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Chilliwack Museum and Archives “Pays it Forward”

Posted on: November 29th, 2017 by

This past year, one of our 60th Anniversary projects was to obtain new, Canadian-made, conservation-grade exhibit cases. We have been thrilled with the results. These cases, installed in late October, will allow us to project and celebrate our rich, Chilliwack-focused artifact collection, for the next generation, at least. Thanks to everyone who made this dream a reality!

If you haven’t yet stopped in to the Museum to check it out – come and experience it for yourself! 

Some of our new table-top and modular display cases.

Completing that project, however, yielded a new one.

What would we do with our existing casework? We definitely did not have room to keep it on site in the Museum! Over the decades, we had ourselves benefited from the generosity of other Museums, which had “cascaded” some of their old exhibit cases down to us. In addition, in past years we had a few cases produced locally for us, which were totally functional, and still had great lifespan in them.

We asked around, as we are in contact with other Museums and cultural organizations here in the Fraser Valley. Thankfully, three organizations let us know that they could put the cases to good use!

Threthewey House Heritage Site’s Executive Director, Christina Reid, gave us an update:

Cases recently provided to Trethewey House Heritage Site in Abbotsford.

Cases recently provided to Trethewey House Heritage Site in Abbotsford are being painted for their new format. 

“Right now, we’re in the process of re-painting the cases. Once they’re done, we will fill them with artifacts to go in our new Legacies on the Lake exhibit. The larger case will hold our temporary exhibits, which will centre on individuals who worked at the Trethewey’s lumber mill. The new-to-us cases enable us to show more of our collection, and thus tell more of Abbotsford’s story.”

At the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre, the experience was similar. Our Curator, Adrienne Rempel worked with their Director, Dr. Dave Schaepe and their Education Coordinator Amber Kostuchenko, providing them with some of our older casework. It looks tremendous in their newly renovated Shxwt’a:selhawtxw (“House of Long Ago and Today”) Interpretive Centre.

Cultural items from the Stó:lō Resource Centre Repository, in the newly renovated Shxwt’a:selhawtxw (“House of Long Ago and Today”) Interpretive Centre.

Cases in the newly renovated Shxwt’a:selhawtxw (“House of Long Ago and Today”) Interpretive Centre. 

Dave mentioned how the “donation of the large display cases from the Chilliwack Museum were a much appreciated, very useful and timely addition to our newly renovated Shxwt’a:selhawtxw (“House of Long Ago and Today”) Interpretive Centre.  These cases allowed us to bring out and display more cultural  items from our Stó:lō Resource Centre Repository, expanding the scope of our cultural education program.  The donated cabinets provide more opportunity to display delicate items like handmade Coast Salish baskets and textiles.  It is of great value to bring these items to the attention of our visitors and use within our programs.”

Cultural items from the Stó:lō Resource Centre Repository, in the newly renovated Shxwt’a:selhawtxw (“House of Long Ago and Today”) Interpretive Centre.

Cases in the newly renovated Shxwt’a:selhawtxw (“House of Long Ago and Today”) Interpretive Centre. 

A couple of the other cases are remaining with us, to be used for our own Education and Engagement programs, as well as smaller-scale exhibits located in our Archives location at Evergreen Hall. The rest of our former cases have been donated to the CFB Chilliwack Historical Society, and are already making a major difference in their presentation galleries, which are located on Hocking Avenue in Chilliwack. Stay tuned for that story!

At the Chilliwack Museum and Archives, we’re glad that we could “pay it forward!”

In the meantime, come by the Museum to see our refreshed galleries, and why not plan an excursion to visit these other great local places, and experience what they have to offer! 

New exhibition focused on Sq’éwlets First Nation now open

Posted on: November 9th, 2017 by

It’s been a busy month at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives! This week, we opened our latest exhibition, Sq’éwlets: A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Community in the Fraser River Valley. To bring you this exhibition, the Museum partnered with the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre in collaboration with the Sq’éwlets First Nation.

View of exhibition space, walls are blue and have photos on them, in the centre of the image is a false wall with a video projected onto it.

Installation image: Our Voices projection

What it’s all about

The ancient home of the Sq’éwlets First Nation is at the junction of the Fraser and Harrison Rivers. The history of the Sq’éwlets people from their ancient origins, up to the present day, is shared in the exhibition through videos, cultural belongings, and photos.

A notable aspect of the presentation is that the content wasn’t written or generated by the Museum staff—it was created by the community at Sq’éwlets, from their perspective, and in their words. Self-representation and personal voice are key aspects of the exhibition programme. Visitors will find that the Halq’eméylem language is used prominently throughout the display.

A note on terminology

Installation image of Sq’éwlets exhibition

Installation image: belongings on display

In the exhibition texts, you will notice a small but significant change in terminology. Rather than the commonly used term “artifact” or “object,” the material culture on display is referred to as “belongings.” Alongside the belongings, you will also see historical and contemporary photographs of belongings being used.

The reasoning behind this is multi-faceted, but one of our goals is to emphasize that these items and technologies are still utilized and practiced today, as they have been for generations. Perhaps most important is to acknowledge that the material culture on display belongs to the Sq’éwlets community and their ancestors.

For an in-depth discussion on museological use of the term “belonging” in regards to Coast Salish material culture, check out the following article, Belongings” in “c̓əsnaʔəm: the city before the city.

A community welcome

Welcome by Chief Robert Coombes at the exhibition opening

Welcome by Chief Robert Coombes at the exhibition opening

The exhibition opened on November 2nd, and despite Chilliwack’s first snowfall of the season, many visitors were present. To start the event, a welcome was provided Chief Robert Combes of the local Skwah First Nation. Chief Andy Phillips of the Sq’éwlets First Nation then introduced the project, followed by traditional song and dance led by Johnny Williams on drum. City Councillor Sue Attrill then spoke a few words, along with Museum Director Matthew Francis.

To all of the folks who braved the weather and difficult roads to celebrate this new exhibition, we thank you!

(This exhibition also marks the first time we’ve installed a display using the Museum’s new display casesand they are a dream to work with!)

Sq’éwlets: A Stó:lō–Coast Salish Community in the Fraser River Valley is on display from November 2, 2017 to April 28, 2018. Read further about the exhibition here.

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. 

Preventing Pest Infestation – Don’t Bug Out

Posted on: June 21st, 2017 by

Disclaimer: Content in the following blog post may be disturbing to bug lovers. 

Recently I picked up a donation for the archives that caused me some concern.  Before bringing the newly acquired collection into the stacks I noticed a silverfish at the bottom of the bankers box.  Archival instincts taking over, I immediately crushed the insect.

Destruction after grazing of silverfish.  Photo Credit: Micha L. Rieser (Wikipedia)

Destruction after grazing of silverfish. Photo Credit: Micha L. Rieser (Wikipedia)

Panic is seldom a word heard in the archives profession.  With my heartbeat rising, my mind immediately raced to the horror stories I heard about at archival conferences.  Sweaty palms, I needed to address the situation and address it quickly.  Perhaps the word panic is a bit melodramatic; but, it’s not every blog post that I get to exaggerate somewhat.

Silverfish – Lepisma Saccharina – will graze across records leaving a wake of destruction in their path.  Okay, maybe not exactly a wake of destruction but they can multiple and precautions should be taken to keep their populations in control.  In his book, “How to Recognize and Eliminate Silverfish, Beetles, Cockroaches, Moths, Termites, Rats and Mildew in Libraries and Archives,” Thomas A. Parker explains how Silverfish enter an institution.

“They lay eggs in the corrugations of cardboard boxes, one of their favorite areas for egg deposition.  Although the adult silverfish may not feed directly on the cardboard, they very commonly feed on the glue that holds the cardboard box together.  With every cardboard box coming into a library, a new load of silverfish and their eggs is bound to arrive.  Upon hatching, depending on the conditions in which the box is stored, they may then roam widely to find a suitable food source.”

 

Alright everyone, Chill!  

Obviously, it is nearly impossible to prevent silverfish and other pests from entering an archive.  The best preventative solution is environmental control, cleanliness, and monitoring in the stacks.  Nevertheless, records that have obviously been compromised should be addressed before the archivist places them in the same stacks as other records.  One of the easiest and most effective ways to eliminate bugs and their eggs on paper material is by freezing the records.

Step one: Isolate the material.  I kept the material in my truck while I consulted my archival pest management manuals.

Freezing records at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives.  Photo credit: Tristan Evans (June 19, 2017)

Freezing records at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives. Photo credit: Tristan Evans (June 19, 2017)

Step two: Wrap the records in plastic or Ziploc bags tightly and seal them with water resistant tape to prevent condensation from forming.

Step three: Freeze the materials at a temperature of at least -20 C for 72 hours.

Step four: Remove the material and defrost as slowly as possible.  Keep the records sealed for roughly three weeks and watch for holes in the plastic.  If holes do appear, eggs within the compromised records may not have been killed during the freezing process and the hatched bugs may be attempting to escape by eating their way out.

Repeat as necessary.

When it comes to silverfish and other forms of pests my mind defaults to what Mr. Freeze eloquently said, “I’m afraid my condition has left me cold to your pleas of mercy.”

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. 

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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].

Association and Memberships have Benefits

Posted on: September 21st, 2016 by

Shannon Bettles doing collection work at the Chilliwack Archives

Collection work at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives. [Photo credit: Jenna Hauck]

The professional world of museum, archives and heritage in BC is full of acronyms:  AABC, BCMA, BCHF, CMA, HBC. What do these acronyms stand for and what do they mean for our organization and profession? Let’s explore.

The Chilliwack Museum and Historical Society, who operate the Chilliwack Museum and Archives, has been a longstanding member of many professional organizations that advocate for, accredit, provide guidance for and support the Society’s mandate and work in the preservation and presentation of Chilliwack’s culture, heritage, and natural and human history. Put simply – membership has benefits.

The Archives Association of BC (AABC)

The mission of the AABC  “is to foster the development of the provincial archival community in order to better preserve and promote access to British Columbia’s documentary heritage” (AABC, 2012). The work the AABC does helps archival repositories like Chilliwack’s reach and maintain professional standards of best practices in the field. Essentially this works to improve the preservation of archival materials and facilitate public access to them.

Chilliwack Progress newspapers at the Chilliwack Archives

Archives collection at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives. [Photo credit: Jenna Hauck]

Becoming a Full Institutional member of the AABC and maintaining AABC credentials are not easy tasks.  Meeting Full Institutional requirements includes employing a full time trained Archivist, reaching best environmental preservation standards, demonstrating commitment to ensuring access to information and engaging in professional development.  Being an accredited member of AABC assures researchers and donors that the organization strives to uphold and maintain best practices in the field – that we are a trusted repository for original archival materials.

The Chilliwack Museum and Archives is a proud Full Institutional member of the AABC.

BC Museums Association (BCMA)

The mandate of the BCMA is to “create(s) a bright future for British Columbia’s museum, gallery, and related heritage communities through networking, advocacy, innovation, and professional development” (BCMA, 2016).

BCMA Roundup Magazine

BCMA Roundup Magazine.

As an Institutional Member of the BCMA, the Chilliwack Museum and Archives benefits from its staff being actively engaged in professional development; by learning about and employing excellence and innovation in the field; by benefitting from the BCMA’s advocacy efforts around the province; and by connecting and networking with other museums, galleries and cultural centres in BC in order to provide our community the best museum services it can. These functions of the BCMA helps the Chilliwack Museum and Archives to stay relevant and continually improve its services.

Chilliwack Museum and Archives staff regularly attend the BCMA annual conference and subscribe to Roundup, the magazine of the BCMA.

The Chilliwack Museum and Archives is a proud Institutional Member of the BCMA.

British Columbia Historical Federation (BCHF)

Incorporated in 1922, the BCHF has three stated purposes: “(1) to promote the preservation and marking of historical sites, relics, natural features, and other objects and places of historical interest; (2) to stimulate public interest, and to encourage historical research, in British Columbia history; and (3) to publish historical sketches, studies, and documents” (BCHF, 2016).

BC History Magazine

BC History Magazine of the BCHF.

To these ends, the BCHF publishes the magazine called BC History; recognizes the work of Member Societies through a scholarship and awards program; and awards and endows the Lieutenant Governor’s BC Book Prize for best historical writing. Being a Member Society of the BCHF benefits members of the Chilliwack Museum and Historical Society by supporting and advocating for local history and historical projects our members are involved in, and by providing opportunities to learn, explore, contribute to, preserve and appreciate the widespread knowledge of BC’s history.

The Chilliwack Museum and Archives has been a proud Member Society of the BCHF for many decades. The BCHF’s annual conference is being held in Chilliwack next May 25 – 28th.

Canadian Museums Association (CMA)

The CMA is the “national organization for the advancement of the Canadian museum sector, representing Canadian museum professionals both within Canada and internationally” (CMA, 2016). The promotion and advocacy of museums in Canada and abroad and the representation of museum professional at the national level is important work that benefits all museums in Canada, including ours here in Chilliwack.

The CMA administers the Young Canada Works program in museums; awards professional development bursaries ; publishes Muse magazine; and holds an annual conference. The Chilliwack Museum and Archives holds membership with the CMA at the Institutional Association level.

Heritage BC (HBC)

HBC is a “not-for-profit, charitable organization supporting heritage conservation across British Columbia through education, training and skills development, capacity building in heritage planning and funding through the Heritage Legacy Fund” (HBC, 2016).

The Chilliwack Museum, itself housed in a National Historic Site of Canada, provides museum and archives services that help to conserve and interpret heritage sites in Chilliwack. Membership with HBC connects the Chilliwack Museum with the heritage conservation and planning expertise of professionals and organizations within the Province.

The Chilliwack Museum and Archives is a proud member of Heritage BC.

References