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New Archivist applies history to real life, loves the whitewater

Posted on: February 23rd, 2017 by Matthew Francis

February 15th was the first day on the job for our new Archivist, Tristan Evans. Tristan originally hails from Prince George, B.C., but has lived in California for many years. He brings to Chilliwack unique professional experience in the Archives field, as well as a track-record of applying the study of history to practical situations in diverse communities. Executive Director Matthew Francis recently had the opportunity to speak with Tristan, so we can all get to know him better. 

Tristan – you are originally from British Columbia, but have spent most of your life in California. How did you enjoy living, studying, and working in beautiful California?

If you are ‘into’ the outdoors, Northern California is an excellent place to live.  Within a two hour drive you have access to world class whitewater, mountain biking, hiking trails, backcountry skiing, and ocean surfing.  I loved the year-round activities that Northern California provided.

New Archivist Tristan Evans is an avid white-water sports enthusiast.

New Archivist Tristan Evans is an avid white-water sports enthusiast.

I was fortunate to complete my undergraduate degree at the University of California, Davis and my graduate degree at California State University, Sacramento.  Both of these schools have excellent history departments with courses that I found both challenging and rewarding.  At Davis, I also had the opportunity to study abroad for one year at the University of Legon, Accra, Ghana.  During this experience I really enjoyed working with the local Ga-Adangbe community as I did a case study on the impact of colonization within their community.

University of Ghana, Legon, courtesy of www.legonconnect.com

University of Ghana, Legon, courtesy of www.legonconnect.com

What I found most stimulating about working in Northern California is the diversity of the jobs and institutions within the history field.  Sacramento is home to the California State Archives, the Center for Sacramento History, several volunteer archives, and the special collections of the California State Library, Sacramento State University, and Sacramento City Library.  Furthermore, there are several Cultural Resource Management and Historic Preservation firms from small to large.  I always found it very interesting interacting with different professionals in the same field that had such different experiences.

 You have a background History, Cultural Resource Management, and a Master’s degree in Public History – what is “Public History,” and how did you get interested in the work of Archives?

 In short, Public History is any form of history that is applied outside of the classroom.  A synonym for Public History that I prefer to use is Applied History.  It is also sometimes referred to as community history.  Areas of Public History include but are not limited to: Museum Studies, Cultural Resource Management, Historic Preservation, Archives, Oral History, History and Memory, and many more topics.

My interest in Archives is actually very different than most Archivists.  When I started the Public History program I thought I would follow a career in Cultural Resource Management (i.e. evaluating the built environment for evaluation on National, State, and Local Registers of Historic Places) and only took my first Archives class to help expand my research knowledge.  However, after taking the class and processing my first collection at the Center for Sacramento History, I quickly learned that I really enjoyed the field and working with original documents.

 That collaborative spirit will serve you well as you work with our Museum and Archives team, as well as providing Archives services to the people here in Chilliwack! Tristan, you have Archives experience working in the California State Archives. What kinds of things did you do there?

California State Archives Logo

 I worked as a Processing Assistant at the California State Archives.  In this capacity, I processed three different collections of various sizes and wrote finding aids for each collection using archival standards.  The first collection I processed was the California Assembly Agriculture Committee records.  Next, I worked on the Tim Leslie Papers.  This collection was unique in that it had over 200 audio-visual records in the form audio tapes, video tapes, and compact discs.  However, the collection I most enjoyed working on was my third collection, the California Department of Social Welfare Records.  To date, this is the second largest processed collection at the California State Archives followed only by the Governor Earl Warren Papers.  Records from this collection stretched from 1903 to 1979.  Because of the many departmental changes throughout the years, the collection consisted of two record groups, several sub-record groups, some sub-sub record groups, almost 200 different series, multiple sub-series, and even some sub-sub series.  It was an extremely challenging collection.  Learning about the transformation of social services in California was fascinating.  I believe that the records in this collection are truly unique and I am very proud of the fact that I helped improve access to these records for future researchers.

 You also worked closely with Indigenous communities in Northern California. How might that experience inform your work in Chilliwack?

 Previously I had the honor to work for the United Auburn Indian Community (UAIC) as the Cultural Resources Assistant.  I worked under the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer and consulted with State and Federal agencies as an Architectural Historian for the Community with regards to Traditional Cultural Properties and Traditional Cultural Resources.  Naturally, working in the Preservation Department at UAIC, I worked with community members every day.  It is hard to quantify the special experience that I acquired while working for UAIC.  The understanding that I gained in this position will reflect many of the decisions that I will make at the Archives.

 If you could share one thing with people about the value of community Archives, what would it be?

 As a Public Historian, I think that community Archives reflect the soul of a community.  Only in a community Archives will you find information on local individuals, local buildings and properties, local points of interest, and of course, local history.  These records often get lost, underutilized, or deemed too unimportant in larger organizations.

 You have only been in Chilliwack a few weeks now, and arrived during an ice-storm! Apart from your work, what kind of things are you looking forward to discovering and doing here in Chilliwack?

 I have been told that Chilliwack is a great place to live if you are in to the outdoors.  For this reason I made sure to bring my kayaks, mountain bike, stand up paddleboard, skies, snow shoes, and snowboard.  I am really excited to take my kayak down the Chilliwack River and explore the Tamahi rapid as well as the sections upstream.  I am also looking forward to mountain biking on Vedder Mountain and exploring the many hikes in the area.  When the weather warms up I will contact the Chilliwack Crusaders rugby club.

Thanks, Tristan, for taking the time to introduce yourself! Welcome to the Chilliwack Museum and Archives team. 

Tristan Evans is the Archivist at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives. The Archives are located at Evergreen Hall, 9291 Corbould Street, in Chilliwack. We are open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 9:00am – 4:30pm, and Tuesdays and Thursdays by appointment. If you have any questions about locally significant historic records, or simply to connect with Chilliwack’s history, you can contact Tristan at [email protected] or by phone at (604) 795-5210 ext. 104. 

A Century of Remembrance – Piper James C. Richardson VC

Posted on: September 30th, 2016 by Matthew Francis
All are welcome to attend the Centennial Commemoration for Piper James C. Richardson VC, October 8th.

All are welcome to attend the Centennial Commemoration for Piper James C. Richardson VC, October 8th, 2016. 

The pipes are coming “home!” – Piper James C. Richardson’s bagpipes, lost a century ago on the battlefield, will be on display during the Centennial Commemoration at the Chilliwack Museum. 

On Saturday, October 8th, 2016, the Chilliwack Museum and Archives will host an event to commemorate the centennial of the valorous death in battle at the Somme of Piper James Cleland Richardson VC. The day will mark one hundred years since Piper Richardson courageously gave in life in service at Regina Trench. The day also marks the 13th anniversary of the dedication of the statue of Piper Richardson on the Museum grounds, and the 10th anniversary of the repatriation of his bagpipes to Canada from Scotland.

At 12:30pm, while guests are arriving, musical selections will be performed by the Chilliwack Harmony Chorus.

The program will begin promptly at 1:00pm, and the public is invited to attend.

The Commanding Officer of the Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s) has confirmed his attendance, together with members of his Pipe Major and other guests. Royal Canadian Legion #4 will form the Colour Party, and members of RCL#280 are also cordially invited. Dress with medals is requested. Other members of the Richardson family have been invited, along with local dignitaries.

We are asking attendees to gather at the Museum grounds near the Piper Richardson monument – 45820 Spadina Avenue in Chilliwack – at 12:30pm. Limited seating for invited guests and seniors will be available, but will generally be standing room only. Following the ceremony, a reception will take place in the Chambers Gallery at the Museum, to which all are invited.

Through the courtesy of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, and the Speaker of the House, the Honourable Linda Reid, the bagpipes belonging to Piper James Richardson, which were recovered from the battlefield at Regina Trench, will be temporarily on display in the Chilliwack Museum, following the event. These pipes are part of the permanent collection of the Legislative Assembly. We are grateful to Mayor Sharon Gaetz, and Mr. Laurie Throness, MLA, for their assistance in facilitating the loan to Chilliwack of this significant Canadian artifact. James Richardson’s historic “home” pipes, which he played prior  to deployment overseas, will also be present, and will be played during the ceremony.

This will be a dignified event that will honour one of Canada and Chilliwack’s true heroes. Please join us! 


Free Museum and Archives Memberships for Newcomers to Chilliwack!

Posted on: July 4th, 2016 by Matthew Francis

Our vision here at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives is to “connect people with Chilliwack’s history.” We do this in many ways – through exhibits, publications, programs for students and the public, interaction online, and through various media. Now, the Chilliwack Museum and Archives are opening our doors wide, offering one-year memberships free of charge to all those who have made Chilliwack their home over the past twelve months.

kids at museum 13 DSC_0473

We know that many people are moving to Chilliwack and making this community their home. Sometimes when you arrive in a new place, it takes some time to get your bearings and feel “settled.” Many folks are relocating because Chilliwack is more affordable than greater Vancouver, and Chilliwack has great schools, abundant recreation, and friendly people. Some courageous people have made a new life here in Canada after having to leave everything behind in their homelands due to war and uncertainty.

Wherever you have come from – Sicamous or Sierra Leone, Surrey or Syria – you are welcome here! The Chilliwack Museum and Archives are yours to discover. Approximately 1400 newcomers made Chilliwack home last year, and that trend is likely to continue. We would like the Museum and Archives to be a place of connection where people can learn about the city – with its diverse stories, people, and experiences. Chilliwack is a community of villages – with each distinct area having its own unique character. From Rosedale to Yarrow and each neighbourhood in between, Chilliwack has a rich history that is worth exploring. You can do that here at the Museum and Archives.

Providing a membership opens an opportunity for people new to Chilliwack to take in our current exhibit Game On! The Evolution of Sports in Chilliwack or to experience our upcoming exhibit, opening in September – Photography: From Obscura to App.

All those who have settled in Chilliwack within the past twelve months are invited to come into the Museum, located in the historic Chilliwack City Hall National Historic Site (45820 Spadina Avenue), to claim their complimentary one-year membership. Alternatively, newcomers to the city can also sign up online at: http://www.chilliwackmuseum.ca/join-support/membership/, using the promotional code “chwk1957.” Membership gets you free admission to the Museum, as well as discounts on select products and services.

Membership Card-1

For more information, please feel free to contact me, Matthew Francis, any time at (604) 795-5210, or better yet – come by the Museum and say hello. 

British Columbia Historical Federation selects Chilliwack for 2017 Conference

Posted on: May 28th, 2016 by Bettles, Shannon

At the annual general meeting of the British Columbia Historical Federation in Revelstoke today, the membership voted to accept the Chilliwack Museum and Archives’ proposal to host the 2017 BCHF conference in Chilliwack. The 2017 event will see delegates from historical societies, museums, archives and heritage groups gather together with historians and history enthusiasts from across the province.

A committee will be struck in the upcoming months to plan and organize the event. Stay tuned for more information or contact [email protected] if you would like to volunteer to help out.

Women and Sports

Posted on: March 16th, 2016 by Bettles, Shannon

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.

New Museum Hours Coming Soon!

Posted on: January 28th, 2016 by Matthew Francis

It was just about a year ago – Groundhog’s Day, to be precise –  that I began my role as Executive Director here at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives. But unlike the well-known Bill Murray movie of that name, no day has quite been the same! Over the past year, there have been many great opportunities to get to know people in our community, and to listen to what is important to you.

Matthew Francis DSC_0583

Matthew Francis, Executive Director, Chilliwack Museum and Archives

So many people in Chilliwack – in its many distinct communities, villages, and neighbourhoods – love learning about their histories – both shared and unique. The Chilliwack Museum and Archives is a place dedicated to doing just that. Along with our mandate to conserve the artifacts and records entrusted to our care, we are looking for ways to make our resources more accessible.

We are a Research Centre

The Archives, located at Evergreen Hall on Corbould Street, functions as a Research Centre. Do you have questions about Chilliwack’s history you would like to explore? A great place to start is online – you can search our Archival Holdings from the comfort of your home via www.chilliwackmuseum.ca, discovering photographs and artifacts that may be relevant to your research interests.

Shannon Bettles, Archivist

Shannon Bettles, Archivist, Chilliwack Museum and Archives

Your online search might open up new questions – and our Archivist, Shannon Bettles, or our Curator, Jane Lemke, may be able to aid you in your exploration.

Jane Lemke, Curator

Jane Lemke, Curator, Chilliwack Museum and Archives

We are a place of learning, connection, and fun!

Our Museum, located since 1987 in the National Historic Site of Canada Chilliwack City Hall, is a place of learning and wonder. People relish experiencing the Museum’s exhibits, most often as fun, quality time with family and friends, and other times as a solo journey of recollection. Our current exhibit, Game On! The Evolution of Sports in Chilliwack has opened our doors to new audiences, who never really thought of themselves as “Museum people,” but ended up finding out, enjoyably, that they were.


Growing and Changing to Serve You Better

That said, I do have to admit that a number of people have offered me comments like:

  • “You know, I’ve lived in Chilliwack my whole life, but I’ve never actually come into the Museum. I should really visit sometime!”


  • “I’d love to bring my kids/grandchildren/nieces and nephews to Museum, but we can’t seems to make it there during your opening hours.”


  • “I brought my out of town guests to the Museum, but we were disappointed to find the doors closed on a Saturday when we stopped by.”

These observations mean a lot to me. Our current hours for the Museum, Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 4:30pm, have made it a challenge for some in our community to connect with Chilliwack’s history through experiencing the Museum. I am very pleased to announce that we will soon be extending its hours to serve you better –  we will still be open Monday to Friday, but soon also – Thursday evenings until 8:30pm and Saturdays 10:00am-2:00pm. As Director, I am excited about this opportunity, and it’s time to begin to get the word out.

We are currently in the process of hiring new part-time staff members to make this plan a reality, and we look forward to beginning these new Museum Hours in late February or early March. Stay tuned! We are always looking for news ways to connect people with Chilliwack’s history. Opening the doors to welcome people at times that work for them is just one of those ways.

New Museum & Archives Trustee Has Deep Chilliwack Roots

Posted on: December 11th, 2015 by Matthew Francis

The Trustees of the Chilliwack Museum and Historical Society are pleased to announce the appointment of Vivian Walker, a Life Member of the Society, as its newest Board Member. The Board may appoint members of the Society in good standing as Trustees to contribute to the work of the organization, or they may be elected by the membership at its Annual General Meeting.

2014-Chilliwack Museum Logo web

The Museum has come a long way since its permanent collection was assembled in 1958, when the first Chilliwack Museum opened in a room in the local police station. The founders of the historical society had deep roots in the community. Brothers Oliver Wells and Casey Wells were the grandsons of A.C. Wells who settled on a farm in Sardis in 1865. As amateur historians and anthropologists they left us with our foundation collection, biographies of early settlers, interviews with Sto:lo elders, oral histories from a wide variety of people and much more.

Vivian Evans Walker was born in Chilliwack and grew up as the 5th generation to live on the Evans Farm off Yale Road West. She was surrounded by history, from the old Evans log cabin (thought to be built by Royal Engineers in the early 1860s) to the 1888 horse barn, to routinely finding arrowheads as a child while walking the back part of the farm along Atchelitz Creek. Her father, John Evans, was one of the early leaders in the Historical Society’s quest to build a Museum in Chilliwack, working alongside the Wells Brothers. Vivian’s keen interest in learning about local history, however, was spurred by the locally-developed history course “GB11,” taught by Birch van Horne at Chilliwack Senior in the early 1970s.

Vivian Walker, shown supporting the good ole' Vancouver Canucks, is the newest addition to the Chilliwack Museum & Historical Societies Board of Trustees. She is a real "champion" of local history!

Vivian Walker, shown supporting the good ole’ Vancouver Canucks, is the newest addition to the Chilliwack Museum & Historical Societies Board of Trustees. She is a real “champion” of local history!

After graduating from UBC, Vivian and her husband Tom lived in many parts of North America and are happy to back in the Lower Mainland. Their two sons, alas, live in Waterloo and Montreal. After a career spent as a library technician, she now works full-time for the Vancouver Public Library Foundation in fundraising and is completing her Associate Certificate in Fundraising Management at BCIT.

Vivian is a champion of Chilliwack’s history, and a strong a supporter of heritage education. The Museum & Archives is delighted to welcome her service to our community.

Welcome to our New Website!

Posted on: October 22nd, 2015 by Bettles, Shannon

Ask any young person today and you’ll find out – technology changes quickly. That’s why we’ve updated our website! Our previous website built in 2010 was over five years old. Unfortunately, in the life-span of a website, that’s pretty old.

We hope you enjoy the look and functionality of our new online presence as we aim to bring you more online content about Chilliwack’s history. Make sure to follow our blog, bookmark our list of research links and visit our shop online. We welcome your feedback and thank you for your patience as we work out any kinks in the new website.

Travelling Exhibit & Speakers’ Series – July 6th!

Posted on: June 19th, 2015 by Matthew Francis

We got this blog started a few weeks back by kindling a vision for the Museum as a place of conversation in Chilliwack. I believe that our Museum can be a place where learning about our rich history informs the way we live in the present, as well as our dreams and plans for our community’s future. We’re thinking about The Place of the Museum in the City

Why don’t we get the ball rolling? The Chilliwack Museum & Archives is beginning a new Speakers’ Series – open to everyoneMonday July 6th, here at the Museum @ 7pm. This initial evening will feature a panel discussion which will respond to the question: “How can Museums relate to their communities in new ways?” To answer that question, we will take a look at the Species at Risk travelling exhibition, what goes into the creation of something like that, and what can learn from it. While our Museum focuses primarily on human history, we still have a lot to learn from the incredible natural cultures surrounding us – flora and fauna. Featured panelists will include:

  • Dr. Gavin Hanke, Curator, Vertebrate Zoology, Royal BC Museum;
  • Janet Hutchinson, Executive Director, Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve;
  • John Martin, Member of the Legislative Assembly, Chilliwack;
  • Yours truly, Matthew Francis, Executive Director, Chilliwack Museum & Archives.

A while back I got a call from Chis O’Connor from the Learning Department at the Royal BC Museum – that great place of wonder inspiration in Victoria. Did you visit there as a kid on a school trip, or with your family? Maybe you have enjoyed it many times throughout your life. Chris let me know that their Museum was planning a travelling exhibition on Species at Riskand they were hoping to stop in Chilliwack. Would we be interested in partnering with them to showcase Species at Risk in Chilliwack. For sure! So, for one day only – July 6th – you will have three unique opportunities to experience this informative Royal BC Museum Exhibition here in our city! All these events are free of charge, and open to all. 

  • July 6th, from 10:00am-12:00 Noon the Species at Risk Exhibition will be located at Hillkeep Regional Park – a pristine wilderness area perched atop Chilliwack Mountain. Never been to this amazing park? This is a great opportunity to check it out and enjoy the lush vegetation and birdsong. I’d like to the Fraser Valley Regional District for making this part of the day possible!
  • July 6th, from 1:00pm-4:00pmSpecies at Risk will be at the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve.
  • July 6th, 7:00pmSpecies at Risk will be showcased in The Place of the Museum in the City Speaker’s series here at the Chilliwack Museum.

Bring your family and friends to see Species at Risk, and experience the Chilliwack Museum as place of learning and fun.

Any questions? Send me a note any time at [email protected] 

The Place of the Museum in the City

Posted on: June 4th, 2015 by Matthew Francis

What is the place of a museum in a city? Of this museum in our city? What role do we play? What is our purpose? What are we here for? 

Why don’t we start talking about it?

This blog will be one place where we can kick off what I hope will be an ongoing conversation.

What do you think of this picture? We don’t know for sure the reason for this crowd, or the precise date it took place, but they did gather here. We know it is some years on from the construction of the building in 1911-1912, as the trees and foliage have matured, and ivy sheathes the balcony and staircases. This building then served as Chilliwack’s City Hall, positioned symbolically at the geographic heart of the community, just west of Five Corners. It was the site of many significant speeches, the War Memorial, animated conversations about ideas that matter, as well as fun civic happenings. When Chilliwack wanted to think through something together – this is where we came. Could this place become that again?  

We know that museums and archives are about conserving historic objects and records. This is central to our work. I used to joke that conserving historic places often took hundreds of hours of conversation, which often turned out to be true. But what if museums are as much about conversation as they are about conservation?

2015-07-francisBefore returning home to Chilliwack in February 2015 to take on the role of Executive Director here at the Museum, I worked for ten years in communities across Alberta – both large and small. My task was to help local people and municipalities to understand, protect and conserve their locally significant historic places – mainly heritage buildings. In that job, I learned from so many committed and passionate individuals and groups that historic resources are as much about the present and the future as they are about the past. It’s similar – but unique – with our museum and archives work here. If we are going to create a meaningful and vibrant future for Chilliwack, then we need to explore our roots – our multifaceted history – in deeper ways. Stepping into the Museum or Archives, especially if you’ve never come before, is a great way to do that. Unique opportunities like TEDxChilliwack, which the Museum is hosting in February 2016, will help us to see these “stories that empower us.” In this way, we take up that place again as a context for those important conversations.

In 2012, Larry Beasley, the former Chief Urban Planner for the City of Vancouver, gave a game-changing speech that inspired us in the museums world to think a new thought. What if we began to consider “The City as Museum and the Museum as City?” Beasley asks us to consider “what the city museum can do as a part of the ongoing creative process of a city that is forever changing and being re-created.” That is every city, and that is Chilliwack.

In 1979, the Township of Chilliwhack and the City of Chilliwack amalgamated to form the District of Chilliwack, and the old City Hall became vacant. Through the diligence, tenacity, and foresight of the Chilliwack Museum & Historical Society and the support of the Province of BC’s Heritage Conservation Branch, a feasibility study was commissioned. The engineers that wrote that study stated that the old City Hall building would be “logical, feasible and practical” as a museum. A major rehabilitation project ensued, and on March 21, 1987 the historic City Hall reopened its doors as the Chilliwack Museum. We’ve been here now for almost thirty years – still at the physical heart of the city.

Since the late 80s, the world has changed dramatically, and so have museums, as Prof. Jack Lohman, Director of the Royal BC Museum, explores in his recent book, “Museums at the Crossroads.” Just think of life before the internet and smartphones. We’re no longer simply “cabinets of curiosities,” belonging to the elite of society – with treasures plundered from ancient and long-dead civilizations. Rather, museums now often conserve and exhibit the material “stuff” of cultures that are very much alive, and vibrant. Today’s museums are like schools, universities, and labs, places of learning – environments for discovery. We have the great asset, as an organization, of being local. Chilliwack is our theme. If you ask “what is the focus of your collections?” (as many do), the best answer is simply: “Chilliwack.” And that means we are – in a way – about you, and the people, places, things, and moments that matter to us all.

It’s my hope that we can explore some of these ideas together, here at the Museum, and in other settings too. What does it mean to inhabit this place – to be and live well in Chilliwack? What has it meant to people over the centuries, and what does it mean to us now? What will it mean for our children and grandchildren? Let’s begin and continue to ask those questions – in exhibits, in public programs, in learning ‘laboratories’ and informal gatherings. Help us to chart our future, as a museum, and as a city. What does it mean, in the words of T’xwelatse (Herb Joe), that “we have to learn to live together in a good way“?  We believe that museums and archives can be places in which we discover how to do just that.

What do you think? Please share your ideas. We look forward to hearing from you.