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49.157940 N -121.951469 W : Navigating history through geography

Posted on: January 21st, 2020 by Anna Irwin

Written by: Laureen Benton, Archives Technician

I love geocaching! Geo-what? I started geocaching about 17 years ago using an older handheld Global Position System (GPS) device, long before the ease of smart phones.  I was at a heavily wooded park in Washington State, searching for a random box or container holding some unknown objects.  It was illusive and exciting all at the same time.  It was also tricky to trust this new GPS device with capabilities we were only just realising.  

Geocaching uses latitude and longitude coordinates to search for a hidden treasure; basically an electronic scavenger hunt.  The first cache was hidden by Dave Ulmer in the woods near Portland, Oregon with the location of said goodies found only by geographic coordinates and the rules being, “take some stuff, leave some stuff.” This first “stash” was found in May, 2000 and included a log book, pencil, videos, books, and a slingshot. Since then, there are now more than 3 million active geocaches worldwide with more than 600 million “found it” logs being recorded.  Have a look at the first note to lead geocachers to their first treasure. https://groups.google.com/forum/?hl=en#!topic/sci.geo.satellite-nav/mchHczyzVHo

Within two years of inception, environmental initiatives developed to help preserve the natural area that the cache is found in by cleaning up litter, removing invasive species, planting trees etc.  Not only does geocaching help explore our natural environment through discovery and adventure, but it also helps to learn about our community, locally and beyond.

The idea of placing a geocache in our community is to give residents an opportunity to go back in time to what their neighbourhood might have looked like.  Did you know there was a Chinatown near Central Elementary school? There was!  

A few examples of geocaches that await being found around Chilliwack.
Photo credit: Laureen Benton

We will be hiding a container near this historic area of Chinatown North and you will be able to find it with your smartphone through the “Geocaching” app or website, and will house a collection of newspaper articles, photographs and other interesting archival information about the neighbourhoods you live, work and play in. The idea is that we will have a series of caches around the community that collectively tell a few stories of Chilliwack and its inhabitants through the built environment, sporting culture and social life.  Keep your eyes open for more geocaches popping up from the Chilliwack Museum and Archives, but also make sure you take part in finding some of the already hidden caches around our town.  The people that have created and hidden these caches have taken time and energy to create some fun and adventure for children of all ages.

We hope that you enjoy this new outdoor learning opportunity created by the Chilliwack Museum and Archives.  Remember that all the information found within must be placed back in the containers for others to enjoy, BUT the history inside can be researched further in the archives and seen at specific exhibitions at the museum.  Keep your eyes and ears open for more chances to learn about mapping technology like GPS, maps and other historical geography. Check out the link for other opportunities to participate in some geocaching activities. https://www.geocaching.com/play

Victorian Traditions at the Chilliwack Museum

Posted on: November 14th, 2019 by Sarah Belley

By Sarah Belley, Education and Engagement Coordinator

While the custom to “deck the halls with boughs of holly” far predate the Victorian Era (1837-1901), the Victorians were quite influential in the revival of the Christmas holiday and many of its traditions. Arguably the most popular Christmas story of all time is “A Christmas Carol”, which was written by Charles Dickens and published in 1843. Dickens managed to capture the essence of Victorian Era holiday rituals surrounding family, food, and most importantly, the generosity of spirit. Writers, musicians, and public figures of this era all played a role in shaping the customs we recognize today. Innovative developments stemming from the British industrial revolution also influenced numerous elements of Victorian society and culture.

This December, the Chilliwack Museum will host “Victorian Traditions”, an opportunity for elementary school classes to step back in time over 200 years to discover what life was like in the Victorian Era. How did these Victorian practices shape life in the Fraser Valley following the goldrush of 1858? Which of the customs changed, and which stayed the same? How are traditions important in our own families today?

Students will experience a festive gathering of music, games, crafts, and a tasty candy confection from Chilliwack’s very own Dickens Sweets and British Museum. Guided programs run for 75 minutes from November 25th to December 18th, and the cost per class of 22 students is $60.

Call to book: 604-795-5210 (ext 103)

The Chilliwack Museum and Archives wishes everyone a happy holiday season!

Summer Student 2.0

Posted on: August 21st, 2019 by Sarah Belley

This summer, as the Education and Engagement Assistant once again, I have experienced many new and exciting experiences at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives. Working as the assistant for Sarah Belley, the Education and Engagement Coordinator, I have learnt new educational methods, teaching practices, and artistic approaches, while also applying some of my own skills to assist her in redeveloping programs and events.

At the beginning of the summer, preparation for the temporary exhibit Five Faces, Five Corners, was being completed. During this time, Sarah and I worked on finalizing aspects of her interactive project for the exhibit, which depicts the economic differences between the value of money today and that of 1919. After the exhibit opened, we focused on engagement objectives as the Hops and Heritage event was right around the corner. Once Hops and Heritage ended, we began completing projects to prepare for the outreach events we attended this summer, including Cultus Lake Days and Canada Day. After July 1st, we switched our mindsets and focused on redeveloping the education programs and organizing the department’s files and storage space. Finally, Sarah has envisioned many innovative and captivating projects for the educational programs at the Chilliwack Museum, so, to finish the summer season, we have researched and drafted new proposals for educational activities and kits. Overall, I have learnt a significant amount this summer about events coordination, engagement with the community, and education methods that involve intriguing and new ideas that encourage participation from all the students.

To prepare for the outreach events we attended this summer, Sarah and I created activities that reflected historical aspects of Chilliwack, British Columbia, and Canadian history. As I learnt last year, the people of Cultus Lake value the history of the area. Therefore, for Cultus Lake Days, we brought printed historical photos to show how the area has developed, while the atmosphere has remained inviting and entertaining. At Canada Day this year, Sarah constructed a photo booth using props that reflected Canadian culture, like the beaver. As a quick trivia game, we printed and researched Canadian inventions to quiz visitors at our booth. Did you know the caulking gun was invented in 1894, by Theodore Witte of Chilliwack?

Overall, my experience as a summer student again this summer has been fascinating and full of incredible learning opportunities. Working as the Education and Engagement Assistant for Sarah, I have learnt new historical facts along with many artistic and educational methods that I can apply to my future career.

Introducing our New Volunteer and Administration Coordinator

Posted on: August 7th, 2019 by Tristan Evans

Written by Cari Moore – Coordinator of Volunteers and Administration

Coordinator of Volunteers and Administration – Cari Moore

Hello, my name is Cari Moore and I have recently joined the amazing staff at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives as the Coordinator of Volunteers and Administration, and I am loving this new opportunity!

I have lived in Chilliwack for 28 years and have seen our city grow and thrive through many changes that have come up, and I am honored to call this place my home. Chilliwack has so much to offer, from arts and culture, sports and leisure, to the nature and beauty that surrounds us. It is a great place to work, a great place to raise children and a great place to retire. There is so much to learn from our history and that is something I look forward to in the future.

The roll I stepped into at the museum has been very rewarding. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the volunteers that are so dedicated to their positions, and for whom without we would not be able to operate our charming little gift shop! The volunteers here greet visitors, help with gift shop displays, and answer questions from the public about our community and our museum. They are the face of who we are, and they brighten everyone’s day who walks through our doors.  Some of our volunteers are very new and some have been around for years, all are very reliable and make my job that much more rewarding. Each of our volunteers have something unique and special that they bring to their volunteer position and it makes each day different from the next.

We are however always recruiting for new volunteers. If you would like to  join our fun fantastic team please give us a call today – I look forward to hearing from you!


Posted on: May 30th, 2019 by Shawna


Posted on: May 8th, 2019 by Shawna

May 8, 2019

Chilliwack Museum & Archives to Host Opening Reception for Latest Exhibition

Chilliwack, BC – The Chilliwack Museum & Archives will be unveiling its latest exhibition Five Faces, Five Corners: The Social Experience of Chilliwack’s Downtown at an Opening Reception on May 16, 2019 at 7:00pm.

“This exhibition explores the evolving social landscape of Chilliwack’s Five Corners area,” said Anna Irwin, Curator at the Chilliwack Museum & Archives. “It really is a fitting time to showcase this area as the downtown redevelopment project proceeds, it all ties together nicely.”

The Opening Reception will feature appetizers and refreshments while viewers enjoy the first look at the exhibition. Admission to the event is $5.00 for the general public and Free for members of the Chilliwack Museum & Historical Society.

Five Faces, Five Corners: The Social Experience of Chilliwack’s Downtown will be on display from May 16, 2019 to April 18, 2020.


Media Contact:

Shawna Maurice
Executive Director
Chilliwack Museum & Archives
P: 604-795-5210 ext. 101
E: [email protected]

Change and Transformation at the Chilliwack Museum & Archives

Posted on: March 27th, 2019 by Shawna

Change and Transformation are two words that many people cringe when they hear, but really they are terms to celebrate! As our world evolves, so to must museums. History organizations across the globe are experiencing major change as they seek to remain relevant to today’s audiences.

History is not only about the past; it is also about change and tying the lessons of the past into the present and future. As stewards of the past we preserve and share our history, but we are also here to educate and interact with our community.

My focus as a leader in the heritage industry is to ensure museum’s remain relevant for today’s audiences. This means stepping outside the comfort zone of static displays and panels on walls, and moving into a more interactive and engaging experience. Community engagement and programming are vital parts to exhibition development!

After being on the job as Executive Director for a little over a month, I lead a strategic planning session with the Board of Trustees and the staff of the Museum and Archives! It was a great opportunity to get to know each other and to start projecting our goals for the next three to five years here at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives! Already I can tell how passionate this team is about the Chilliwack Museum and Archives, and all the great ideas and initiatives that we will be able to accomplish moving forward.

The staff of the CMA also visited the Vancouver Maritime Museum and the Museum of Vancouver this past Monday to garner some inspiration from our fellow historical institutions!

As a team, I believe, we are ready to move forward with the change and transformation that the 21st century has brought to museums. Keep an eye on our Social Media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) to see what we have in store for events, programs, and exhibitions coming up! Better yet, drop by the Museum & Archives and tell us what you would like to see here! We are stewards of our community and we are excited to be a destination that connects you with Chilliwack’s history.

New Books in the Gift Shop!

Posted on: February 7th, 2019 by Yvonne Contreras

Before We Lost the Lake

Driving through the Sumas flats over the years I often wondered at the broad expanse of land between Abbotsford and Chilliwack, so open and different from the surrounding wooded mountains.

Lush agricultural land filled with farms and dike systems; it always provides a beautiful vista. It was only recently that I realized that Sumas Lake once occupied the space.

Local author Chad Reimer, who wrote Chilliwack’s Chinatowns, has released a new book which charts the lifespan of Sumas Lake. We are happy to have Before We Lost the Lake in stock at the Museum Gift Shop along with a selection of other new arrivals – perfect for your winter reading needs!


How Deep is the Lake

Surveying the Great Divide

Great Fortune Dream

Happenings around the Museum & Archives

Posted on: December 19th, 2018 by Yvonne Contreras

Chilliwack City Hall after a snowfall, no date. Courtesy of Norman Williams

The last week before the Christmas holidays are here and the Chilliwack Museum and Archives will be open for any last presents you may need until Friday, December 21, 2018. We will reopen in the new year on January 2, 2019.

Once the Christmas trees have been taken down and the extra lights have been turned off the winter seems a little darker. We welcome you to join us at the Museum and Archives for a dry, cozy escape from the weather. The permanent Gallery contains information and artefacts about the different communities that make up Chilliwack and has something for all ages. For our younger visitors we have Discovery Bins containing objects related to farming, kitchenware, travel, communication, education and local First Nations history. Visitors can explore physical objects such as a rotary telephone and an egg beater and play along with the Discovery Hunt booklets.

If you haven’t had a chance to see it the Mountaineers: Community Experience in the Chilliwack’s Mountains exhibit will be extended until March 23, 2019 and our Curator, Anna Irwin, is currently working on a new exhibit highlighting the history of Five Corners which will be opening mid-April, 2019.

We are also very happy to announce a NEW ONLINE EXHIBIT: Chilliwack’s Chinatowns: A Story of Diversity, Racism, and Arson – January 2019

Photograph of unnamed Chinese domestic worker from the household of Lister Smith holding Lister’s son, William Smith, c. 1896. Chilliwack Museum and Archives, P. Coll. 120, file 46.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the first Chinese immigrants in Canada made significant contributions to life in the Fraser Valley, the traditional and unceded territory of the Stó:lō people. Based heavily upon Dr. Chad Reimer’s 2011 book, Chilliwack’s Chinatowns: A History, this online exhibition explores the development, lives and personalities of those who built and lived in Chinatown North and South and discusses the lasting contribution of Chilliwack’s early Chinese residents within Chilliwack’s shared history.

The Chilliwack Museum and Archives would like to gratefully acknowledge the support of the Virtual Museum of Canada in the development of Chilliwack’s Chinatowns: A Story of Diversity, Racism, and Arson.

There is an amazing treasure trove of photographs, documents, and items located in the Archives, such as the pins and badge below, and what better way to acquaint yourself with them then to attend the monthly behind-the-scenes look at the work of the archives. The tour takes place the last Friday of every month beginning at 3:00 pm and is led by our Archivist, Tristan Evans. It is an excellent opportunity to learn about local history and how the Museum and Archives work to preserve it.

We look forward to welcoming you in the New Year!

Dixieland Jazz button.
Chilliwack Museum & Archives, 2005.026.003

Chilliwack Exhibition pin, circa 2000.
Chilliwack Museum & Archives, 2002.005.001

Country Living Festival Badge. Chilliwack Museum & Archives, 2016.012.002

Connections – Why I Support the Chilliwack Museum and Archives by Vivian Evans Walker

Posted on: November 8th, 2018 by Yvonne Contreras

Connections – Why I Support the Chilliwack Museum and Archives by Vivian Evans Walker

Butter Mold 1981.028.012ab

When I was a child, if I wanted to know something about “the olden days” I would often ask Gramma. What was it like to travel in a covered wagon from the Dakotas to Alberta? Were you dizzy the first time you took a train? How can I make butter from scratch? Gramma knew. She was a living connection to questions about the past.

If I wanted to know about being a wartime kid in Vancouver, I would ask Mom. Her father was a world champion ski jumper, but like many families in the 1930s, they lived in poverty. She saw the huge migration of Prairie farm kids to North Vancouver in the early 1940s, when families crammed into “wartime houses,” eager for the work the shipyards brought. She watched four of her brothers go to war. She was a Junior Air Raid Warden, doing her part for the war effort at age 10.

For almost everything else, I asked Dad. He had a coin collection gleaned from the mud under the horse barn, where the farmhands played poker while waiting for mares to foal. He regretted rarely eating the food prepared for the Chinese field hands by the Chinese cook on the farm but could show me the tiny opium bottles found near their bunkhouse. He would read us sections of the Charles Evans Diary, which details my great-great grandfather’s journey from Picton County in Ontario “around the Horn” to Victoria. He would show me the farm ledgers kept by my great-great grandmother, Jane Wells Evans, detailing her struggle as a young widow to turn rich but soggy soil into a productive farm.

Evans Farm Horse Barn – PP502545

These memories lived with us as children. The ledger and diary were on the top shelf of the linen closet.  I could literally touch Chilliwack’s history. Inspired by his cousins Casey and Oliver Wells, my dad was an early trustee of the Historical Society and spoke of the days in the future when some of the relics we grew up with would seem quaint to future generations.

Do I have any of these relics? No, and I am actually happy I do not. We have a large family. My gramma and my Aunty Milly (Mildred Evans Hall) made the wise decision to donate many of our family’s special items to the Museum for all to experience. The abacus I played with as a child, the journals, the opium bottles, the beautiful bowl my great-grandmother received as a wedding gift and many other more mundane family treasures all live in the Chilliwack Museum.

Evans Farm Cabin -PP502549

These items, though, are part of the Museum’s collections. For the Museum to truly resonate and move forward, we need to invest in connections. Today’s kids want to be entertained. The stories of the Museum’s collections come alive in a way that makes Chilliwack’s history compelling. We work constantly to use best practices to do this. Last year we expanded our school programs to include the Classroom-in-Residence program. It fully engaged intermediate students in an integrated study of their community, with the Chilliwack Museum and Archives as the launching pad for their explorations. Overwhelmingly, their feedback after the program spoke of how they felt more connected to their community’s history.

How do I help the Museum to create better programming? I support the Museum by volunteering my time as a trustee, just as my dad did. My mom and I created an Adopt-a-School fund so money isn’t a barrier preventing schools in low-income areas from visiting the Museum. And although I am now retired, every month I make a small gift to the Chilliwack Museum so we can offer Chilliwack kids the best in programming. With that support, they, too, can form the connections I did to Chilliwack’s history.

Vivian Evans Walker

If you would like to support the Chilliwack Museum and Archives by donating, please go to our secure online donation page at CanadaHelps.

If you are interested in supporting the Chilliwack Museum and Archives by becoming a Museum member or volunteer, please learn more at our website.