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Local History Kit-Sumas Lake

Posted on: July 11th, 2018 by

Last fall while attending the University of the Fraser Valley, I took a directed studies course with history professor Scott Sheffield. The purpose of my directed studies was to create a local history kit on Sumas Lake to be used by the Chilliwack Museum and Archives. Having worked at the museum the previous two summers, I was quite familiar with the current local history kits and the type of resources they provide. From my research, I gathered materials that best depicted the vast history of Sumas Lake and the impact its drainage had on the community. While working at the Museum these past few months I have been able to complete the kit, making it an available resource for educators.

Sumas Lake Local History Kit.

To provide a brief overview, located in the Fraser Valley between Vedder Mountain and Sumas Mountain, Sumas Lake blended the border between Abbotsford and Chilliwack. In its peak season, the lake could expand to as large as 33,000 acres; on average the lake spanned 10,000 acres for the better part of the year. The lake was used by the whole community. For new settlers, it was a place for family picnics in the summer and ice-skating in the winter. For the Stó:lō people, Sumas Lake and the land that surrounded it was an important part of the daily lives and culture.

Plans to drain Sumas Lake had existed for 30-40 years, previous to the 1920’s scheme. While previous iterations of the plans failed, the project undertaken in the 1920s had several phases, culminating in the creation of two pump stations which removed (and continue to remove) water from the natural occurring lakebed on the Sumas flats. The pumps, located at Barrowtown and McGillvary Creek, were the largest of their kind in Canada when initially constructed and were capable of draining water from an Olympic-sized swimming pool in twenty seconds. The pumps began working on July 3rd, 1923 and the lake was successfully drained by June 1924, nearly a year later.

The draining of Sumas Lake is a multi-layered and complex subject, and many aspects of the drainage were (and remain) controversial to this day. The purpose of the kit is to explore the controversy, such as the impact on farmers and the local First Nations, both at the time of the drainage and current today. Through the primary and secondary sources included in the kit, ranging from newspaper articles advertising meetings regarding the reclamation project, images of tractors on the dried up lake bed, to booklets written on the overwhelming mosquito population, students have the ability to engage hands-on with their local history and make inferences as to why the lake was drained and the impact the drainage had and continues to have.

Sumas Lake tractors on lakebed floor ca. 192-. (AM 616)

Like many of our other local history kits, the Sumas Lake kit can be adapted to suit various grade levels and educators have the ability to create their own lesson plans using the information and primary and secondary materials provided in the kit to suit individual class needs.

The Sumas Lake kit is available for booking by educators for the 2018-2019 school year and can be booked online or by phone at 604-795-5210.

What’s Behind the Locked Doors?

Posted on: May 16th, 2018 by

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.

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

Posted on: February 21st, 2018 by

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

Watercolour painting by F. W. Lee [P5823]

Watercolour painting by F. W. Lee [P5823]

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

 

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

 

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

Eddy-Out and Ferry through Some Local History

Posted on: October 18th, 2017 by

Sometimes it is the historical tangents that prove to be the best stories.  While looking up landings and ferries near Chilliwack I came across this brief news clipping from 1936:

“The Rosedale-Agassiz ferry, J. T. Henley, captain, which suffered a breakdown Monday noon, had repairs effected in time for it to resume regular schedule Wednesday” (Chilliwack Progress, 14 October 1936).

Captain John Thomas Jack Henley. [PP500358]

Captain John Thomas Jack Henley. [PP500358]

The clipping is short and to the point because everyone in town already knew about the Rosedale-Agassiz ferry and the ferry’s captain.  However, being a relatively new arrival to Chilliwack (by 1936 standards) I had not heard of Captain Henley before.  Therefore I dove deeper into the archival records.  Treading through the stacks I learned that there is so much more to this story than just a minor repair to a ferry.

John Thomas Henley was born on October 11, 1872 near Owen Sound, Ontario.  In 1894, Henley began migrating west spending time harvesting in Manitoba and logging in Wisconsin and Minnesota.  Four years later he arrived in Vancouver.  He quickly departed Vancouver for Dawson, Yukon where he “found gold… and spent it too” (Chilliwack Progress, 14 February 1961).  Nine years later Henley left the Yukon for Chilliwack arriving in June, 1908.  A world traveler, Henley said later in life, “I’ve seen most of the major productive spots in the world, but none of them can top the Chilliwack Valley in horticulture and agriculture” (Chilliwack Progress, 7 December 1949).

In Chilliwack Henley worked for nine years as a butcher and served as an Aldermen for the City of Chilliwack from 1928-1933 and again from 1942-1948.  However, he is best known as the ferry captain on the Rosedale-Agassiz ferry.

Acrylic Painting of the Eena ferry on the Agassiz side of the Fraser River. [1986.042.016]

Acrylic Painting of the Eena ferry on the Agassiz side of the Fraser River. [1986.042.016]

Henley’s captain career had an inauspicious start.  His first ship, the John P. Douglas, burned in the mouth of the Harrison River on its run to Harrison Mills.  Henley’s second ship, the Vedder, burned in the mouth of the Stikine River.  Please note that sources vary on exactly where the ship burned.

Despite the setbacks Henley continued to operate a ferry between Chilliwack and Harrison Mills for nine years.  Henley later said, “I’ve had a lot of misfortunes, but I’ve always had good health to carry me along.  And I’ve had a lot of fun, too” (Chilliwack Progress, 7 December 1949).

In 1932, after serving as an engineer on the Rosedale-Agassiz ferry Henley “took a charter contract to operate the ferry boat for the provincial government, under the public works department…” and became “master and manager of the ferry at the Rosedale-Agassiz landings” (Chilliwack Museum and Archives, AM 22, File 122).  Henley served as the Captain of the Eena until 1951 managing the Rosedale-Agassiz ferry.  Please note that sources differ on Henley’s exact captainship.  Some sources say he was a captain in 1929 of the Eena while other say he was only a crew member and not captain until 1932.

Ever restless, in 1938 Henley briefly left Chilliwack for a world tour.  His tour included Singapore, Mount Everest, the Taj Mahal, Egypt, Palestine, France, England, and Scotland.  He even “had a turn or two around Gai Paree” (Chilliwack Progress, 7 December 1949).  Never short of witty comments, on his return to Chilliwack Henley told reporters:

“Of the four most wonderful man-made things I saw on the trip, I had to come home to Canada to see the one that topped them all… There was the Taj Mahal in India, the bust of the Virgin Mary in Jerusalem and the crown jewels in the Tower of London.  But the most wondrous thing of all was the sight of the Dionne Quintuplets in Canada… I saw Niagara Falls too, for the first time and then I came back to Chilliwack and witnessed another amazing thing… a man with a wooden leg dancing the two-step” (Chilliwack Museum and Archives, AM 335).

Captain John T. Henley died at Chilliwack general hospital on February 13, 1961.  At the very least he was an interesting re-settler of the Chilliwack valley and seemed like the kind of individual worth grabbing a drink with.

Digitizing the Frederick Gordon Leary Fonds

Posted on: September 13th, 2017 by

Photograph of a group of men at one of Chilliwack's landings (possibly Minto Landing), ca. 1914. [2015.063.033]

Photograph of a group of men at one of Chilliwack’s landings (possibly Minto Landing), ca. 1914. [2015.063.033]

In my first blog post, The Decision to Digitize, I discussed the various challenges associated with digitization and why we do not digitize everything at the Archives.  While most of our records will likely never be completely digitized, there are some occasions when it is appropriate to digitize an entire collection.  I am not going to say that I exactly lied to you about digitizing archival records; but rather, this is one of those rare occasions when it was decided that the work and costs associated with digitization were well worth the advantage of accessibility.

Last year, archivist Shannon Bettles wrote a blog titled, Alligators, Confectionary, and a man named Leary.  If you have not had the opportunity to read this blog I strongly encourage you to take a look.  The blog describes the fascinating story of how the Frederick Gordon Leary fonds (previously known as the Dragonfly collection) made its way into our collection.  My favourite part is, of course, the KeyThe Key gives you a brief inside into how us archivist will use the collection itself to determine provenance.

Man pictured on the steps of a building by a railway intersection, possibly a track-changing station, ca. 1914. [2015.063.029]

Man pictured on the steps of a building by a railway intersection, possibly a track-changing station, ca. 1914. [2015.063.029]

Over the past summer, archival and curatorial assistant Rachel Vandenberg, and volunteer Ev Parker worked on digitizing and describing the Frederick Gordon Leary fonds.  Some minor details have changed since Shannon’s original blog – most notably the name of the fonds and some of the specific identification numbers.  Nevertheless, I am proud to say that all of the glass plate negatives and photographic prints from this collection have been digitized and described.

Please feel free to take a look at the Frederick Gordon Leary fonds on this direct link and enjoy these amazing photographs of Chilliwack just past the turn of the century.  Once you have chosen your dream house from amongst photographs, feel free to change the search terms and take a look at our other collections.

Microfilm and Microfiche

Posted on: May 17th, 2017 by
Microfiche

Microfilm and microfiche at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives.

Have you ever wondered what that old looking machine tucked away in the back of the research room is and what it is used for?  Is it a really old computer?  Is it a machine used to watch videos on an older format?  Perhaps it is used to digitize images?  In fact, it is a microfilm/microfiche reader.  Now you may be asking, what is microfilm/microfiche and why is it used at the archives?

According to the Society of American Archivist, microfilm is “transparent film containing highly reduced copies of documents.”  Similar to microfilm, microfiche is “a sheet of transparent film [with]  microimages arranged in rows and columns, usually with an area for eye-readable description at the top.”  In layman’s terms, this means that both microfilm and microfiche are tiny images of documents on either a rolled film or a flat sheet, respectively.  At its core, the microfilm reader is just a big magnifying glass that shines a light through the film allowing the researcher to read the microfilm or microfiche.

Rachel Microfilm

Summer intern Rachel Vandenberg doing property research on microfilm, May 16, 2017.

What makes microfilm and microfiche so indispensable to archives is its preservation and access value.  To touch on the latter first, all you need to read microfilm or microfiche is light and a magnifying glass.  There is no need to worry about special computer programs, obsolete machinery, or corrupted digital files.  To be fair, searching through microfilm or microfiche can be significantly time consuming when compared to digital keyword searchable files.  However, should the medium for whatever technology you are using in the future fail–as all things do at some point–you will still be able to read and access the information on microfilm and/or microfiche with a magnifying glass and a flashlight.

Microfilm/microfiche is also a fantastic resource for preserving archival records.  As the name implies, microfilm/microfiche is a miniature version of the original document.  The information on an old municipal tax roll that is 40 x 50 x 17 cm can fit into a 10 x 10 x 4 cm microfilm roll.  As limited space is a concern for nearly every archive, microfilm/microfiche is a great resource for storing the historical data of these records.  Furthermore, stored properly microfilm/microfiche has a minimum life expectancy of 500 years.  This is why so many archives have microfilmed their newspaper collections, which are often made of highly acidic and easily degradable paper.

There is nothing glamorous about microfilm or microfiche and doing research on these mediums is time consuming.  However, microfilm and microfiche are tried-and-true preservation resources.  Consider them another tool in the archivist toolkit that is likely to stick around for the foreseeable future.  Chances are, if you are doing property ownership research and looking at old township tax rolls at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives, you will likely have the opportunity to use that strange-looking machine in the back of the research room.

The Decision to Digitize

Posted on: April 12th, 2017 by

About once a week I’m asked if everything we have at the Archives is available online. In the digital age, this is a fair question. There are many positive outcomes when digitizing certain archival records including increased user access, keyword searching, as well as the potential preservation advantages. There is no doubt that digitization does, and will, continue to play an important role in the archival community. However, digitization is not as simple as scanning every document and publishing it online. Careful thought with regards to resource allocation, security, and record management needs to be considered before an archivist or institution makes the decision to digitize.

Photograph shows unidentified man posing with early biplane, reportedly first airplane in Chilliwack. Plane was brought to the Chilliwack Fair, ca. 1912 or 1913. [PP501061]

Photograph shows unidentified man posing with early biplane, reportedly first airplane in Chilliwack. Plane was brought to the Chilliwack Fair, ca. 1912 or 1913. [PP501061]

Digitizing is extremely expensive. According to the United States National Historical Publications and Records Commission, “a total cost of $1 – $3 [$1.33 – $4 CAD] per scan is reasonable for homogenous textual collections in good condition.” Considering that an average bankers box contains approximately 2500 sheets of paper, the average cost per bankers box is roughly $3,325 to $10,000 CAD. What’s more, as a community archives many of the records donated to the Chilliwack Museum and Archives come in various sizes, media types, and conditions. As a result, the total cost to scan one bankers box of records is significantly higher.

In addition to the financial costs, scanning can be very time intensive. While digitizing the Hubert H. Humphrey Papers the Minnesota Historical Society found that the average time spent per sheet of paper equaled 1.38 minutes. Furthermore, the process of digitizing includes more than scanning. In general, scanning is only about one-third of the time spent digitizing a record. By comparison, Yale University estimates that processing one bankers box—or roughly 2500 pages of paper using standard traditional methods—takes from 1.1 days for government records to 3.5 days for personal papers. By prioritizing digitization, limited staff and volunteer time is taken away from other areas of the institution’s need.

Chilliwack Progress Press Photograph: "Kayaker Gerry Storch at third annual B.C. Kayak and Canoe Club international slalom on Chilliwack River," April 7, 1961. [1999.029.008.012]

Chilliwack Progress Press Photograph: “Kayaker Gerry Storch at third annual B.C. Kayak and Canoe Club international slalom on Chilliwack River,” April 7, 1961. [1999.029.008.012]

One of the advantages of digital records is that it allows users greater ability to access and share information. Therefore, greater security measures and precautions are needed to guarantee the authenticity of a digital record. Before scanning, the material needs to be vetted to ensure the absence of personal or sensitive information. When capturing and migrating records to new digital formats, the archivist needs to be aware of the potential loss of content, context, and arrangement. Digital preservation requires expensive servers and records need to be periodically checked to ensure that the files have not been corrupted. Finally, the Archivist needs to ensure the future ability to read and access an electronic record as software programs and storage formats are updated and replaced.

In short, everything we have at the Archives is not available online. However, that is not to say that digitization should not be attempted or considered. Despite the many challenges to digitizing records, the benefits often outweigh the costs. At the Chilliwack Museum and Archives there are approximately 12,423 photographic images available from our website, 471 other archival records digitized to some degree, and the entire Chilliwack Progress Newspaper digitized and keyword searchable from 1891 to 2007.

Museums, Libraries, Archives and One Summer Student

Posted on: August 23rd, 2016 by

By Janelle Haley, Museum Assistant, Summer Student 2016

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

Working at the Chilliwack Archives.

Working at the Chilliwack Archives. 

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

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

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

At FVRL Chilliwack Branch for National Aboriginal Day 2016.

At FVRL Chilliwack Branch for National Aboriginal Day 2016.

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

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

Alligators, Confectionary and a man named Leary

Posted on: August 4th, 2016 by

Frederick Leary Negatives

View of the Dragonfly Gallery collection of glass plate negatives and prints, in the container they arrived in. [Shannon Bettles photograph]

Sometime in 2015 Alain Nowak of Ladner answered a Craigslist advertisement about a stuffed alligator, as antique dealers do.

Nowak’s Dragonfly Gallery is a local fixture on Ladner’s historic waterfront. Stuffed alligators are at home amongst church pews, commercial shoe stretchers, vintage tailgates, tin signs and tricycles. As it turns out, the reptilian carcass was being flogged at too high a price for Nowak. Determined not to leave empty-handed, he purchased a box filled with unbroken 5” x 7” glass plate negatives and hundreds of photographic prints from the seller who reportedly discovered them in a Coquitlam dumpster some 30 years.

Last October I received a phone call from the Matsqui-Abbotsford-Sumas (MSA) Museum, when one of their Trustees stumbled across the collection at Dragonfly Gallery. After identifying the collection’s content as Chilliwack-centric, I received the 108 glass plates and prints for the Chilliwack Museum and Archives.

At the Chilliwack Archives, I examined the glass plates and photographic prints more closely. I recognized many of the image because the Archives has copies in the form of postcards in our collection already. In fact, the postcards in our collection were clearly derived from the glass plates.

Fred Leary the Palms Confectionary Chilliwack

“The Key” – Frederick Leary stands outside his confectionary shop “The Palms” located on Wellington Ave., 1914. [2015.063.005]

Though we were able to identify most of the locations pictured, questions remained. For instance: Who took these photographs? When where they taken?

The Key

Working with and researching archival collections can be compared to a detective examining pieces of evidence as a way to discover clues to solve mysteries. With the Dragonfly collection, one of the photographs held what I like to call, the “key” – it is full of clues which unlocks the mystery. Let’s take a look:

The Palm’s

The photograph shows a man standing in the doorway of a store called: The Palm’s Fruit and Confectionary. The Chilliwack Museum and Archives had already undertaken previous research on this business, having artifacts including a menu, in the artifact collection.

Saturday Evening Post

Detail from [2015.063.005] of the Saturday Evening Post magazine in the Palm’s window. Zooming in, we see the magazine is dated November, 1914.

As well, a quick keyword search of the Chilliwack Progress newspaper, provided more information, such as the opening date of the business in 1914.

Knowing that Mr. Fred G. Leary was the owner of the business opened up more avenues of research. A search of the Archives’ catalogue reveals that we have some photographs of Fred Leary. Could the man in the Dragonfly photograph be the proprietor of the business Mr. Leary?

We believe this is the case. Therefore, the photograph can be dated to as early as 1914, when F. G. Leary opened his business. But it’s not the identification of Mr. Leary that is the clue unlocking the mystery of the entire collection – it is the postcards and magazines visible in the store window!

Dating the Photograph

If you look closely in the shop window, you will see a number of magazines. By scanning the glass plate, we were able to zoom in close enough to read the date printed on the magazine – November, 1914! This dates the photograph more precisely.

Detail of the "Palm's" store window showing postcards on display. [2015.063.005]

Detail of the “Palm’s” store window showing postcards on display. [2015.063.005]

Solving the Mystery

Remember those postcards in the shop window? Look familiar? These postcards contain images of buildings around Chilliwack. In fact, these images are exactly the same images as the glass plate negatives in the Dragonfly Gallery collection, which are now sitting on my desk. It turns out that F.G. Leary developed photographs at the Palm’s, and it’s very likely that he, himself, is the photographer behind the photographs in question and producer of the glass plate negatives. This revelation suggests that the entire collection of glass plate negatives can also be dated to 1914 and can be attributed to Leary as photographer. Further, this means that similar postcards in our collection were likely purchased originally from The Palm’s confectionary.

Frederick Gordon Leary, 1889-1985

Frederick Gordon Leary was born September 29, 1889 at St. John, New Brunswick. He came to

BCER Substation Chilliwack

One of the prints from Leary’s glass plate negatives showing the BC Electric Railway substation, ca.1914. [2015.063.019]

Chilliwack in 1914 at the age of 25 years and opened an ice cream parlor: Palm’s Confectionary. In 1926 Fred Leary was elected as a trustee of the local school board. He

served in this capacity for 49 years, retiring as the longest serving elected official in 1975.

 

In 1939 he became an accountant. Over the course of his long tenure in Chilliwack Fred Leary was a founding member of the Union Board of Health (serving as Chairman for five years); was a member of the Chilliwack Volunteer Fire Department, serving for 41 years and retiring in 1956; was secretary of the first Agricultural Hall Society, and member of the Chilliwack and District Agricultural Society; was Chilliwack’s Citizen to be recognized in 1956; was an active member of Chilliwack United Church and appointed as a Serving Brother of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, 1956, by the governor-general in Ottawa.

On June 29, 1920 Frederick Gordon Leary (31) married Elizabeth Hilda Blanche (Hilda) Manuel (23) at the Chilliwack Methodist Church. The couple had three daughters: Emily (married Lloyd Griffin), Fort

Leary

Fred Leary at his confectionary counter at “The Palm’s”, 1914. [2015.063.017]

Langley, Dorothy (married William W. Reid), Terrace, and Miriam (married Allan Ruttan), Prince George.

Frederick Gordon died in Chilliwack on October 6th, 1985 at the age of 96. He is buried at the Odd Fellow’s Cemetery, Little Mountain. A Chilliwack school, F.G. Leary Fine Arts School, is named in his honour.

Mystery Solved?

While much of this mystery has been solved, there is still a pressing question: How did the glass plates end up in a dumpster? To this we have no answer. At the Chilliwack Archives we do our best to answer questions and gather information about our collections. However, we rely on you – the community – to fill in the gaps with this and the many other collections we preserve.

F.G. Leary

Formal studio portrait of Frederick Gordon Leary, Chilliwack Board of Trade Citizen to be recognized for 1956. Norman Williams portrait. [P5365]

I encourage and welcome you to come into the Archives to view the Dragonfly Gallery collection highlighted in this blog. We will soon be adding these images to our online catalogue for easier access once they are digitized and prepared for long-term preservation.

Technology of the Past

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

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

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

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

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

Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura

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

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

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