valley.

In Chinese culture, there was a myth about 山金 (Gold Mountain) that helped fuel an influx of migrants who journeyed from ports in Hong Kong across the Pacific Ocean to Victoria in search for new fortune. This resulted in the first large Chinese settlement in Canada.

After the gold rush lost its momentum, many workers of Chinese origin chose Chilliwack as a place to settle down and try to build a new life. It wasn’t easy. Much of Chilliwack’s early infrastructure, from roads to farmlands, was developed by Chinese laborers. It was strenuous work, clearing the land of trees and cultivating soil at low pay, and many workers couldn’t afford to have their families join them in Canada.

Business owners Wong Gip She (right) and Wong Gip Low She (left) with their two sons Banford and David, c. 1916. CMA P7642

Chinatown South business owners Wong Gip She (right) and Wong Gip Low She (left) with their two sons Banford and David, c. 1916. CMA P7642

Many persevered, however, and by the 1880’s a Chinese merchant class emerged (and between 1908 and 1930 comprised 10% of the registered businesses in Chilliwack). By 1920 the city had two distinct Chinatowns: Chinatown North situated above the Five Corners region; and Chinatown South, around what is now Yale Road West. At their height, the Chinatown’s were host to a bustling population living in large 2-storey wood-frame buildings, including a Chinese Masonic Hall.

An International Exhibition

Key historical content for the exhibition’s local elements was based on the 2011 book Chilliwack’s Chinatowns: A History by Chad Reimer. The Gold Mountain Dream panels are a travelling exhibition organized by the Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec. These panels are bilingual, and are written both in English and Simplified Chinese. Beyond Chilliwack, Gold Mountain Dream has been displayed at the Guangdong Museum of Chinese Nationals Residing Abroad (Guangzhou, China) and the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum (Vancouver, BC).

Detail view of artifacts in a display case.

Detail view of artifacts in a display case.

Interactive Elements

The exhibition has interactive content for viewers of all ages, from touchable objects, to videos, an audiostation, and an introductory Mahjong set. So bring the whole family for a visit, or plan a Thursday evening date night to catch this stunning exhibition!

The exhibition will continue running throughout the summer until October 9th.

Final Week of Photography: from Obscura to App

Posted on: June 6th, 2017 by

If you haven’t yet had the chance to visit the Chilliwack Museum and Archives to view the exhibition Photography: from Obscura to App this week is your last chance.

About the Exhibition

Installation image from the exhibition. Photograph by Lori Johnson.

Installation image from the exhibition. Photograph by Lori Johnson.

Presenting a brief survey of the history of photography, the exhibition begins with the first forays into the technology, such as the daguerreotype, up to present day digital technologies. On display are pictures and artifacts relating to Chilliwack’s history, from James Orville Booen’s stunning photographs, to equipment sourced from the old Paramount Theatre.

Read more about the exhibition in this article from the Chilliwack Progress.

A Community Gathering

Norman Williams at the opening reception for the exhibition

Norman Williams at the opening reception. Photograph by Lori Johnson.

The opening reception for the exhibition was held on September 22, 2016, and was well-attended by community members. Among the many attendees, especially fitting was the presence of photographers Don Young, Lori Johnson, Jenna Hauck (of the Progress), and Norman Williams (long-time photographer and owner of Norman’s Photographic Studio in Chilliwack).

Engaging with the Community

Visitor interaction and community outreach were key aspects of the exhibition programming. From an interactive timeline, to a chalkboard wall where visitors were asked to record their relationship to photography, persons both young and old were encouraged to participate and make their mark within the exhibition. What do Chilliwackian’s like to photograph? Everything from “places I visit,” to “my loved ones <3,” and “doors!” So far, the exhibition has received over 1100 visitors during its display period.

Click here to view the results of our interactive Kidtography exhibition, which is on display at the Museum until June 11th.

A Parting Question

Visitors at a "hands-on" display during the opening reception. Photography by Lori Johnson.

Visitors at a “hands-on” display during the opening reception. Photograph by Lori Johnson.

With the influx of digital technologies, it is difficult to predict the future of photography. It is poignant that one visitor to the exhibition left the following sentence in our guestbook: “developer 2 min / stop 15 seconds / fix 4 min / wash 4 min.” These are instructions for blackroom developing. How soon will it be, before the meaning of this sentence will be left to the history books?

Photography: from Obscura to App closes on Sunday June 11, 2017.

 

 

 

New Curator’s work enriched by Fine Arts Background & Diverse Exhibitions Experience

Posted on: May 3rd, 2017 by

Recently our Executive Director, Matthew Francis, had the opportunity to catch up with Adrienne Rempel, who was recently hired to serve as Curator in a one-year temporary role, during our Curator Jane Lemke’s maternity leave. Here’s an opportunity to get to know more about Adrienne. 

——————————————————————————————————————————-

Hi Adrienne! You have been on the job as Curator here now for almost a month. How have you found your first few weeks?

Curator Adrienne Rempel in the Old Library of Trinity College Dublin—home to the Book of Kells.

Curator Adrienne Rempel in the Old Library of Trinity College Dublin—home to the Book of Kells.

 I have thoroughly enjoyed my first few weeks at the Museum and Archives. The staff and volunteers are incredibly committed and enthusiastic, and they possess a vast knowledge of local history. I am getting to know the Collection and its strengths, and am happily digging into the next round of exhibition programming.

 Before taking on this role, you had recently moved to Chilliwack from Vancouver. What are some of the things that attracted you to live in Chilliwack, and how have you found living in the community?

 Before I settled on Chilliwack, I left Vancouver for a five month backpacking trip in Europe. During this time, I found that while I enjoyed visiting large urban centres, I always felt more relaxed and comfortable in smaller communities. By the time I was nearing my return flight to Vancouver, I knew it was time for a change.

Curator Adrienne Rempel, in Barbarino Val d’Elsa in Tuscany (established in the 13th century and still boasting architecture from the 14th century!)

Curator Adrienne Rempel, in Barbarino Val d’Elsa in Tuscany (established in the 13th century and still boasting architecture from the 14th century!)

I was attracted to Chilliwack for its natural beauty and closeness to nature. It’s also close enough to the amenities of the Lower Mainland, without being in the centre of it. It doesn’t hurt that it came highly recommended by my partner who grew up here.

Immediately after moving to Chilliwack, I felt welcome in the community. People here take an active interest in each other, and are very supportive and friendly. I’ve also noticed there is a healthy amount of interest and growth in the Arts & Culture sector, which makes Chilliwack an exciting place to be!

 Can you share with us a little about your academic and professional background? What did you do before you started with us?

My background is in the Fine Arts. I have a degree from Emily Carr University of Art + Design where I studied painting and studio arts, and after graduation I participated in numerous group exhibitions in the lower mainland. During this time I also worked and volunteered with various cultural organizations in Vancouver. I’ve always been drawn to the cultural, not-for-profit sector, as it offers so many opportunities for community engagement and arts advocacy. In the last handful of years, I found myself working in the Curatorial Department of the Vancouver Art Gallery, where I assisted in the planning and production of exhibitions and publications.

 You have rich experience in the visual arts, and were involved in planning numerous exhibits each year for the Vancouver Art Gallery. What interested you in working in a Museum context with a focus on history? How do history and the arts relate?

 As much as I love the unquantifiable aspects of art, I am also a huge art history and cultural theory nerd. There’s a saying in the arts, “You can’t make art in a bubble.” What this means is that everyone is influenced to some degree by the context of their time, be it political, social, economic, etc. In art history, we learn that Jackson Pollock, for instance, became an influential figure in the abstract expressionist movement not only because of his unique drip paintings, but because of the particular socio-political conditions of Cold War America. To learn about art, you have to learn history as well. The two are very connected.

To take that idea into the museum context… I can accept that on a certain level, an art object is another form of material culture. One can look at any human-made object, from the first Fender Stratocaster, to an Etruscan vase, to a handmade roadsign, and start to wonder, “Why was this made?” Searching for that answer can be endlessly fascinating. I am a curious person, and the museum experience is a great way to learn about our world.

What are some of the things you are looking forward to in your work at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives this year?

 I am really excited for the upcoming exhibition program. This summer the CMA will launch an exhibition, Gold Mountain Dream, that explores the history of the first Chinese immigrants in British Columbia. This presentation will be in partnership with the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, and will include some very important locally developed content.

As I am new to the community, it has been a positive experience to dive into the region’s history. In the coming months, I look forward to developing my understanding of Chilliwack, and building connections in the community.

Thank you, Adrienne, for taking the time to talk with us. We are looking forward to a great year ahead! 

Adrienne Rempel, Curator, can be reached at (604) 795-5210 ext. 105 or by email at [email protected].

Museums, Libraries, Archives and One Summer Student

Posted on: August 23rd, 2016 by

By Janelle Haley, Museum Assistant, Summer Student 2016

If you came to the Archives or the Museum, or both, this summer there may have been a chance that you would have seen me: Janelle! I was so fortunate when Matthew Francis, Executive Director, phoned me to offer me the summer student position of Museum Assistant. Every day I learned something new. The staff and volunteers were so fun and inspirational to work with that the summer flew by.

Working at the Chilliwack Archives.

Working at the Chilliwack Archives. 

Working with Archivist Shannon Bettles, I started a project that consisted of doing inventory in the archives, as well as helped out with photo orders and property history inquiries. While working on the inventory project, I came across a document written by Casey Wells which ended up being his proposal for a “Community History Research Library”. This proposed institution would collect and preserve the history of the local community. Immediately I thought, “this is what the Archives does!” As I was handling the documents, I felt humbled and proud to be doing work with the Museum and Archives knowing that Casey Wells’ idea actually came to fruition.

With Curator Jane Lemke, I got to handle (always with gloves), photograph, and catalogued artifacts with really interesting stories connected to the people of Chilliwack. I also helped out with a few things for the upcoming photography exhibit such as finding old camera ads and adding captions to the famous J.O. Booen photos. Everyone should come check out this exhibit because it is going to be great!

At the Museum, I worked with Museum Attendant Anna Irwin to cover the extended hours, make up discovery hunts for children, and come up with activity and craft ideas for future programming. We also helped input data for our new online membership system, Wild Apricot, with the help of Administrative and Volunteer Coordinator Alison Adamson, which is now up and running online. I was also fortunate to be a representative for the Museum and Archives at the Chilliwack Fraser Valley Regional Library branch in June to promote National Aboriginal Day with Education and Engagement Coordinator Stephanie Clinton, where we saw almost 80 people who stopped by to talk with us. I was also onsite at the Museum for our Family Sports Day in July where I got to help facilitate crafts and try lawn bowling and ringette!

At FVRL Chilliwack Branch for National Aboriginal Day 2016.

At FVRL Chilliwack Branch for National Aboriginal Day 2016.

Over the course of the summer, I had a lot of people assuming that I must be a history student, due to the fact that I was working for a Museum and Archives (spoiler alert) … I am not! I have taken a few history courses as part of my Bachelor of General Studies degree at the University of the Fraser Valley that were very informative and interesting, but my main focus of study is in library and information management. This summer work experience showed me just how much libraries, museums, and archives have in common. At all three organizations, staff help visitors with research requests/questions, understand and implement classification schemes, catalogue items, create and offer programs, and participate in outreach initiatives in the community.

As the summer draws to an end, I feel the need to help promote all museums (but particularly ours) wherever I can, whenever I can. Through this experience I have become more aware of Chilliwack’s history and the work that is done by the wonderful staff and volunteers at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives. So, if you are interested in learning a bit about the history of Chilliwack, please come by and visit the Museum and Archives! Thanks again to everyone who worked with me and taught me new things through this opportunity.

Technology of the Past

Posted on: April 13th, 2016 by
Polaroid Land Camera CMA 2003.013.007

This Polaroid Land Camera was purchased for $6.65 in 1972. This equates to about $45 if adjusted for inflation. Chilliwack Museum and Archives 2003.013.007

Who out there remembers Polaroid cameras? Or film? These technologies seem like a distant memory for many, if not completely unknown to younger generations. Nowadays, you can take a photo on your phone and share it with anyone you want within 30 seconds. There is even an app for taking a photo just to have it disappear!

Our upcoming exhibit, Photography from Obscura to App explores how the developments in photographic processes and techniques have formed how we photograph, what we photograph, and how photography has shaped our perception of the world we live in.   Economics is closely linked not only with the development of photographic processes and technology, but also with the esthetic unfolding of photography.  There has been a struggle to generate ideas that make photography more inexpensive and more exact, and to give it the most extensive possible distribution. The competition between various technologies and processes that began with the invention of photography in 1839 has resulted in the profusion of easily accessible images we surround ourselves with today.

In the early twenty-first century we are so familiar with the photograph and other technically reproduced imagery, that to imagine a world without these visuals is hard. The invention of photography was such an astonishing achievement in the mid-nineteenth century that perhaps its only imaginable equivalent might be the invention of the internet. Photography now relates to everything within society and art.

Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura

The first record of the Camera Obscura principle goes back to Ancient Greece, when Aristotle noticed how light passing through a small hole into a darkened room produces an image on the wall opposite, during a partial eclipse of the sun.

One of the first forms of photography was the Camera Obscura, which is essentially a dark, closed space in the shape of a box with a hole on one side of it. The hole has to be small enough in proportion to the box to make the Camera Obscura work properly. The way it works is that due, to optical laws, the light coming through a tiny hole transforms and creates an image on the surface that it meets, i.e. the wall of the box. The image was mirrored and upside down, however, so basically everything that makes today’s analogue camera’s principles different to Camera Obscura ones are the mirrors and the film which is used to capture and preserve the image created by the light.

What other forms of photography are now only in history? Too many to count! Photography from Obscura to App opens on September 22, 2016 at the Chilliwack Museum. Stay tuned for more photographic history throughout the summer.

Women and Sports

Posted on: March 16th, 2016 by

This month there is an unusual event taking place at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives. The event features a panel of athletes, coaches and sports administrators who will talk about sports and answer questions related to their sports careers. I know what you are thinking – why is a museum hosting a sports-related event? Typically when people get together to discuss sports, it’s over a few beers in a bar. So what’s up?

Game On! Women in Sports

Our event is called Game On! Women in Sports and takes place in the Chambers Gallery of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives at 7pm on Thursday, March 31. Our major partner for this event is ViaSport BC, British Columbia’s sport agency, who have been promoting their provincial campaign advocating for gender equity in sport called Level the Field (#LevelTheField). The timing is good: ViaSport’s gender equity campaign parallels our current exhibit about Chilliwack’s sporting history Game On! The History of Sports in Chilliwack. The symposium and our partnership: a natural fit.

Why the Topic of Women in Sports?

Chilliwack Girls Hockey Team 1964

Chilliwack Girls hockey team from Left to Right, Front row: Carol Wawryk, Donna Coldwell, Yvonne Percher, Heather Innes, Mavis Tetlock, Lynne Furnis, Fay Cross. Back row: Ann Hanna, Sandra Roach, Colleen Barrow, Bev Carmichael, Arlene Price, Joene Pyvis, Judy Caldwell, and Coach Fred Madden. 1964. 1999.029.042.018

As our Curator Jane was busy scouring our Archives for sports-related material, it was quickly realized that something was missing from the historical sports record – women. While there was some evidence that women were involved in sports and recreation to varying degrees over the years, little of this research or archival documentation has been deposited at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives.

Newspapers, haven’t always highlighted or included female sporting accomplishments either. But we know that women did participate in, and excel at, sports. Photographs, oral histories and community members and a few artifacts help tell the stories. They speak of achievements on a local and regional level in team sports like basketball and field hockey, bowling, curling and lawn bowling for example. Women formed teams and clubs, officiated, coached and had fun, even through controversy at times.

The Game On! Women in Sport symposium on March 31st intends to fill in the gaps missing from our exhibit  – to bring the achievements and history of Fraser Valley’s women athletes, coaches, participants and builders, out from the darkness and into the light.

A Personal Connection

Shannon Bettles goalie

I always wanted to be a goaltender, even at a young age.

I’m very excited that such an event is being held by the Chilliwack Museum and Archives in partnership with ViaSport. Today’s museums and archives are more than dust-collecting warehouses of ancient artifacts – they are about stories and relationships. Bringing builders and champions in female sport together to tell their past and present stories are part of what Museums and Archives are all about. Sharing, learning, growing and laughing together – we remember and move forward in a positive way.

I am proud that my father was a champion of women’s sports. In the 1980s he volunteered for the Aldergrove Ringette Association to develop and promote ringette, a sport today enjoyed by thousands of girls, boys, women and men across Canada. In 1995, he fought to obtain ice as he organized Langley’s first girls’ ice hockey association.

I’ve been very fortunate to have been involved in team sports like ice hockey, ringette and softball for over 30 years. The opportunities to participate in and represent my province and country in the sports of hockey and ringette would not have been possible without the hard work of the women and men before me who fought to level the field.

Shannon Bettles University of Guelph

Here I am playing goal for the University of Guelph Gryphons, 2001. I attended the first Canadian University Championships for women’s hockey in 1998.

I hope to see a packed house on March 31 to welcome our panelists and ViaSport guests at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives. I would be thrilled to see the next generation of young female athletes, coaches, officials and administrators fill the room alongside the veteran athletes. My dad’s wish for his daughters was that they continue to give back to and support women’s sport. I have taken the ViaSport #LevelTheField pledge, I hope you do too.

Curator: A Jack of All Trades

Posted on: February 4th, 2016 by
Curatorial Project, 2015

One of last summer’s curatorial projects was to carefully remove the sugar and mould from the former Paramount Theatre’s popcorn machines (Summer Student Mikaela Ramdial and Curator Jane Lemke)

One of the hardest questions I receive is: “What is a Curator?”. My answer is often rather awkward and rushed because frankly, it’s a big question and concise answer would reduce the true nature of my tasks; however, my best definition so far is: I am responsible for preserving and interpreting Chilliwack’s tangible history. The long, rather jumbled definition is, I am:

• Part conservator
• Part researcher
• Part historian
• Part scientist
• Part reference clerk
• Part graphic designer
• Part carpenter
• Part electrician and so much more.

Each day is different and that is one of the reasons why I love my job.

A substantial amount of my daily tasks revolve around exhibits. Beginning an exhibit is often the hardest part as the wealth of information available is astounding and it is my job to construct a narrative out of all the information. The archival collection has over 500,000 records including maps, photos, oral histories and paper records and the artifact collection has over 10,000 objects that range in size from a postage stamp to building rafters to extremely heavy canoes. Each item accepted into our collection has a strong connection to Chilliwack and we are privileged to preserve these records and artifacts for the public so that the history of Chilliwack is accessible for a long time.

Booen Photograph, 003520

This Booen glass-plate negative depicts three First Nations women posing in “pioneer” clothing. Chilliwack Museum and Archives, P003520

Our upcoming exhibit focuses on photography and will open on September 22nd, 2016. I am currently still in the research stage, trying to piece together various details, such as the price of cameras in 1905, the types of photographic papers that were used in the 1930s and the people behind the photographs in our collection. It’s a long process that results in a (fingers crossed) beautiful exhibit that highlights the contributions, memories and innovations made by Chilliwack’s photographic community throughout our City’s history.

One itinerant photographer was James Orville Booen, who set up a photographic studio in 1895-1897 here in Chilliwack. While he wasn’t in Chilliwack long, what is remarkable about Booen’s images is the consistency of the photographer’s vision. The images consist of studio portraits, scenes, streetscapes and outdoor portraits, which provides a substantial glimpse into Chilliwack before the turn of the last century and is one of the first complete photographic collections we have of Chilliwackians including First Nations as well as Japanese, Chinese and other immigrant groups that are often missing from the historic record during this time.

Booen 000142

J.O. Booen’s portrait of Sarah Jane Muirhead and Flossie Hamilton holding rifles, exemplifies the “Wild West”. I did try to recreate Booen’s photo for our 2015 staff photos but for some reason, it didn’t look quite right.

One of my favorite photographs from the Booen Collection shows Sarah Jane Muirhead and Flossie Hamilton posing with rifles in the typical Victorian dress of the time. These women demonstrate the classic definition of a “pioneer woman”: strong, moral, and refined. The photographer’s scene construction is the cause, down to the feathers in their hats. Booen choose to display these women in this way and to evoke a sense of the “Wild West”.

Looking back through Chilliwack’s photographic history is truly an amazing treasure hunt. Stay tuned for more about our photography exhibit!

Coqualeetza’s Indian Residential Schools Olympiad

Posted on: December 16th, 2015 by
P8151 Coqualeetza

Front view of the first Coqualeetza Indian Residential school building on Vedder Road in Sardis. Chilliwack Archives P8151

In light of the release of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I was reminded of some research that I completed for our recently launched annual exhibition, Game On! The Evolution of Sports in Chilliwack, that never made it into the final cut of the exhibit text. On May 26-28 1931, Coqualeetza Indian Residential School in Sardis hosted the first Canadian Indian Residential Schools Olympiad. It was held at Coqualeetza with events rotating between the 2 other residential schools in the area and covered many aspects of sports; track a
nd field, soccer, basketball, badminton, softball, baseball and shooting. Coqualeetza won the Department of Indian Affairs championship shield, as the point total shows:

  • Coqualeetza Indian Residential School, Sardis                  170
  • St. George’s Indian Residential School, Lytton                  73.5
  • St. Michael’s Indian Residential School, Alert Bay             59.5

“A thrilling experience was a trip of the boys and girls basketball teams to play against St. George’s School at Lytton. The trip was unique in that we made the first bus trip over the ‘new’ Fraser Canyon Highway, which was just built. The road had numerous curves and in one mountainous stretch we counted twenty-two hairpin turns in a mile. At one point a large fir tree fell directly in front of the bus and had to be cleared away before we could proceed.”
– 
George Williams, Coqualeetza basketball coach, Chilliwack Archives, AM 456

P4284 Coqualeetza soccer

Group portrait Coqualeetza senior boys football team, winners of the cup in 1925-1926. Chilliwack Archives P4284

The event was meant to be an annual celebration of sport during an era when public recreation was just in its infancy. The health benefits of sports were only recently emerging as an important part of a balanced lifestyle. Athletics at Coqualeetza Indian Residential School were related to vigour and health in the new field of “Physical Education”.  It is during this era that BC established the Recreational and Physical Education Branch and the first Provincial Recreation program, a community-oriented scheme called Pro-Rec. The program was aimed at providing healthy recreation opportunities, especially amongst unemployed youths during the Depression – essentially the beginning of organized sports. Pro-Rec came to be the centre piece in provincial adult education programs and served as a model for recreation schemes in other provinces.

While the Indian Residential Schools Olympiad gave students a brief break from the highly regulated way of life that characterized most residential schools, this break was part of an assimilative strategy that was used to discipline their “savage” ways and, in turn, transform them into “normal” Canadian citizens. The policy of Canada’s residential schools was to remove children from the influence of their families and culture, and assimilate them into the dominant Canadian culture.[1]  Over the course of the system’s existence, about 30% of Indigenous children, or roughly 150,000, were placed in residential schools nationally. The program was funded by the Canadian government’s Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and administered by Christian churches, predominantly the Roman Catholic Church in Canada (60%), but also the Anglican Church of Canada (30%), and the United Church of Canada (including its pre-1925 constituent church predecessors) (10%).[2]

P7511 Coqualeetza staff

Group portrait of staff and senior students of Coqualeetza Residential School. Chilliwack Archives P7511

There has long been significant historiographical and popular controversy about the conditions experienced by students in the residential schools. While day schools for First Nations, Métis and Inuit children always far outnumbered residential schools, a new consensus emerged in the early 21st century that the latter schools did significant harm to Aboriginal children who attended them by removing them from their families, depriving them of their ancestral languages, through sterilization, and by exposing many of them to physical leading to sexual abuse by staff members, and other students, and enfranchising them forcibly.

The 1931 Olympiad is a spectacle of physical endurance and strength but also a stark reminder of the often hidden historical wrongs committed in BC communities. My research was never able to uncover whether the Olympiad continued in subsequent years. Records from the Department of Indian Affairs do not show whether the Olympiad was funded in subsequent budgetary cycles. However, there have been numerous “Indian” Olympiads in BC throughout the twentieth century.

 

[1] Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. May 2015.

[2] Oblates in the West, accessed at: http://oblatesinthewest.library.ualberta.ca/eng/impact/schools.html

The “Peppering” Traveling Baseball Team

Posted on: August 6th, 2015 by

While completely losing myself in sports-related research for our upcoming Game On! The Evolution of Sports exhibit, I have come across a few gems. One such gem was the discovery of a traveling baseball team called the “House of David”.

The Israelite House of David was established as a religious community in Benton Harbor, Michigan, in 1903 by Benjamin Purnell, along with his wife Mary. The purpose of this colony was to gather the 12 lost tribes of Israel for the “Ingathering”, to await the Millennium. Benjamin Purnell, a sports enthusiastast, encouraged the playing of sports. The House of David started playing baseball around 1913 as a weekend endeavor and by 1915 the team was playing a more grueling schedule. By 1920, the team was “barnstorming” around the country, earning money for the colony, and using the team as a way to preach to potential members. While the team was on the road, the colony established a home team, a girl’s team, and a junior boys team. The players were led by its manager, Francis Thorpe and the team was originally comprised of members of the colony. The team was always an attraction by their long hair and beards, a doctrine of the religion, and would draw substantial crowds wherever they played. By the early 20’s, in need of participate with better playing abilities and by the lack of colony member participation, were in the business of hiring players not of the faith. These “Players for Hire” were required to grow a beard, and some played for the team for many years.

After a lengthy legal battle and subsequent death of Purnell, an internal power struggle for the colony ensued. After this struggle, the colony divided into two separate factions, and eventually two separate colonies. One was the Israelite House of David, whose members believed that Benjamin was the one and only leader, which was led by colony pillar Judge H. T. Dewhirst. This colony went by the moniker of “The House of David”.

Both factions of the House of David teams visited small communities all over Canada and the United States. Different House of David teams visited Chilliwack many times throughout the 1930s, playing local teams at Chilliwack’s Athletic Park. The August 1, 1935 article of the Chilliwack Progress remarked “Chilliwack fans got a big bang out of the famous ‘pepper’ tricks,” which were said to be along the lines of the fancy basketball moves of today’s Harlem Globetrotters. Many of the Chilliwack games raised funds for the Chilliwack Amateur Athletic Association but also provided lots of entertainment for hundreds of spectators. At fifty cents, it was quite a good bargain (valued at under $9 if adjusted for inflation).

Don’t miss our upcoming exhibit Game On! The Evolution of Sports in Chilliwack, which opens October 29!