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Official Blog of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives

Posts Tagged ‘exhibition’

Reflecting on my Summer

Posted on: August 31st, 2019 by Anna Irwin

By Jordan Sheffield, Archives Summer Student

Working in the Chilliwack Museum and Archives this summer has been a fantastic experience, full of interesting challenges, and learning opportunities.  This cannot be truer than in my experiences in working on the two exhibits that took up an enormous amount of my work at the archives, the first being the Five Faces, Five Corners: The Social Experience of Chilliwack’s Downtown, and the second being my own mini exhibit, A Day with the Doctor.  These two displays were different for all manner of reasons (scope, involvement, budget, time and even more that I cannot hope to list), so reflecting on the means and ends of both displays over the past couple days has been interesting and something I thought I might share. The whole experience in both exhibits has been fantastic and has certainly given me a greater appreciation for the odd complexities and issues that curators have to face when putting together a display they can feel pride in.

For some context, I joined the museum and archives staff at just about the most chaotic time possible, exhibit changeover.  Entering into my first few days the changeover of the temporary gallery was already well under way.  Anna, our curator, had already been working on the exhibit preparations for months before any actual work on the gallery itself began.  I took part in detail painting, putting up the vinyl text segments and photographs (basically giant stickers), cleaning, aligning lighting (being 6’7” certainly helped with that), mount-making, as well as working with artifacts that were being put on display.  The work was often very detail-oriented and forced me to take into account problems that I wouldn’t have considered prior; paint for example, needs to sit and off-gas once applied to plinths before they can be used. With all this said the exhibit came together wonderfully and made for an amazing introduction to the job.

Having come from helping out in the Five Corners exhibit, I had a small inkling of what I was in for when designing my own exhibit.  The first step was deciding on the topic I would be working on. I started looking into advertising as a possible exhibit topic, but I ended up going with my second idea: medicine. Once the idea was given the go-ahead, I needed to learn just how much could go into the case and which artifacts best highlighted what I wanted to discuss.

Greek Tear Vases; 1957.019.052a-b; [photo by Jordan Sheffield]

The first significant cut came to a small section on one of the most unusual aspects about the doctor: his collecting. Dr. McCaffrey regularly collected objects from around the world, including a pair of Greek tear vases from ~500 BCE. During the early phase of research, I had been worried about not having enough text or objects. Suddenly, I had too much and needed to reduce and refine the content! Once I had an idea of the space I was working with, things finally started to fall into place. 

Finalizing drafted labels was another challenge in the exhibition development process! For the most part, this involved formatting and reducing the size of my labels to make sure that the labels and text were easy to read and the text was able to be read by visitors of all ages. This had brought me nearly to the end of my exhibit now as most of the major thinking had already been completed and what I had left to do was to put all the final pieces together into one cohesive whole.  After all the build up to reach this point, the final stages almost felt underwhelming – it’s amazing how quickly an exhibit comes together once all the pieces have been pre-crafted. While the previous steps had taken weeks of work, the final step (the actual mounting of the exhibit) was done in a day. It was an odd feeling when the case was locked, with artifacts beyond my reach, because it had matured from a simple draft on the back table to fully finished. Once it had settled in that the project was fully done, I felt an enormous relief and pride that it was all complete!

A Day with the Doctor display at the Chilliwack Archives; [Photo by Anna Irwin]

New exhibition focused on Sq’éwlets First Nation now open

Posted on: November 9th, 2017 by Adrienne Rempel

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

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

Installation image: Our Voices projection

What it’s all about

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

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

A note on terminology

Installation image of Sq’éwlets exhibition

Installation image: belongings on display

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

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

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

A community welcome

Welcome by Chief Robert Coombes at the exhibition opening

Welcome by Chief Robert Coombes at the exhibition opening

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

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

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

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

Exploring Chinese-Canadian history in the Fraser Valley

Posted on: July 12th, 2017 by Adrienne Rempel

The Chilliwack Museum and Archives’ latest exhibition 金山梦! 勇闯菲沙河谷 (Gold Mountain Dream: Bravely Venture into the Fraser Valley) is now open! From rare archival images and artifacts, to detailed storytelling and interactive elements, this exhibition focuses on early Chinese-Canadian history in the Fraser Valley.

Installation view of exhibition.

Installation view of the exhibition.

The Background Story

In the 1800s, gold fever consumed the world. Masses of people from all corners of the world voluntarily migrated to far-off locations such as Australia, New Zealand, California and British Columbia. Their goal was to find not only gold, but a better life for themselves and their families. By 1858 the territory now known as BC saw its first major gold rush along the Fraser Valley.

In Chinese culture, there was a myth about 山金 (Gold Mountain) that helped fuel an influx of migrants who journeyed from ports in Hong Kong across the Pacific Ocean to Victoria in search for new fortune. This resulted in the first large Chinese settlement in Canada.

After the gold rush lost its momentum, many workers of Chinese origin chose Chilliwack as a place to settle down and try to build a new life. It wasn’t easy. Much of Chilliwack’s early infrastructure, from roads to farmlands, was developed by Chinese laborers. It was strenuous work, clearing the land of trees and cultivating soil at low pay, and many workers couldn’t afford to have their families join them in Canada.

Business owners Wong Gip She (right) and Wong Gip Low She (left) with their two sons Banford and David, c. 1916. CMA P7642

Chinatown South business owners Wong Gip She (right) and Wong Gip Low She (left) with their two sons Banford and David, c. 1916. CMA P7642

Many persevered, however, and by the 1880’s a Chinese merchant class emerged (and between 1908 and 1930 comprised 10% of the registered businesses in Chilliwack). By 1920 the city had two distinct Chinatowns: Chinatown North situated above the Five Corners region; and Chinatown South, around what is now Yale Road West. At their height, the Chinatown’s were host to a bustling population living in large 2-storey wood-frame buildings, including a Chinese Masonic Hall.

An International Exhibition

Key historical content for the exhibition’s local elements was based on the 2011 book Chilliwack’s Chinatowns: A History by Chad Reimer. The Gold Mountain Dream panels are a travelling exhibition organized by the Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec. These panels are bilingual, and are written both in English and Simplified Chinese. Beyond Chilliwack, Gold Mountain Dream has been displayed at the Guangdong Museum of Chinese Nationals Residing Abroad (Guangzhou, China) and the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum (Vancouver, BC).

Detail view of artifacts in a display case.

Detail view of artifacts in a display case.

Interactive Elements

The exhibition has interactive content for viewers of all ages, from touchable objects, to videos, an audiostation, and an introductory Mahjong set. So bring the whole family for a visit, or plan a Thursday evening date night to catch this stunning exhibition!

The exhibition will continue running throughout the summer until October 9th.

Final Week of Photography: from Obscura to App

Posted on: June 6th, 2017 by Adrienne Rempel

If you haven’t yet had the chance to visit the Chilliwack Museum and Archives to view the exhibition Photography: from Obscura to App this week is your last chance.

About the Exhibition

Installation image from the exhibition. Photograph by Lori Johnson.

Installation image from the exhibition. Photograph by Lori Johnson.

Presenting a brief survey of the history of photography, the exhibition begins with the first forays into the technology, such as the daguerreotype, up to present day digital technologies. On display are pictures and artifacts relating to Chilliwack’s history, from James Orville Booen’s stunning photographs, to equipment sourced from the old Paramount Theatre.

Read more about the exhibition in this article from the Chilliwack Progress.

A Community Gathering

Norman Williams at the opening reception for the exhibition

Norman Williams at the opening reception. Photograph by Lori Johnson.

The opening reception for the exhibition was held on September 22, 2016, and was well-attended by community members. Among the many attendees, especially fitting was the presence of photographers Don Young, Lori Johnson, Jenna Hauck (of the Progress), and Norman Williams (long-time photographer and owner of Norman’s Photographic Studio in Chilliwack).

Engaging with the Community

Visitor interaction and community outreach were key aspects of the exhibition programming. From an interactive timeline, to a chalkboard wall where visitors were asked to record their relationship to photography, persons both young and old were encouraged to participate and make their mark within the exhibition. What do Chilliwackian’s like to photograph? Everything from “places I visit,” to “my loved ones <3,” and “doors!” So far, the exhibition has received over 1100 visitors during its display period.

Click here to view the results of our interactive Kidtography exhibition, which is on display at the Museum until June 11th.

A Parting Question

Visitors at a "hands-on" display during the opening reception. Photography by Lori Johnson.

Visitors at a “hands-on” display during the opening reception. Photograph by Lori Johnson.

With the influx of digital technologies, it is difficult to predict the future of photography. It is poignant that one visitor to the exhibition left the following sentence in our guestbook: “developer 2 min / stop 15 seconds / fix 4 min / wash 4 min.” These are instructions for blackroom developing. How soon will it be, before the meaning of this sentence will be left to the history books?

Photography: from Obscura to App closes on Sunday June 11, 2017.