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  • 12 Dec 2023 7:10 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Doug Boersema of the Telkwa Museum Society has died at 79. He's been involved with the museum for many years, including at least the last decade as president.

    "He was incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about local history in Telkwa and the Bulkley Valley at large," says Bulkley Valley Museum curator Kira Westby.

    Read his full obituary here.

  • 12 Dec 2023 6:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    For the fourth year running, a bakery in Smithers is making cookies using old recipe books from the Bulkley Valley Museum. This time the proceeds are going to the Telkwa Museum and Widzin Kwah Canyon House Museum.

    Read more from the CBC.

    Boxes of cookies inside the Bulkley Valley Museum. (Kira Westby photo)

  • 11 Dec 2023 7:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The grisly murder of a nurse, fierce opposition to measles and smallpox vaccines, death on the wartime battlefield and in the workplace, a crippling 1917 strike, the deadly 1918 flu pandemic, and life on the home front —these are just some of the historic events chronicled in Ron Verzuh's Printer's Devils.

    In his presentation to this year's BCHF conference in Princeton, Ron tells the story of a weekly newspaper. The Trail Creek News/Trail News influenced its readers as Trail grew into a small smelter city and prospered.

    Printer's Devils is a social history that traces how Trailites responded in times of economic crisis, war and life-threatening disease from1895 to 1925.

    Verzuh is a writer, historian and documentary filmmaker. His previous book was called Smelter Wars: A Rebellious Red Trade Union Fights for Its Life in Wartime Western Canada (University of Toronto Press, 2022). Verzuh's work has been published in journals, magazines, newspapers and on websites. He grew up in the West Kootenay where the events in this book took place. Printer's Devils is his fourth book.

  • 11 Dec 2023 6:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Unveiling of commemorative plaque at the Kaatza Station Museum. Photo: Kaatza Historical Society

    1 Labour hero
    Darshan Singh Sangha was a union organizer and human rights activist who fought for equal pay, improved working conditions, and the right to vote. He arrived in BC in 1937 at age 19 and found a job at a sawmill where visible minorities were exploited and discriminated against. He went to the University of British Columbia, joined the Young Communist League and, eventually, the International Woodworkers of America (IWA). An idealist and excellent speaker, he campaigned in the 1940s to attract Indian, Japanese, and Chinese workers into the union.

    The Kaatza Historical Society, the BC Labour Heritage Centre, and the Hari Sharma Foundation recently recognized Sangha’s contributions to the labour movement and to human rights. A commemorative plaque was unveiled at the Kaatza Station Museum in Lake Cowichan, also home to the IWA archives. The union’s Scott Lunny told those who gathered that “we continue to fight for workplace rights, migrant and immigrant rights, and to combat racism in our society. Thanks to Darshan Singh Sangha, we know what to do in the face of that injustice.”

    Sangha advocated for Indian independence and returned home in 1948, where he was elected to the Punjab state legislature. Known as Darshan Singh Canadian, he was assassinated by extremists in 1986.

    Victor Menzies diary. Photo: Pender Island Museum Society

    2 Centennial Legacy Fund at work
    Two-year-old Victor Menzies arrived on Pender Island with his family in 1893 aboard the side-wheeler Yosemite. The island had just two dozen residents and was without a school or church. Over his life Victor generated 33 handwritten booklets that are a first-hand account of pioneering island life between 1917 and 1971.

    The British Columbia Historical Federation has awarded a $5,000 Centennial Legacy Fund grant to the Pender Island Museum to transcribe and preserve these diaries. Menzies kept meticulous daily records of his farming, community, and educational life—and his role as cemetery and school caretaker. An entry for April 16, 1923, describes the novel experience of listening to the radio. “Basil came up to help me and brought his radio, first we heard was fine & clear music … Basil repaired the disc harrow. I plowed.”

    Centennial Legacy Fund grants were also awarded to the Boundary Historical Society to conduct ground penetrating radar research at the pioneer Phoenix cemetery, and to the Barriere and District Heritage Society for documenting the impact of the devastating McLure wildfire of 2003. Apply to the Centennial Legacy Fund here.

    Lyle Wilson’s map painting. Image: Kitimat Museum and Archives

    3 The soul of the traditional Haisla
    A 2011 painting of a map by Haisla master carver and artist Lyle Wilson is now on display at the Kitimat Museum and Archives. The compelling map of traditional Haisla territory and sites was painted on a piece of cedar cut from a 700-year-old tree. It features about 150 place names and landmarks in the Haisla language, surrounded by animals. The artist says it highlights “history, politics, language, and tradition in its map form.”

    As a youth, Wilson was fascinated by his grandfather’s marine map collection. His uncle later taught him the Haisla names of landmarks at a time when the language was disappearing. Wilson notes in his artist’s catalogue, “Since the time of first contact, European diseases have killed large numbers of Haisla people, making conditions favourable for the English language to become the dominant means of communication.… My generation blames the previous one for not teaching us, while our elders perceive us as being uninterested. Yet both generations agree, and lament, that the Haisla language is dying out.”

    Wilson first created a map of place names and clan crests in 1995. His 2011 map honours language, tradition, and documentation. Now part of a permanent display at the Kitimat Museum and Archives, it’s on loan from the Haisla Nation Council and sponsored by the NorthPac Forestry Group.

    Pictured (L-R) The Flying Seven: Jean Pike, Tosca Trasolini, Betsy Flaherty, Alma Gilbert, Elianne Roberge, Margaret Fane, and Rolie Moore. Photo: Township of Langley

    4 “Come fly with me”
    A giant mural dedicated to the famous Flying Seven now graces an exterior wall at the new Langley Regional Airport (YNJ). Adhering to the credo that a woman’s place was in the sky, each of the female pilots flew out of Langley at one time.

    The aviators formed their own flying club in 1936 and soon staged a dawn-to-dusk flying patrol above Vancouver to promote the idea of women in aviation. They tried to enlist during the Second World War, were refused, and then took to the skies to drop pamphlets for a “Smash the Nazi” campaign that raised $10,000 for the war effort. This allowed purchase of eight aircraft for pilot training. The Flying Seven also set up a school to train women for aviation jobs.

    The Township of Langley awarded the mural project to Randi Hamel, Taj Jamal, Kelly Mellings, and Allan Whincup of Pulp Studios and noted that, “led by Rosalie ‘Rolie’ Moore, the flying seven broke barriers and showed the world the can-do spirit of Langley!”

    Royal BC Museum’s Old Town, New Approach. Photo: Greg Dickson

    5 Old Town, New Approach
    It has been two turbulent years at the Royal BC Museum that included allegations of a toxic workplace. Former premier John Horgan’s dream of a new $789 million facility was scrapped; CEO Alicia Dubois resigned after 16 months on the job—and the popular Old Town was closed for “decolonization.”

    Public backlash to the closure was searing, so a scaled-down version of the pioneer Old Town reopened this summer. As tourism minister Lana Popham put it: “We have heard you.” Old Town, New Approach has added contextual panels with more diverse and inclusive interpretations of BC history and stories. The train station, hotel, saloon, printing shop, and Chinatown are back, along with a new exhibit about railway porters developed with the BC Black History Awareness Society.

    HMCS Discovery, the gold mine, farm, and cannery are closed, and the First Peoples’ Gallery is being used for discussion and collaboration with Indigenous communities. Some of these exhibits may reopen in 2024 and the Royal BC Museum says Old Town will continue to evolve “as we work with communities to share their experiences and cultures.”

    Edelweiss Village sign with chalets in the background, view from the CPR track, date unknown. Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies

    6 Edelweiss Village
    “The love of the mountains is a thing that is very hard to explain.” —Ed Feuz Jr. (1884–1981), Swiss mountain guide and resident of Edelweiss Village

    A Swiss-themed village near Golden has new owners, and the BC-based foundation established to preserve its historic buildings is optimistic it can work with the new Alberta-based investor group. Ilona Shulman Spaar of the Swiss Edelweiss Village Foundation says the village’s six chalets will be staying; the new owners understand their significance and are reviewing options for building restoration.

    Swiss mountain guides are legendary in BC’s mountaineering community. The Canadian Pacific Railway drew them into the Columbia Valley to develop mountain tourism at the turn of the last century; they led thousands of ascents in the Rockies without one fatality. By 1912, the railway had built six Swiss-style cabins on a hillside to accommodate the guides and their families. Descendants of Swiss mountain guide Walter Feuz, brother of Ed Feuz, listed the the village for sale in 2022, and gave the Swiss Edelweiss Village Foundation an important artifact collection and furniture. The foundation has a dream to create a museum on the site and continues to fundraise. Visit the fundraising site, Saving Swiss Edelweiss Village in Canada:

    The University of Calgary’s Department of Art and History recently created an immersive virtual tour that can be viewed here:

    Mark Forsythe travels through BC and back in time, exploring the unique work of British Columbia Historical Federation members.

  • 4 Dec 2023 6:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dawn Johnson is an Elder from the Upper Similkameen Indian Band and a Director with the Princeton and District Museum and Archives. In her presentation, which took place at the British Columbia Historical Federation's 2023 conference in Princeton, Dawn speaks about okra, pictographs, the Ashnola peoples and society, first contact with newcomers, Fort Okanogan, ranching, pack trains, Band activities today, and language.

  • 3 Dec 2023 10:59 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dr. Jason Colby teaches environmental history at the University of Victoria and gives an entertaining presentation to the Vancouver Historical Society on how the "killer whales" of sensationalized news stories became the beloved orcas of the West Coast and Salish Sea in the 1960s and 1970s. He describes how captured orcas convinced scientists and trainers that they are intelligent beings, and the environmental challenges facing their declining population.

  • 3 Dec 2023 10:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Jennifer Dunkerson is the new boss at the Nelson Museum.

    She was previously in management at the Revelstoke Railway Museum and Columbia Basin Trust and has been a planner with Heritage BC.


  • 3 Dec 2023 10:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Winter 2023 edition of British Columbia History, which is on its way to subscribers now, is guest-edited by Ron Verzuh, and presents history from the workplace trenches. Verzuh also contributed "Challenging the Male Breadwinner Tradition: Making history in the workplace."

    Among the other featured stories: "The Indigenous Miners of British Columbia's First Coal Fields," by John Lutz; "Eight Hours Underground," by Peter Smith; "Tunnelling for Workplace Justice: How foreign workers won their rights at SkyTrain's Canada Line," by Joe Barrett; "Darshan Singh Sangha: 'Forever Canadian' union organizer," by Donna Sacuta; "women on both sides of the Great Vancouver Island Coal Miners' Strike, 1912-14," by Aimee Greenaway; "Rebel Union Local 7292 in the Elk Valley," by Tom Langford," and "The CKLG Strike of 1975: A memorable moment in Canadian radio and labour history," by Leslie Kenny; "Thelma Emblem, Whistle Punk," by Aimee Greenaway; "Discovering Ginger Goodwin," by Wayne Norton; and "Singing and Solidarity," by Jon Bartlett and Rika Ruebsaat.

    Plus we have regular columns from Aimee Greenaway, Mark Forsythe, and Terry Arnett. All packed into 52 pages!

    To buy this issue or subscribe, click here.

  • 29 Nov 2023 8:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Historic Turner House. Photo from Heritage Abbotsford Society website

    The Heritage Abbotsford Society has received an award from the National Trust for its efforts to save and restore Turner House. Built circa 1875, the small board and batten cottage served as farmhouse and family home to Royal Engineer George Turner, who surveyed roads in the Fraser Valley. The house has been moved to Clayburn Village from its original site. Learn more in this Abbotsford News story. 

  • 29 Nov 2023 7:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sons of Freedom children at New Denver in the 1950s. Royal BC Museum and Archives C-01739

    An apology to B.C.'s Doukhobor community for the removal of children from their homes has been postponed by the provincial government. The apology was expected this week, but has been delayed until the new year. It's been 24 years since an ombudsperson's report recommended an apology and compensation for actions that were, "unjust and oppressive."  Some members of the Doukhobor community are hurt and dismayed by the postponement. Read more in this Arrow Lakes News story. 

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