Learning, Connection and Fun

@CHWKMuseum

Official Blog of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives

Archive for the ‘Museology’ Category

The World of Volunteerism

Posted on: October 16th, 2019 by Tristan Evans

Written by Cari Moore – Coordinator of Volunteers and Administration

I often wonder why people want to volunteer – and why at the museum for that matter. What draws them in to wanting to give back to community? Are they new to our City and have a desire to meet new people? Do they just want to get out of the house and have nothing better to do? Could it be that they are passionate about our local history and feel that a museum experience is valuable to everyone young and old? When asked, one of our volunteers stated that she felt that Museums were of significance to a highly functioning society and that she wanted to do her part in keeping it open. Another volunteer and his wife were very interested in Genealogy and volunteered initially at our archives to do family research and have never left.

Whatever the reason, the way I look at volunteering has started to shift. It is no longer about filling a seat with a warm body. It is not about saving money, after all a great volunteer program should be cost effective but is not “free labour”. It is not about finding the ultimate volunteer that will be here for years to come. It is about finding the right fit for people, figuring out what their passions and skills are and then give them a space to blossom.  It is about relationships; connecting with people as coworkers and building a team who welcomes visitors and guests into our space and makes everyone feel at home. It is about sharing our local history and the amazing things that this city has to offer.

I have come to realize that volunteering needs to be something you want to do for you, for your community or the people around you. You need to find a place where you belong, that works around your schedule and utilizes your strengths. It can also be an experience that helps you grow, or allows you to try new things and learn new skills. Most importantly, volunteering needs to help you enjoy the special moments and feel appreciated for the little things you contribute. Volunteers need to know that what they do is important, to themselves, the agencies they work with, their customers or guests and society as a whole. The world of volunteerism is evolving and ever changing. We need to open our eyes to every possibility of engagement and embrace the support and resources that volunteers have to offer.

I am looking forward to the challenge, are you? Call 604.795.5210 or email [email protected]lliwackmuseum.ca to see if volunteering with us is the right fit for you!

Remnant Research: The Story of Nylon Day, 1946

Posted on: July 24th, 2019 by Anna Irwin

Our recent exhibition, Five Faces, Five Corners: The Social Experience of Chilliwack’s Downtown focuses on the common leisure activities and experiences which bring Chilliwackians together at Five Corners. While this seems like a simple concept on the surface, Five Corners has been (and continues to be) a very busy place, with events and social activity happening constantly on its streets.

Men and loaded pack horses destined for mines in Mt. Baker district in front of A.C. Henderon’s store at Five Corners. Many photographs and stories such as this were not included in the exhibition [Chilliwack Museum and Archives, PP501731]

The history of Five Corners is complex, rich and delightfully colourful at times. From a harrowing plane crash at the Empress gas station in 1938 to the potential discovery of gold at Five Corners in the 1980s, we discovered quite quickly we would have to narrow the scope of the exhibition somewhat for clarity and logistics. As we moved forward, we had to cut stories from the exhibition as they no longer fit the bill or we simply no longer had space to accommodate it!

Instead of condemning the research to the recesses of my hard drive, I’d like to share one of my favourite tales cut from the exhibition – the story of Nylon Day at Lois Lovell Hosiery & Lingerie in 1946.

Nylon: A Wartime Staple at Home and on the Frontlines

Rationing and “learning to do without” was a way of life for Canadians on the home front during the Second World War to support soldiers. Nylon stockings, (or more specifically, nylon fibres) were a valuable material on the warfront. Nylon had many uses to a soldier or manufacturer: it could be used to make flak suits and parachutes, for stitching wounds and as an outer layer on lightweight tents.

A popular fashion statement, nylon stockings were in very short supply in North America during the War. Fashion-forward women of the time, desperate for nylon, turned to cosmetics and paint to replicate the look of hosiery. Unable to purchase the real deal, women would paint a black line up the back of each of their legs, attempting to replicate the seam of hosiery. Some turned to the black market: The Chilliwack Progress notes in 1944 that American women were being warned about the presence of treated rayon being circulated as nylon. 

Nylon Madness Grips Chilliwack

Advertisement from The Chilliwack Progress for nylon sales at Lois Lovell, 1946. [The Chilliwack Progress, February 13, 1946]

In Chilliwack, nylons were equally challenging to come by. In February 1946, 400 pairs of nylons were slated for delivery to Chilliwack, an amount to be divided between Pickards, David Spencer and Lois Lovell’s lingerie stores. Of these stores, only Lois Lovell would sell nylons over the counter, the other stores requiring a pre-order to purchase a pair. Fervour was high: the previous shipment in December, consisting of 800 pairs, had sold out in only a handful of hours. One unnamed retailer lamented that the amount allotted to their store would not meet demand and another stated they would “like to put [their] supply out in the middle of the street and let people scramble for them”. The situation at Lois Lovell was of particular concern to the city police as the store was the only store in the city planning to sell nylons on a first come, first serve basis.

Customers line up outside Lois Lovell Hosiery & Lingerie, February 19, 1946 [Chilliwack Museum and Archives, 1997.059.006]

The day of the sale arrived. On February 19, 1946, more than 100 individuals lined the streets of Five Corners in front of Lois Lovell’s. Buses, coming from places such as Cultus Lake, were at full capacity, transporting women anxious to have a chance to purchase. Police were on hand, providing a presence to ensure the safety of all customers and merchants. At nearby Picks Hardware store, sales associates eager to get in on the flurry of activity, attempted to lure customers into the store, telling those in line that they “[had] nylons!” only for those who took the bait to discover they were referring to nylon fishing line. Nylons sold out at all locations by the end of the day.

No Fist Fights: Cooler Heads Prevail

Thankfully, the event passed without incident despite many being turned away due to lack of stock. An article issued in The Chilliwack Progress the next day ran with the title “Peaceful Affair: No Fist Fights on “Nylon Day.” While customers waited calmly in line, the day by no means satisfied the community demand for nylons and David Spencer’s and Pickards both began taking orders for the next nylon shipment following the sale. Following the war, nylons became gradually more available and fervour surrounding their sale dropped extensively.

A Message From Your Interim Executive Director – Ron Denman

Posted on: January 26th, 2019 by Tristan Evans

In late July, I received a phone call from past president Fred Feistmann informing me that Executive Director Matthew Francis had resigned for personal reasons. An interim director was needed. I agreed to fill the role until a permanent Executive Director was found. I had thought I was firmly ensconced in retirement though. This past spring, I sold my Cultus Lake home and moved to Hope. Fred’s call came before I even had a chance to unpack everything.

Well now more than six months have passed and I have found many changes. Most notably, there’s an entirely new staff. And I couldn’t be more impressed. Yvonne Contreras fully embraces her role as the administrative and volunteer coordinator. She has an easy rapport with our volunteers, great decision-making skills and the ability to see what needs to be done or changed to improve procedures. Anna Irwin, who was only appointed as Curator in May, jumped into a partially-completed project and grasped all the tentacles to make it a success. The project, funded by the Canadian Museum of History, was to produce a web site centred on the history of Chilliwack’s Chinese community. As of January 15, the site was live, complete with French translations.

Ron Denman is ready for retirement

Tristan, our Archivist, is now the senior member of the staff. Recently, Don Luxton who prepared a detailed conservation plan for the second floor former council chambers in the fall, asked us to do a deep search of our archives in search of pre-1950 and preferably pre-1920 photos of the interior of the room. Tristan found additional photos that add to the documented evidence already found. He has an amazing grasp of the extent and richness of our archives collection, which is a huge positive for researchers. You can also see interpretation signs at the Elk Creek Trail and on the Rotary Vedder Trail, the result of Tristan’s work.

Sarah Belley was hired in early September to become the Education and Community Engagement Coordinator. This meant immersing herself in the content of our school offerings while editing and printing school programs, and attending events. In December alone she saw 24 classes participate in our school programs.

And of course, there’s our dedicated care of volunteers and part-timers that keep the place running. What a refreshing group of talented minds.

But all good things come to an end. My retirement looms again. Shawna Maurice, formerly the Manager of the Lloydminster Saskatchewan Cultural and Science Centre, is the new Executive Director. Please see below for a profile on Shawna Maurice.

A new energetic young staff, an active and enthused Board of Directors and a champion at Chilliwack’s City Hall, Ryan Mulligan, Director of Recreation and Culture are all the ingredients needed to see the Museum and Archives into the next decades. I feel good retiring again. Thank you everyone for making this latest work stint so enriching.

 

 

Welcome to our new Executive Director

 

In early January, Shawna Maurice, her husband Eric and their two children left Lloydminster Saskatchewan in bitterly cold -42 degree weather, arriving a couple of days later to the usually balmy (it’s all relative) Fraser Valley.  Shawna was interviewed in October and was offered the position of Executive Director of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives.

New Executive Director Shawna Maurice

Shawna, who grew up in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, traveled a long road to get here. Since 2010, she worked at the Lloydminster Cultural and Science Centre where she rose to become Manager of the facility. She holds a BA in Anthropology and History as well as a graduate diploma in Heritage Management, degrees from the University of Alberta and Athabasca University respectively.

For Shawna, history is about change and tying the past into the present and future. Making museums relevant for today’s audiences is a focus for her approach to museum work. And it’s an approach that the Board of Director endorses. The next generation is here and along with Shawna and the rest of the staff you can expect great things.

New Curator at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives!

Posted on: July 5th, 2018 by Matthew Francis

In late June 2018, we welcomed a new Curator to the staff of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives.

Curator Anna Irwin with a woven Salish blanket from approximately 1830.

I am delighted that Anna Irwin, who takes on this key role, has long called Chilliwack home. Anna takes over from Jane Lemke, who accepted a new position with another great B.C. Museum, and from Adrienne Rempel, who served as Curator this past year. An award-winning graduate of the University of the Fraser Valley’s History Program, Anna has also completed the University of Victoria’s highly regarded Professional Specialization Certificate in Collections Management, with a focus in Curatorial work. She is no stranger to the Museum and Archives, as she has worked part-time with us for the past few years. Until recently, Anna served as Program Manager at the Trethewey House Historic Site in Abbotsford. Anna brings creativity, knowledge, and energy to the curatorial role. Executive Director Matthew Francis recently had the opportunity to speak with Anna about her new work.

——————————————————————————————————————–

Q:           Anna – thanks for taking the time to speak with me, and to share about yourself and your work. What are some of the things you appreciate about Chilliwack?

There are so many things to love about Chilliwack but one of my favourite things about Chilliwack are the local mountains. While I have lived in Chilliwack (almost) my whole life, I did not realize how much I took our local mountains that surround us in the Fraser Valley for granted until I left to briefly study French at l’Université de Sherbrooke during my undergraduate degree. While the experience was fantastic (and the food and people were absolutely delightful), one of the things I noticed was that I became nostalgic over our local mountains.

The mountains in the Fraser Valley, such as Mount Cheam, are much larger and are found much more frequently than mountains in the Eastern Townships. When I looked out onto the Sherbrooke horizon one day from the window, it felt empty and incomplete. At the time, I couldn’t quite place why I felt the way that I did, but upon returning home a few weeks after looking out the window, the answer became quickly apparent. The mountains are a source of familiarity and comfort that define “home”. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to live and work in a place where they are so readily seen from almost any place in the City. We truly live in one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

Q:           What initially interested you in working in Museums?

My interest in museums originally spurred from two things: a sharp interest in learning about the local community and a love of working with people. In museums, these two things often work well in tandem – one of my absolute favourite things to do is to either talk to visitors about what they remember about Chilliwack from decades past or to delve into the local history literature and archival material at the museum to learn about obscure or quirky stories from our past.

Stories are the lifeblood of any museum and object collection. Without the story about why an object is significant and related to a community (otherwise known as provenance), an object is just that: an object. The stories and people that are associated with artifacts can be just as – if not more, in certain instances – important than the artefact itself. They provide context where needed and allow us a window into the past.

For example, a cardboard checkerboard with tidemarks without additional context remains a cardboard checkerboard with tidemarks. While it may, in certain instances, be possible to learn about the year the board was made and where it was produced, the stories pertaining to the checkerboard do not exist and, in some instances, have been lost. Stories allow us to know who used the checkerboard, to learn what caused the tidemarks, to learn where the checkerboard was used and from all of that, allow us to see how the checkerboard fits into the larger swath of Chilliwack’s history. Research, interviewing and having discussions with visitors and donors are all crucial in helping learn more about both the museum’s collection and Chilliwack’s history as a whole.

Q:           Some people may wonder. What is it exactly that curators do? Sometimes it may feel a bit mysterious. Can you help to explain what it is that curators do? 

Curators work primarily to preserve and share tangible history.

While this may sound fairly succinct and straightforward, the position has many broad tasks, including cataloguing and housing new donations to the museum’s artefact collection, assessing integrated pest management strategies and environmental conditions of both the museum and the archives facilities, assisting visitors at the archives, researching upcoming exhibit themes, connecting with community groups for exhibit research and consultation, designing graphics and exhibit labels, and more!

While most of these tasks relate to collections management or exhibition development and the extent to which each are pursued on a day-to-day basis, all play an important role in ensuring Chilliwack’s history can be passed on to and enjoyed by the public and future generations.

Q:           Anna – what is your favourite part about being a curator?

While I truly love the “Jack of all trades” nature of being a curator (to quote one of my predecessors, Jane Lemke), my favourite part of being a curator is working with the community to develop exhibitions. As one of my mentors used to tell me “it takes a village to raise an exhibit” and this is a concept that I wholly live by – exhibitions are concepts built with the help of the community and offer a forum for local voices, both historic and contemporary, to come alive, come together and be heard through archival and object collections, interviews, and active consultation and discussions with local groups and community members.

While a significant amount of research and preparation for upcoming exhibits is conducted “behind the scenes” by staff members, these local voices truly make the exhibit a reflection of its community and allow visitors – particularly those from Chilliwack – to feel an increased sense of ownership and participation in the exhibition development process. Continuing to develop this relationship while bridging the past and present in the museum’s public spaces is something  I am very much looking forward to, as we gear up for our new exhibit centered on music, set to open in early 2019.

Q:           So what are you looking forward to the most in your new job as Curator at the Chilliwack Museum?

I may have accidentally answered this question in the previous question, but in addition to working with the public during the exhibit development process, I am very much looking forward to working with the collection. While I studied collections management at the University of Victoria and have worked with artefact collections in the past, most recently I have been working in programming as the Programs Officer at Trethewey House Heritage Site, leading educational programs and running the volunteer and membership programs (amongst other things!). Having the opportunity to shift gears and actively work to preserve Chilliwack’s extensive and rich artefact collection (especially in my hometown!) is a true honour.

Q:           What’s one fun fact about you that people may not know?

For the past few years, I have been working on watching or collecting as many covers of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as I can find. It’s a slightly obscure and very specific hobby.

Anna Irwin, new Curator at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives

That’s amazing! I’m even more excited for our upcoming music exhibition now! Thank you so much, Anna, for taking the time to talk. We wish you all the best in your work as Curator at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives.

If community members are interested in speaking further with Anna about Chilliwack’s history or about historic objects, you can contact her at 604-795-5210 ext. 105 or by email at [email protected] 

 

 

 

Volunteer Spotlight – Wayne Bowes

Posted on: June 20th, 2018 by Tristan Evans

The Chilliwack Museum is so much more than one individual.  To fulfill our mandate of preserving Chilliwack’s rich history, we rely on the work of so many individuals who generously share their time.  This includes (but is not all inclusive) members of the Chilliwack historical society, the Board of Trustees, 32 volunteers, 5 permanent staff members, 2 summer students, and 3 part-time staff members.  In the Archives building specifically, there is one archivist, one curator, one archives assistant, one summer student, and currently 4 volunteers.  As the name implies, volunteers charitably give their free time here doing a lot of the behind-the-scenes work that allows us to preserve and make available our archival records and cultural objects.

Volunteer Wayne Bowes and his wife Coleen Bowes

 

Each volunteer brings a unique skill set to the Archives that we try and pair up with tasks that are needed.  To this day I regularly use the research done by past volunteers such as Sharon Lawrence or Evelyn Johner.  Today I am going to use this opportunity to highlight one volunteer in particular:

 

Wayne Bowes volunteers in the Archives building mostly working on the curatorial side describing cultural objects.  Wayne is a retired architect, designer, and worked for many years in the antiques business.  With his knowledge, Wayne is the perfect individual to help us describe cultural objects.  His antique skills are particularly useful.  He knows far more about the material and use of an object than us generalist (the curator and myself) could ever hope to know.  He is here every Monday from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM imputing descriptive information into our database.  The work is often tedious and underappreciated.  Very few individuals understand all the behind-the-scene descriptions that Wayne is a part of.  During his last shift I asked Wayne a few questions about his work and why he is so committed to helping our mission.

 

Just one of the projects Wayne is currently describing

Why did you decide to volunteer for the Chilliwack Museum and Archives?

 

I wanted to give back to Chilliwack.  I have an interest in history and older items and wanted to use my knowledge in a meaningful way to give back to the community.

 

What type of work do you perform when you are at the Archives? 

 

I work mostly on the curatorial side.  I take photographs of objects and record the information into the database.  I look up the value of items and describe the items.  I use my past experience from working in an antiques shop to describe the artifacts and objects.

 

Do you have a favourite memory at the Museum and Archives?

 

I haven’t been working here for very long yet; but, I have really enjoyed some of the socials and luncheons for the volunteers.

 

Is there anything else you would like to mention regarding your work at the Archives? 

 

Staff are friendly, nice, and informative.  (I promise, I didn’t force him to say the last response)

 

Wayne Bowes has been volunteering since November, 2017.  He lives in Chilliwack proper with his wife Coleen Bowes.  They are long time residents of the community in Chilliwack and Cultus Lake.  From a personal perspective I can say without hesitation that it is an absolute pleasure working with Wayne.

 

Borrowing a phrase from one of my favourite podcasts, The Secret Life of Canada, shout out to Wayne Bowes!

What’s Behind the Locked Doors?

Posted on: May 16th, 2018 by Tristan Evans

Today I would like to use this opportunity to promote a new event here at the Archives.  Starting this year we have been having free behind-the-scenes tours of the Chilliwack Archives.  The free tours are open to everyone and take place on the last Friday of the month.  Hint, May 25th for this month.  Each tour runs between 45 minutes to an hour.

 

Archivist Tristan Evans is pleased with the new sandwich board sign. Photo credit: Adrienne Rempel [February 6, 2018]

Are you curious what we are hiding behind those secret archive doors?  Ever wondered where I disappear to when you request to view a fonds or photograph?  Are you a long-time history nerd with serious questions and you want to know more about our local collections?  Come to the tour.  Are you brand new to the history field and just looking to see what all the hype is about at the Archives?  Come to the tour.  The tour is open to everyone, no previous research experience required.  Seriously, it is a really great opportunity.

 

Below is all the information you need:

 

Price: FREE!!!

Where: Evergreen Hall, Chilliwack Archives, 9291 Corbould Street, Chilliwack, BC V2P 4A6

When: Last Friday of every month at 3:00 PM

Reservation: Not required!  All you need to do is stop by the Archives at 3:00 PM

 

“I don’t always go on free tours, but when I do, it’s to visit the Chilliwack Archives”

-World’s Most Interesting Man

 

Archive Door protecting the secrets of the archive stacks. Photo credit: Tristan Evans [May 16, 2018]

I know that I’m not alone when I say I love visiting archives.  Sure museums are fun, but how often do you get to see behind the scenes?  You will be rewarded with the opportunity to explore how we catalogue and preserve archival records and cultural objects.  At most institutions you are lucky to peak behind an archive door and glimpse a view at the secrets of the archival world.  These glimpses into the mysterious world of an archivist are usually reserved for special occasions such as “archives week” or “culture week.”  Not here at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives.  We are very fortunate here in Chilliwack to have a large and diverse collection of archival records, artifacts, and cultural objects for a community of our size.  My job is to preserve these archival records; but also, to make them available to the community.  So please, stop by on the last Friday of every month, 3:00 PM, no RSVP!

 

Are you sold yet?  If not, here are a couple comments I’ve heard after our first three tours:

Newspapers… Boxes and boxes of newspapers. Photo credit: Tristan Evans [May 16, 2018]

 

“Good Tour”

“Great Tour”

“I really enjoyed that, thank you”

“Oh wow!  That was the greatest tour I have ever had in my entire life.  It totally changed my life.  Nothing can ever top this”

 

Okay… Maybe I slightly misquoted that last one and perhaps exaggerated a little bit.  In all seriousness though, these tours are great.  I really hope to keep them going and they are something that very few institutions offer.  Generally speaking, the public is forbidden to go behind-the-scenes of an archive.  These tours tear down those restrictions.  They make my job less of a mystery to you, the public, and they are a perfect opportunity for you to ask questions you may have about our collections or general Chilliwack community history.  I really hope to see you on May 25th or any other last Friday of the month.

Chilliwack Museum and Archives “Pays it Forward”

Posted on: November 29th, 2017 by Matthew Francis

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 Adrienne Rempel

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 Matthew Francis

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 Tristan Evans

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.”