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Official Blog of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives

Posts Tagged ‘Local History’

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.

Chilliwack Writers reflect on “What it’s like Living Here”

Posted on: March 23rd, 2018 by

This past Saturday the museum welcomed a group of inspired writers to join Heather Ramsay in an exploration of what it’s like to live in Chilliwack.

“It is always incredible to witness how many different ways the same sights and sounds can be interpreted by different observers and writers…and that was just during our tour of the museum. Once we got started on describing places that are special to us, whole new worlds took shape. From the destruction of one “cracker box” home, to the construction of a log house dream, places came alive in so many different ways. As the teacher, I was happy to hear such inspired writing from the students. When they asked me when the next workshop would be, I took that as a sign that we went somewhere great together.” – Heather Ramsay on Saturday’s workshop.

As a museum and archives we collect historic records which help us understand our city and it’s past. However, as we always like to say, we’re not just about “old” things, but about the places, the objects, the memories and the moments which make our city what it is today. And that includes you! Your stories and experiences of Chilliwack are important. Our workshop participants started to explore this on Saturday and as one writer wrote to us about the workshop, “the group was great and the people and their stories were fascinating.” Anne Russell, one of the workshop participants, has shared an excerpt from her first draft below.

Anne Russell, on her Little Mountain “crackerbox” home in the 1990’s:

Anne's crackerbox home on Little Mountain, ca. 1990's.

Anne’s crackerbox home on Little Mountain, ca. 1990’s.

“This funky forest home resonated with our desire to be slightly off the grid. We hadn’t moved 100 km from the city just to live in a BC Box house in a subdivision.

We felt like we’d found the place to be the kind of young adults we wanted to be. Adventurous, nature-loving hikers and mountain bikers living amongst the cedar trees, grooving in nature with two cats in the yard – and a puppy and kitten who soon followed — and a tiny garden eked out of the forest surrounding us. We were like two schoolkids playing grown up in a most romantic setting.”

We will be sharing some of the participants’ completed stories over the next few months on the blog and we hope you’ll be inspired to share some of your experiences of our city as well!

Developing Local History Kits: Flooding Chilliwack

Posted on: February 14th, 2018 by

Over the last half year I have been working on a third Local History Kit for teachers to use in the classroom. Last spring I worked with our team of SD33 teachers to create lessons around Flooding in Chilliwack. The kit focuses specifically on the floods of 1894 and 1948 which are well represented in our collection.

Chilliwack Progress Newspaper Clipping, April 21, 1948, page 5.

Chilliwack Progress Newspaper Clipping, April 21, 1948, page 5.

Flooding has affected many aspects of life in the Fraser Valley. Over the last 150 years since colonization it has resulted in major changes to the landscape around us. Dykes surround many areas of our city and the once Sumas Lake is now drained and pumped into the Fraser River, in part for ongoing flood protection. Learning about the historic flooding in the area helps us to understand the efforts that are made today in flood protection and gain a better understanding of the man-made and natural changes in our landscape.

The new kit has students exploring a variety of aspects of historic flooding in Chilliwack. In Grades 1 and 2 students can explore historic photographs to find out how a community comes together during times of emergencies and what changes after a major flood. In Grade 5 students explore the changes to First Nations communities when they were made to settle permanently on reserves, often in unprotected flood zones. In Grade 6 students can look at the consequences of living on a floodplain and investigate emergency preparedness today.

Chilliwack Progress Newspaper Clipping, June 2, 1948, page 8.

“Fight to rescue stock” Chilliwack Progress Newspaper Clipping, June 2, 1948, page 8.

The primary source reproductions in this kit span a wide variety of media, from official reports from the Fraser Valley Rehabilitation Authority to personal handwritten accounts. One of my favourite documents we uncovered during our research is a handwritten account of the 1894 flood by Rory Knight, who lived in Popkum at the time of the flood. At the end of his account he writes, “There was no such luck as no school for Gertie and I as we had Miss Harris and we went to school every-day,” [AM 0029]. Being able to share personal and local stories like this is what makes these historical events really come alive for students and helps them connect to the bigger ideas they are studying in school.

If you’re interested in exploring more about Flooding in Chilliwack you can check out our online exhibit Flooding Chilliwack: A History of High Water. I also found K. J. Watt’s book High Water: Living with the Fraser Floods an invaluable resource while beginning our research for this kit, the book can be accessed in our reference library at the archives.

The Flooding Chilliwack kit will be available to book in schools in April 2018. Booking can be done online through our shop or by phone at 604-795-5210.

Learning with Primary Sources

Posted on: October 13th, 2017 by

“[The students] loved that the museum came to them,” commented a teacher who recently rented our newest local history kit, Community of Villages, which contains primary source reproductions from our archives. “Being in my class, instead of in the museum, they felt more freedom to ask questions and to interact with the materials provided.”

Over the past year we’ve been working on creating our local history kits in collaboration with the Chilliwack School District. These kits compliment our traditional 1-1.5 hr school programs as they expand on specific local history topics and allow teachers and students the freedom to explore the materials at their own pace.

Some of the reproductions in the Community of Villages kit.

Some of the reproductions in the Community of Villages kit.

With the new BC Curriculum in full swing this year, these kits focus on helping both teachers and students learn curricular competencies while exploring local topics. The Community of Villages kit specifically focuses on exploring the concept of “Continuity and Change” and helps students learn how to explain why some aspects of their communities have changed over time while others have stayed the same.

Learning with the primary sources in their hands provides a concrete real connection to the past for the students. Each kit comes with specific lesson plans and activity suggestions for a variety of grades, but sometimes all you need is a few simple prompts to get students talking and exploring on their own. Here are a few hints for learning with primary sources from our Community of Villages kit:

  • Sequencing – Have students work together to sequence a series of photographs from oldest to newest. This will get them talking about the quality of the photographs, the clothes people are wearing, the different modes of transportation and so on.
  • Compare and Contrast – Using photographs or newspaper articles, have students compare one from the past and one contemporary example. Have them chart the differences and similarities they can find.
  • Maps – Have students compare a current map of Chilliwack with an historic one. Questions come naturally about the changes in the city over time.
  • Location Mapping – Have students match historic photos to a current map or vice versa. Get them to locate their home or school on the map to see how their area has changed or stayed the same over time.

In many cases, I’ve found that the primary sources speak for themselves and that student’s curiosity is sparked and questions come naturally when they get to interact with the materials first hand.

If you have any questions or suggestions about learning with primary sources, feel free to get in touch with me at [email protected]!

Getting Ready for the 2017-2018 School Year

Posted on: September 6th, 2017 by

It seems like the school year just ended and we were getting ready for our summer programming only days ago, but here we are again with another year of school upon us! Aligning with the new BC Curriculum, we’re excited to be able to offer a variety of programs and resources that help teachers bring relevant local content into their classrooms.

What’s New?

Chilliwack's Chinatowns Kit

Chilliwack’s Chinatowns Kit

Our local history kits, created in collaboration with SD33 teachers, are currently available to book. We have two kits, with a third expected in late 2017.

  • Explore Chilliwack’s two lost Chinatowns with our Chilliwack’s Chinatowns kit, containing primary source reproductions, lesson plans and supplementary resources for your class. This kit is recommended for Grades 1-6, however the primary sources can be adapted for use with a variety of grades. Follow up your exploration of the kit with an exhibit tour of Gold Mountain Dream, exhibit open until Oct. 9th.
  • New this year is our Community of Villages kit. Recommended for Grades 6+, this kit contains 10-12 reproductions for each of five unique communities in Chilliwack: Downtown Chilliwack, Rosedale, Greendale, Yarrow, and Sardis/Vedder. Teach primary source analysis skills with this kit while introducing the historical thinking concept of continuity and change.
  • Currently under development is our ‘Flooding Chilliwack’ kit. This kit focuses on major floods in Chilliwack which have changed the surrounding area into what we know today. Stay tuned for further details!

Starting this week, our school programs are available to book online or by phone at 604-795-5210.

  • Our popular My Community program for Grades 1 and 2 has two new community options available. Learn about key developments and events in your local area with options to focus on Downtown Chilliwack, Sardis, Yarrow or Greendale.
  • Guided Exhibit Tours are available throughout the year. Our current exhibit, Gold Mountain Dream, focuses on Chinese immigration during the gold rush and contains local content on Chilliwack’s lost Chinatowns. Gold Mountain Dream closes Oct. 9th and our new exhibit will open Nov. 2nd.
  •  Back by popular demand is our Family Christmas program. Explore what it would have been like to celebrate Christmas in Chilliwack in the late 1800’s with hands-on activities.

Browse our 2017-2018 school program brochure here and book online!

Can’t find a program that fits your needs? If there is a specific local history topic you are interested in exploring with your students, you can always contact me with your program requests and questions at [email protected]

Getting ready for the 2017 BCHF Conference

Posted on: May 10th, 2017 by

Over the past 7 months I’ve been lucky to sit on the BCHF Conference Committee to help bring a fantastic lineup of lectures, field trips, and events to our community.

The BC Historical Federation was established in 1922 and acts as an umbrella association for historical societies in British Columbia. As the BCHF conference hosts for 2017, the Chilliwack Museum and Historical Society has been organizing tours and lectures which highlight our local history. Having been able to sit on the organizing committee since the start, I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it has been to cut down the options for tours and lectures for just 4 days of programming. Chilliwack has such a wealth of historical sites and information to share!

BCHF conference tours include a trip to the New Siberia Farm, a 92 year old farm!

BCHF conference tours include a trip to the New Siberia Farm, a 92 year old farm!

That being said, we have been able to put together a fantastic lineup that really showcases the diversity of our area and highlights the importance of preserving and caring for our history today. This is a 4 day festival of history that is accessible and open to everyone, not just those working in the field.

What can you expect?

Whether you’re new to Chilliwack or have lived here all your life, there’s something new for you to explore. The lineup includes workshops, lectures, field trips and evening presentations around the conference theme of “Land, Water, People”. For example:

  • Learn how to take care of your family artifacts, photographs and personal papers with accomplished family historians Brenda L. Smith and Diane Rogers. Get behind the scenes tours of the Chilliwack Archives and learn more about the work of the archives at our Archives Bootcamp.
  • Join for lectures by experts in their fields. Topics range from ‘Flood Management’, ‘Modern Treaties and Reconciliation’ to ‘Finding Chilliwack’s Fallen’, addressing our past, current, and future relationship with the land, water, and people of Chilliwack.
  • Hop on a bus and explore sites around Chilliwack, including tours to local hop and dairy farms, Stó:lō nation, historic river boat landings, and more!

Conference registration is open to all. Sign up for the full 4 days, 1 day packagesindividual event tickets, or workshops. If you’re a Chilliwack Museum and Historical Society member, don’t forget you receive BCHF Member pricing for the conference!

See you May 25-28!

Introducing our first Local History Kit – Chilliwack’s Chinatowns!

Posted on: November 17th, 2016 by

I have been working on developing local history resources with an amazing team of SD33 teachers this past year. I am excited to announce that our first kit on Chilliwack’s Chinatowns is now ready for teachers and educators to book!

The Local History Kits came about through collaboration between the Chilliwack Museum and Archives and the Chilliwack School District. When reviewing the redesigned curriculum, the focus on local content and place-based learning created the perfect opportunity to use the resources that already exist at our museum and archives, and get them in the hands of students!

Chilliwack's Chinatowns Kit

The Chilliwack’s Chinatowns Kit comes with primary source reproductions, posters and a teacher guidebook.

The partnership involved a team of teachers across different grades to tap into the resources and connect them in a meaningful way to the new curriculum. The kit includes lessons and activities that are designed to address Big Ideas, Curricular Competencies and Content in a variety of subjects and grades. The aim is that when teachers use this kit in their classroom, students will be developing critical thinking skills while using meaningful, relevant, local materials.

Kits come with primary source reproductions relating to each specific topic, background information, timelines and supplementary materials needed to teach each lesson. They are now available to book here for $15/week or, if you are a SD33 teacher, you can contact the school district office to book the SD33 copy.

We are looking forward to receiving feedback from teachers to help us improve these kits and make them as student and teacher friendly as possible!

Having completed the kit on Chilliwack’s Chinatowns, we are now working on gathering resources on Flooding in Chilliwack, focusing on the 1894 and 1948 floods. As well, we are developing a kit for Grade 7 classes on key developments in our local community. Stay tuned to find out when these kits will be available!

Have questions about the kits or would like to book? You can contact me directly at [email protected]

The Local Connection

Posted on: January 20th, 2016 by
Bytown Museum

In front of the Bytown Museum after a skate on the Rideau Canal, construction of which was supervised by Colonel By himself.

A number of years ago I worked at the Bytown Museum in Ottawa, a local history museum much like the Chilliwack Museum. As a native Ottawan, I enjoyed being surrounded by my city’s history; I learned more about the growth of ‘Bytown’, which later became Ottawa, than I had in all my years of schooling in the city. Much of Ottawa’s history involved the once very affluent lumber industry and a whole floor of the museum was dedicated to sharing this story. I knew that many of my ancestors had been involved in lumber along the Ottawa River. Learning more about this history gave me a strong sense of place and helped me connect with my family’s part in Ottawa’s story.

Place-based Learning

Place-based learning wasn’t very common when I went through the Ontario curriculum. Educator’s, more and more, are recognizing the importance of learning about and through the place where you live – whether it is studying the surrounding countryside for science and geography classes or learning about local history in social studies. Making connections to ‘the local’ is an important aspect of learning in today’s schools.

Curriculum

Part of the Christmas Program set-up. This is where I made countless mashed potato candies this past Christmas.

Part of the Christmas Program set-up. This is where I made countless mashed potato candies this past Christmas.

The new BC Curriculum reflects this. A quick search for the word ‘local’ in the new online curriculum brings up hits at all grade levels. As a local history museum, we have a unique opportunity to support Chilliwack’s schools as they adapt to this new curriculum. Our Christmas program, which has become somewhat of a tradition with many Chilliwack schools, has been sharing local stories with school children for years. This past Christmas, I was able to offer the program again and not only shared some interesting and fun stories with over 400 children, teachers and adults, but learned more about Chilliwack along the way. Quite often a name or picture would spark someone’s memory about a place or person they knew. This is why place-based learning is so effective, it offers a chance for learners and teachers to take part in an exchange of knowledge, learning together and using the place where they live as common ground.

Making Connections

Continuing to bring place-based learning into school programming while connecting to the new curriculum will be an important part of our future programs. But learning about the place where you live doesn’t have to just happen in school. If you’re like me, learning your city’s history can be just as meaningful and important as an adult. Connecting with your local museum is one way to unlock some of those hidden secrets about your city’s past.