Past Events 2008 – 2015

Friends of the BC Archives past programmes and speakers, 2008-2015

15 November 2015

“Researching Steward of the People’s Forests”

Our guest speakers were Dr. Robert Griffin, who recently retired as history curator at the RBCM after a career more than three decades, and his colleague, Dr. Lorne Hammond, who has been a history curator at the Museum since 1997. Both have written extensively in the field of modern BC history, their most recent book being a history of the provincial Forest Service. Created in 1912 as the BC Forest Branch (and renamed Forest Service in 1947), this provincial government agency employed men and women who served as stewards of BC’s forests for over a century.

18 October 2015

“James Cook: An Explorer for the Ages”

After the business portion of the AGM, Robin Inglis, an eminent museum curator and maritime historian from Vancouver, gave a wonderfully detailed account of the life and contributions of Captain James Cook. He recounted Cook’s apprenticeship in the coal trade in Yorkshire, his advancement in the Royal Navy, and his interest in new enlightenment knowledge systems, including those that combined the techniques of land and marine surveying. Inglis placed Cook’s three Pacific voyages (1768-1779) in the context of the period. Having acknowledged Cook’s stature as a hero of the British Empire, Inglis also addressed more recent historical debates in which Cook has been implicated with the “fatal impact” of colonialism on Indigenous peoples. He illustrated this debate with images from an exhibit that he helped to create for the Anchorage Museum in Alaska. However, Inglis cautioned against judging cook solely on what happened after his voyages. The celebrated English mariner was truly an explorer for the ages. [With thanks to FBCA director Sue Baptie for this summary.]

20 September 2015

“Managing the Cariboo Gold Rush”

Our guest speaker, Marie Elliott, is a charter member of the Friends of the BC Archives and author of several books on the history of the Cariboo. In this illustrated talk, she explained that the Cariboo gold rush was a relatively orderly affair, thanks in part to the managerial skills of assistant gold commissioners Henry Maynard Ball, Thomas Elwyn, and Philip Henry Nind. They were instrumental in establishing a Gold Escort in 1861 and 1863, which safely delivered about $4 million worth of gold to government assay offices. Nind, who enjoyed cordial relations with the indigenous Shuswap people and the respect of sojourning miners, moved to Australia in 1866 and is not well-known in BC today. Thanks to Marie’s talk, we have a better appreciation of him and his colleagues.

24 May 2015

“Gold Nuggets and Silver Salts: The Photographic Legacy of Frederick Dally”

Frederick Dally produced some of the most iconic images of early BC during the gold-rush era. Joan Schwartz, a distinguished archivist and historian, described his work and legacy. While Dally was not the first photographer active in Victoria, he was unquestionably, she said, the best and one of the most prolific. During his brief career behind the camera (1866-1870), Dally produced not only a remarkable visual record of people and places from Coast to Cariboo, but an enduring vision of land and life in early British Columbia. She demonstrated his work in an engaging slide presentation. She explained how Dally inspired her when, as a UBC graduate student, she first saw examples of his work on a visit to the Provincial Archives in Victoria. His work continued to be influential in her career at the National Archives of Canada and as professor of the History of Photography at Queen’s University. She is the Guest Curator of the first major retrospective of Dally’s work, which will open at the Royal BC Museum in late 2017.

19 April 2015

“Carlo Gentile, Colonial Photographer and his Remarkable Photographs of Vancouver Island and British Columbia”

Ron Greene discussed the work of the talented photographer, Carlo Gentile, who was a photographer in Victoria from October 1863 until August 1866. Gentile accompanied British Columbia Governor Frederick Seymour into the interior of British Columbia in 1865, and later the same year visited Quesnel and Williams Creek, travelling on both the Harrison Lake to Lillooet route and the recently completed Fraser Canyon route. Ron chronicled these excursions by showing the beautiful and technically-accomplished photographs that Gentile created. A life-long resident of Victoria, Ron is has served as president of the Victoria Historical Society and the British Columbia Historical Federation. He is a founding member, director and treasurer of the Friends of the BC Archives.

15 March 2015

“Rushing Towards Gold”

Ann ten Cate, an archivist with the Royal BC Museum, offered a behind-the-scenes look at how the Museum’s upcoming exhibition – entitled Gold Rush! El Dorado in BC – is being produced. She explained that the journey from the beginnings of an idea to a finished product is a long, collaborative process between curatorial, design and exhibit production staff. She described the challenges of bringing BC history to life for an audience that will include children, non-English speakers, and visitors with many different learning styles. The new exhibit, she said, would include quite a few treasures from the archival collections. Ann has been an archivist at the BC Archives since 1990. She is a member of the curatorial team producing the new travelling exhibit, “El Dorado: BC’s Gold Rush”, which will open at the RBCM in May 2015, and then travel to the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau.

15 February 2015

“Ship Building in Victoria and Vancouver in WWI”

This illustrated talk by Dr. Chris Madsen, historian and professor of defence studies at the Royal Military College of Canada, focussed on the period from 1917-1919, when British Columbia became the largest producer of war-purpose merchant ships for the Imperial Munitions Board. He explained how this ship-building program was coordinated in part by Peter Butchart, the Vancouver Island cement magnate. This transformational role for BC created a legacy of military shipbuilding, he said, that continues today.

18 January 2015

“Victoria: A City Goes to War”

Jim Kempling, a retired Canadian army officer, is a PhD student in history at UVic. His talk focussed on the results of his examination of aspects of the First World War in Victoria. He explained that Victoria was a rich recruiting ground, partly because of the many expatriate Britons of military age who resided here; and partly because many eager recruits were unemployed, since Victoria was gripped in a severe economic depression at the outbreak of the war. He demonstrated the fruits of research in a collaborative website that he is building, called A City Goes to War []. He has also created a website about the history of his former regiment, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. After leaving the army he enjoyed a distinguished civilian career as a senior bureaucrat in BC and Saskatchewan and as a management consultant.

16 November 2014

“Nursing on the Battlefield, 1885-1945”

Glennis Zilm’s illustrated presentation provided an overview of Canada’s wartime Nursing Sisters, from the first paid nurses hired by the Canadian militia in 1885 and on through the Boer War, World War I and World War II. She focussed on nurses from BC, especially from the Victoria area, and described how nurses have served on the battlefields. A retired nurse, Glennis is an Honorary Professor in the School of Nursing at UBC. She was a founding member of both the BC History of Nursing Society and the Canadian Association for the History of Nursing.

19 October 2014

“British Columbia & the Victorian Photographic Album: Windows on the World and Our Place within It”

Don Bourdon provided an engaging presentation on how British Columbians and other visitors to the Northwest in the 19thcentury documented their family and travels in photographic albums. The Curator of Images and Paintings at the Royal BC Museum, Don illustrated the popular Victorian practice of collecting photographs with interesting examples of albums that are preserved in the BC Archives. Don has worked continuously in the archives field since the 1970s. His broad knowledge of early photographic technology was evident in this presentation.

21 September 2014

“Quarantined! The William Head Quarantine Station”

According to Peter Johnson, a researcher and former history teacher, the William Head Quarantine Station, near Victoria, was larger than Quebec’s Grosse Ile and more significant than Ellis Island in New York City. In this presentation, he provided poignant stories of daring escapes from the facility, tales of unredeemed love, and descriptions of ground-breaking medical research. His talk was illustrated with rare archival photographs. His book Quarantined: Life and Death at William Head Station 1872-1959 was published in 2013.

25 May 2014

“John Nobili, S.J., Mission to New Caledonia, 1845-1848”

Marie Elliott, author of several books on the history of BC and a director of the Friends of the BC Archives, described new information that she gleaned from Fr. John Nobili’s recently-translated letters. In 1844, this Italian Jesuit priest took up the perilous life of a missionary in the Pacific Northwest. For the next four years he met with First Nations along the HBC fur brigade route that led from Fort Vancouver to Babine Lake, and reported his progress regularly to the Father General in Rome.

13 April 2014

“Without Justice: Two Victorian Era Unsolved Mysteries”

Linda J. Eversole, a museum and heritage consultant recounted two unsolved mysteries in Victoria. The first involved a female bakery owner who was killed in a ‘Jack the Ripper’ type of attack on 29 September 1899. A second, and possibly related murder, occurred two days later. Fortunately for our guest speaker and her audience, archival records about the events – such as the reports of undercover Pinkerton Detective Agency operatives and local detectives’ notebooks – have survived. These documents, Linda said, enabled her to reconstruct the circumstances of the tragic events. The archival records also provided her with compelling details on life in Victoria at the turn of the 20th century. Linda is the author of Stella: Unrepentant Madam (2001) and a Board member of the Friends of the BC Archives.

16 March 2014

“Neighbours Helping Neighbours”

While researching at the BC Archives, Lisa Helps, a local politician and UVic History graduate, came across a story from the local newspaper from July 1931 that read, “Citizens Emergency Relief Fund Surpasses $50,000.” It struck her, if people in Victoria did this in the past, what was stopping them now? She explained how historical research at the Archives became the genesis for a community program called ‘micro-lending.’ Lisa, who was elected to Victoria City Council in November 2011, remarked that she wanted to help create a vibrant city where everyone can thrive.

16 February 2014

“Victoria’s Black History”

John Adams, the Victoria-based historian and heritage interpreter, described the migration of the Black settlers to Vancouver Island in 1858 and questioned whether Douglas’ personal background may have accounted for his invitation to them. Douglas himself was a ‘free coloured boy’ at birth in what became British Guiana (now Guyana). John also provided many interesting insights about Victoria’s Black pioneers in his Black History month presentation. He is the author of several books, including Old Square-Toes and His Lady: The Life of James and Amelia Douglas (2001).

19 January 2014

“Squatters’ Rights and the Archival Meridian of William Pearce, Director of the Dominion Lands Board”

As Inspector of Lands Agencies for the Dominion Lands Board (1881-1884), Pearce was an administrator and policymaker at a time when Ottawa was formulating and implementing lands policy in the frontier west. Raymond Frogner explained that Pearce’s surveys of homesteads, Indian reserves, and municipal borders sometimes led to friction. Indeed, Pearce’s surveys were even cited as one of the causes of the Northwest Rebellion in 1885. Raymond is an archivist at the Royal BC Museum. Previously, he was the Private Records Archivist at the University of Alberta for ten years.

17 November 2013

“Where Honour and Glory Lead: The Royal Engineers in BC and Vancouver Island”

The Royal Engineers, whose members are known as the ‘Sappers,’ provided many and varied forms of support in the early days of the two British colonies on the Pacific coast of North America. Michael Layland, an ex-sapper himself, provided an overview of their contributions during the colonial period. Michael was President of the Friends of the B.C. Archives from 2011 to 2013 and continues as a board member. A former cartographer, he is the author of The Land of Heart’s Delight: Early Maps and Charts of Vancouver Island (2013).

20 October 2013

“Emily Carr: No Such Thing as “Barren Years”

The years of 1913 to 1927 in the life of Emily Carr have often been referred to as her ‘barren’ years. But as Kerry Mason demonstrated convincingly in an illustrated lecture, this was a period of great creativity for the renowned artist and author. Our guest speaker was the founding manager of the Emily Carr Gallery and a former curator of the Maltwood Art Museum and Gallery. She has taught at UVic and the Victoria College of Art.

15 September 2013

“Into the Land: Making a Living on Vancouver Island, 1843-1858”

Richard Mackie, a popular writer, teacher and historian, described how colonists and HBC employees made a living on Vancouver Island before the 1858 Gold Rush. To survive in this remote colony, he explained, they employed indigenous trade networks and aboriginal labour to create a viable local economy. He described his MA dissertation, which was based on archival records, and his recent book, Home Truths: Highlights from BC History (2012).

9 June 2013

“The Life & Art of Ina D.D. Uhthoff”

Author Christina Johnson-Dean gave an illustrated talk about the artist Ina D.D. Uhthoff, who was a driving force in the Victoria art scene of the mid-20th century. A contemporary of Emily Carr, Uhthoff founded the Victoria School of Art, and was a well-respected artist, educator, and art critic for the newspaper. Christina also read from her newly published book about Uhthoff’s previously unheralded contributions to our cultural history.

12 May 2013

“The Race to the South Pole”

Tim Willis, the RBCM’s Vice President of Visitor Engagement & Experience, recounted an extraordinary story of adventure, triumph and tragedy, about the race between Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and Royal Navy Captain Robert Scott to be the first to reach the South Pole in 1911-1912. Tim’s lecture anticipated the opening of a major exhibition at the RBCM, “Race to the End of the Earth.” In his captivating presentation, Tim remarked on correspondence between Capt. Scott and Kathleen O’Reilly of Victoria, which is preserved in the BC Archives.

21 April 2013

“The Douglas Treaties”

Archivist Raymond Frogner (Archives, Collections and Knowledge Division, BC Archives) offered some comments on the Vancouver Island Treaties or ‘Douglas Treaties,’ which were made between the colonial government and some First Nations from 1850 to 1854. He discussed the significance of the treaty documents as both historical evidence and modern sources of aboriginal rights.

17 March 2013

“Sisters of St. Ann Archives

The records of the Sisters of St. Ann (1858), which were previously maintained by the Roman Catholic religious order, were transferred to the BC Archives. Carey Pallister, formerly employed at the City of Victoria Archives, explained that she had been hired by the Sisters to look after the records for the next fifteen years. Carey gave the audience an overview of the scope of the records and answered questions about how the collection may be available to researchers in the future. Presently, this archives within the BC Archives, is only open by appointment.

17 February 2013

“Life and work of a conservator”

Jean Topham, who trained at the internationally-renowned Bodleian Library in Oxford, England, has been a practicing conservator in Canada for over 40 years. She provided insights into paper conservation, as well as stories, anecdotes, and photographs of special projects, ranging from fish can labels to Emily Carr paintings.

20 January 2013

“Unbuilt Victoria”

Dr. Dorothy Mindenall, a Victoria-based architectural historian, described many fascinating local projects that were proposed but not actually constructed in our provincial capital. Her talk revealed we might have had a landmark building known as the Civic Centre on Cathedral Hill in 1957. Freeways were once proposed to cross through the City with the idea of faster and more efficient transportation routes. Our familiar Christ Church Cathedral went through a number of proposals and changes in design over the years and might have been presented a quite different sky-line. In all it was a fascinating glimpse into what might have been and the audience found much to ask and comment on.

18 November 2012

“British Columbia, A New Historical Atlas”

Derek Hayes specializes in historical atlases, like the one featured in this presentation. He explained that the new historical atlas was the culmination of over a decade of research and detective work. The new publication goes well beyond the coverage of his earlier, and much acclaimed, Historical Atlas of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest (1999). This volume contains an unprecedented collection of over 900 maps, most of which have not been published before. They include treaty, military, mining, promotional, railway, and real estate maps.

21 October 2012

“Above Stairs and Beyond”

Valerie Green, who has written more than a dozen books on BC history, described the social life of Victoria residents who occupied the upper and lower classes of the city before 1920. She emphasized the stories and contributions made by both upper and lower class women during this historical period. Her presentation underscored that October 2012 was Women’s History Month in Canada.

9 September 2012

“Vancouver Island’s Imperial Past”

Professor John Bosher of Ottawa, who was born in North Saanich, has recently published two books on Vancouver Island prior to 1950. The books are entitled Vancouver Island in the Empire and Imperial Vancouver Island: Who Was Who, 1850-1950. In an entertaining lecture, he argued that that emigrants and expatriates from Britain, and possessions in the British Empire, gave a distinctive imperial character to the Island. The character faded after the Second World War, when Vancouver Island was “Canadianized” and, worse, “Americanized,” by outsiders from Canada who did not value or understand the region’s imperial past.

27 May 2012

“The Colonial Glory of Colwood, Langford, and View Royal”

Maureen Duffus, a local historian and former journalist, explained that Victoria’s nearby communities of Colwood, Langford, and View Royal, trace their roots to the colonial era. She described the significance of Craigflower Farm, the 4 Mile and 6 Mile roadhouses, and the saw mills, grain mills, and bakeries that provisioned the Royal Navy establishment at Esquimalt.

22 April 2012

“The Italians of Store and Johnson Streets, Victoria”

Lynne Bowen, a Nanaimo-based historian, is the author of several books about Vancouver Island. In this presentation, she remarked that many Italians who came to BC in the 19th century were sojourners, who intended to take the money they earned back to Italy. But the Italian immigrants who prospered as merchants in Victoria came to the city with the intention of settling permanently here and making a mark on local society. They included grocery store proprietors, hoteliers, marble cutters, and coffee merchants.

18 March 2012

“The Dragon of the St. George Hotel”

Marie Elliot, a former editor of B. C. History and long-serving director of the Friends of the BC Archives, and architectural historian Martin Segger, of the University of Victoria, gave an illustrated lecture about Victoria’s most elegant hotel in the gold rush era, the St. George, which stood on View Street. It was designed by John Wright for the first owners, Louis and Fanny Bendizen. Marie and Martin noted that politicians, jurists, travellers, and eccentrics were among the hotels distinguished guests. They also described other buildings that Wright designed in Victoria.

19 February 2012

“Unseen BC”

Dennis Duffy, archivist and film historian, introduced selected highlights from old films that had been preserved and digitized thanks to funding provided by the Friends of the BC Archives. Dennis showed excerpts from the new transfers, with BC government productions, advertising shorts, home movies, and unedited footage shot between 1928 and 1955 that offer interesting glimpses of rural and small-town life, childhood, travel, bee-keeping, outdoor recreation, and the life of a lone hand logger.

22 January 2012

“Victoria, 1911: Vanished and visible landscapes”

Modern Victoria took shape in the Edwardian era, according to Dr. Patrick Dunae, an historian and former archivist. In this presentation, he described the creation of an historical geographical information system [GIS] of Victoria, using digital versions of archival records such as fire insurance plans, maps, and photographs. Using nominal records from the 1911 census, he revealed the makeup of households in now vanished residential neighbourhoods such as Rock Bay, residents of prestigious apartment blocks like October Mansions and Mount Edwards, and staff in the landmark Empress Hotel.

20 November 2011

“Explorations into Strathcona Park”

Michael Layland, a map historian, former president of the Victoria Historical Society, and a director of the Friends of the BC Archives, gave an illustrated talk about Strathcona Park on Vancouver Island, which was created by provincial statute in 1911. He described how this spectacular piece of land came to be known, explored, and mapped. He showed how the boundaries of the park have changed over the years and recounted stories about some of the toponyms (place names) within the park.

16 October 2011

“James A. Teit and the Making of a (First) Peoples’ History”

Following the business portion of the AGM, Dr. Wendy Wickwire, who teaches in the History Department and School of Environmental Studies at UVic, shared details from her upcoming book about ethnographer James A. Teit. From his home in Spence’s Bridge, Teit advocated for indigenous groups in BC, Washington, Idaho, and Montana from 1884 until his death in 1922. He published nearly a dozen major monographs about native basketry, ethnobotany, and pictography, and compiled extensive field notes with accompanying maps, photographs, and audio-recordings. Some of his records are preserved in the BC Archives, while examples of the basket and textile arts he encouraged are preserved in the Museum.

25 September 2011

“The Other Emily/A New Emily”

Dr. Kathryn Bridge, Manager of the BC Archives at the RBCM, was the co-curator of a new exhibit on Emily Carr at the Museum. She described how curatorial research undertaken for this exhibition uncovered new and important information about the artist. She explained how a re-examination of the Carr-related records in the BC Archives, and in other repositories, revealed new connections, more accurate dating of Carr’s creations, and details not previously known about the artist in her early years.

15 May 2011

“Lives Lived West of the Divide, 1793-1858”

Bruce McIntyre Watson, a Vancouver-based historian, provided highlights of his latest work, which is a three-volume biographical dictionary of fur traders, and their families, who worked west of the Rockies prior to 1858. He has documented no less than 3,500 people who lived and worked in a vast region that stretched from northern BC to southern Oregon. He described the social system that traders and their families established, and how the community changed when the fur trade era closed.

17 April 2011

“Richard McBride: A Young British Columbian in a Young Province”

Dr. Patricia Roy, who has written extensively on BC history, shared some of her impressions on Sir Richard McBride. The subject of her new biography became premier of the province in 1903 when he was just 32 years old. Not only did the New Westminster born politician introduce party politics to the province, he campaigned for better terms in BC-Dominion government relations, and presided over a period of remarkable economic development. Dr. Roy illustrated McBride’s life and his political career with photographs and contemporary cartoons.

20 March 2011

“Images from the Likeness House”

Dan Savard, senior collections manager of the Anthropology Audio Visual Collection at the RBCM, gave an illustrated presentation about his recently-published book, Images from the Likeness House. The publication was the culmination of a project that spanned three decades, he said. The project explores the relationship between First Nations people in BC, Alaska, and Washington State, and the photographers who made images of them. He presented examples of some remarkable images, as they have survived, without digital enhancements.

20 February 2011

“Ocean Falls: The Place that Time Forgot”

Archivist Claire Gilbert gave an illustrated talk on her monumental project, to process an immense number of records from the pulp and paper mill-town of Ocean Falls. If the records were stacked in boxes, they would be six times the height of the Carillon Tower. She provided an outline history of the town at the head of Cousins Inlet, from its start in the early 1900s to its demise in 1983. Claire, who joined the BC Archives staff in 2001, explained what the records tell us about the business operations at Ocean Falls, a quintessential company town, and why this project was an important exercise in archival preservation.

23 January 2011

“Are we there yet? The evolution of Canada as a more equal, just, and accepting society”

Masako and Stanley Fukawa of Nanaimo described the research behind their new book, Spirit of the Nikkei Fleet: BC’s Japanese Canadian Fishermen (2010), and an earlier work, ‘Nikkei Fishermen on the BC Coast.’ Their goal was to present the many voices of the Nikkei in the fishing community and their struggles in shaping Canada’s future. While the Nikkei encountered discrimination and prejudices, the host society eventually became much more liberal and accommodating. This social process, they said, is still evolving.

21 November 2010

“Forgotten Voices, Marginalized Voices: Using child-created records to document nineteenth century settler children in British Columbia”

Kathryn Bridge, a senior manager at the RBCM, and a Ph.D candidate in History at the University of Victoria, was our guest speaker. She began her talk with a question: Why is it that historians have underutilized or avoided incorporating records created by children such as diaries and letters when researching and writing? The perspectives of children, she said, are important and no less valid than the perspectives of adult observers. In this talk, Kathryn provided examples of child-created records and demonstrated how they offer evidence about family relationships, gender roles, community life and, generally, the anxieties and expectations of growing-up.

17 October 2010

“Wild and Picturesque: The British Contribution to Early British Columbia Photography”

Following the business portion of the AGM, David Mattison, the RBCM’s Visual Records archivist, and an author and historian, described the images and impressions of British photographers, such as Francis George Claudet, who settled in New Westminster in 1860. David also described the work of British photographers in the Klondike Gold Rush. He discussed the comparative aesthetics of the photographs, and their role in promoting immigration and investment, as well as the educational and entertainment value of the 19th century pictures.

26 September 2010

“Canada’s Navy 1910-2010: a Centennial Story

Our guest speaker, Michael L. Hadley, is a naval historian and Professor Emeritus at University of Victoria. In his presentation, he argued that Canada’s navy has been a major force in nation-building. Its history has been shaped not only by domestic and international politics, but by the pressures of global concerns and technology. It is a distinctly Canadian institution. During his talk, Professor Hadley highlighted key themes, events and people in Canadian naval history. He also reflected on the delights of sleuthing in archives while conducting historical research.

20 June 2010

Field trip and special tour and lunch at the Sooke Museum

On this occasion, the Friends enjoyed a special guided tour of the Sooke Region Museum, Triangle Island Lighthouse and Moss Cottage, and delicious luncheon.

16 May 2010

“Peter O’Reilly: The Rise of a Reluctant Immigrant”

Lynne Stonier Newman, a freelance writer, historian, and communications consultant, described the public and private life of Peter O’Reilly. An immigrant from Ireland, O’Reilly served as gold commissioner, county court judge and, from 1880-1890, as BC Indian Reserves Land Commissioner. Many of his decisions about the location and size of Indian reserves, she said, continue to be challenged in court. O’Reilly had many acquaintances, and two close friends, Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie and Edward Dewdney. He and his wife, Caroline (nee Trutch) and their children lived at Point Ellice House, which is now a heritage site. Lynne described how she used records in the BC Archives and other institutions to write her biography of O’Reilly.

18 April 2010

“Violent and Unnatural Death: A Look at Coroners’ Records at the BC Archives”

Archivist Ann ten Cate gave an illustrated talk about some of BC’s most famous incidents and accidents and the historical role of the coroner in BC. The BC Archives holds all of the coroners’ records relating to inquests and inquiries from 1858 to 1970. These records, she said, give fascinating descriptions of criminal activity, workplace habits, living conditions, family life, safety standards, medical treatments – and the full range of human tragedy. The records give ‘voice’ to the men and women whose lives and deaths are examined in minute detail in these records, and whose passing may not be noted in any other way, she said. Taken as a whole, the records document society’s attempts to improve living and working conditions, and safeguard its citizens. Ann noted that these records are also useful for family historians, who may find some surprising answers to long-standing family mysteries.

21 March 2010

“Making the Wilderness Profound: From Biography to Regional History on Vancouver Island”

Dr. Richard Mackie is the author of five books on BC history and biography. One of the books, The Wilderness Profound, was conceived in 1993 when a retired surveyor in Comox asked him to write a biography of a pioneer surveyor, George Fawcett Drabble (d. 1901). Research into Drabble’s life revealed that he was not only a surveyor, bridge and road builder, but held many government offices in the Comox Valley area. Richard explained how he used Drabble’s notebooks and many other records in the BC Archives to document Drabble’s prominent place in society on the Gulf of Georgia in the Victorian era. In his illustrated talk, he described how he turned a biographical profile into a regional history. He also remarked on the largely-underappreciated potential of government records for reconstructing local history in British Columbia.

21 February 2010

“The History of Medicine in Victoria, 1850-1925” and “The House of Dr. Helmcken, Colonial Physician”

Stuart Kenning, M.D., and Lorne Hammond, Ph.D, discussed aspects of health care in the past. Dr. Kenning represents the third generation of his family in Victoria to practice medicine here. He discussed his interest in the restoration of the Pemberton Operating Room at the Royal Jubilee Hospital and showed surgical instruments used by early physicians. He described the enormous changes in medicine that took place during Dr. Helmcken’s lifetime. Dr. Hammond, the Curator of History at the RBCM, described his work in the interpretation of Helmcken House and its archives and artifacts. He also spoke about recent efforts to preserve and maintain the house, which is one of Victoria’s oldest structures.

17 January 2010

“Keepers of the Record: The History of the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives”

Deidre Simmons, a founding member of the Friends of the BC Archives, discussed the research for her recent book, Keepers of the Record: The History of the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives (2009). Her book offers the first comprehensive look at the development of the HBC archives and the contributions of HBC record keepers over a span of three centuries. She explained how the HBC Archives are significant with respect to the history of England and Canada, and how the illuminate British and Canadian archival traditions. Deidre holds a Master’s degree in Archival Studies from the University of Manitoba and has worked for many years as an independent archives consultant.

8 November 2009

“160th anniversary of the founding of the Colony of Vancouver Island”

The Friends presented this symposium to mark the founding of the colony of Vancouver Island, by statute, on 28 July 1849. Participants included Richard Mackie, author, biographer, and historian, who gave a talk entitled “Ideal for Trade and Commerce: Vancouver Island Colony before the Gold Rush; UVic historian John Lutz, whose presentation was entitled “Useless, Useful or Used? Aboriginal workers and the economy of early Vancouver Island;” and Sylvia Van Kirk, historian and author of several works relating to the fur trade. Her session was entitled “Celebrating Victoria’s Pioneers: Walter Sims, W.J. Macdonald and Rev. E. Cridge. Governor Richard Blanshard [a.k.a. historian John Adams] made a special guest appearance!

18 October 2009

“Macdonald’s Bank: A Tale of Murder and Mayhew, 1859-1864”

After the business portion of the AGM, Ron Greene, a numismatic historian and secretary-treasurer of the Friends of the BC Archives, described the activities of a private banking firm during Vancouver Island’s colonial period. Macdonald’s Bank was the first bank in Canada west of the Great Lakes. It was also the victim of the first bank robbery in Western Canada. In describing the bank’s short history, Ron regaled the audience with tales of robbery, piracy, rape, and murder!

20 September 2009

“Bringing out the Furs in 1847”

Marie Elliott, author, historian, and Friends of the BC Archives Board member, gave an illustrated lecture on the fur brigades deployed by the Hudson’s Bay Company in New Caledonia. She explained how the brigades transported 8,000 pounds of furs from Fort St. James to Fort Vancouver in the 1840s. This was dangerous work. The brigades, numbering 200 or more horses, had to negotiate the rapids of the Fraser and Columbia Rivers. She introduced her new book, Fort St. James and New Caledonia: Where British Columbia Began (2009).

31 May 2009

“Surveyors and Map Makers: A Walking Tour of Ross Bay Cemetery with Michael Layland”

In conjunction with the Old Cemeteries Society of Victoria, cartographic historian and Friends of BC Archives director Michael Layland conducted a tour of the grave sites of pioneer mapmakers and geographers in Victoria’s historic Ross Bay cemetery.

19 April 2009

“Voices from the Sound: Chronicles of Clayoquot Sound and Tofino, 1899-1929”

Margaret Horsfield gave a lively and colourful presentation about research into her new book Voices from the Sound: Chronicles of Clayoquot Sound and Tofino, 1899-1929 (2008). Her book, she explained, is based almost entirely on original letters and diaries. It’s no small wonder that she heard ‘voices’ from a century ago! Of central importance was MS-1076, the Dawley Papers, a large manuscript collection in the BC Archives. Walter Dawley was a prominent merchant at Clayoquot Sound for many decades. He kept almost all of his paperwork and incoming correspondence during his long career. Another important source for this book, Margaret said, was the archives of Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon, which documented the work of Roman Catholic missionaries on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Our guest speaker is a writer and former journalist, and author of Cougar Annie’s Garden (1999), which won the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional History book prize in 2000.

29 March 2009

“Building BC’s First Natural Gas Pipeline: Energy in the 1950s”

Dr. Lorne Hammond, the RBCM’s Curator of History, has a special interest in environmental history. In this illustrated talk, he described the physical and political construction of Canada’s first natural gas pipeline, which was built by Westcoast Transmission and ‘maverick oilman’ Frank McMahon. His presentation anticipates a new book on the history of energy in BC.

22 February 2009

“BC History is your history, too”

Our guest speaker was Dave Obee, a senior editor for the Times Colonist newspaper, and a well-known genealogist and historian. He took the Friends on a metaphorical quest, as he chased one of his BC ancestors through time. The rich history of our province, he said, has created much of the human environment and shaped our lives today. Archives help genealogists gain a better sense of their family histories and help everyone develop a deeper understanding of their communities, he said. In this engaging presentation, he demonstrated that ‘History is everywhere’ and that our own lives are intertwined with our community and its past, whether we realize it or not.

18 January 2009

“Tourism, Leisure and Labour on the Forbidden Plateau: Vancouver Island, 1925-1939”

Jenny Clayton, an instructor in History at the University of Victoria, spoke about her research on the development of tourism and outdoor recreational activities in Forbidden Plateau west of Courtenay. She described the invention and advertisement of Forbidden Plateau as a landscape of adventure. She explained that in the first quarter of the 20th century, the area was home to trappers and prospectors. By the 1930s – thanks, in part, to advocates like the Comox District Mountaineering Club – it became a playground for tourists and local residents.

16 November 2008

“Viewpoints: A Symposium on British Columbia History, 1858, 1908, and 1958”

This symposium in Victoria considered BC history from three vantage points. Sylvia Van Kirk, who has written extensively on the First Nations, Metis, and Hudson’s Bay Company, gave a talk entitled ‘The Past is not Prologue: The Hudson’s Bay Company and the Making of British Columbia.’ She spoke about aboriginal relations with the fur trade and gold rush/colonial society, and discussed her research on HBC families in colonial Victoria. Terry Eastwood, Professor Emeritus of Archival Studies at UBC, spoke on the formation of the Provincial Archives in 1908. He related the event to the prosperity and expansion of BC during the Edwardian boom years. Robert A. J. McDonald, professor of History at UBC, described the 1958 provincial centennial celebrations as a symbol of modern BC. The symposium was moderated by Sue Baptie, retired City Archivist, City of Vancouver Archives. [A second symposium, with the same speakers, was held in Vancouver on 22 November in conjunction with the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives. The moderator was Dr. Patricia Roy, Professor Emeritus, University of Victoria.]

19 October 2008

“Early Explorations of Vancouver Island”

Following the business portion of our AGM, Michael Layland, cartographic historian and Friends of BC Archives director, described work on his forthcoming book on the early exploration and mapping of Vancouver Island. He discussed his research in the collections of the BC Archives, which he called a ‘treasure trove’ of maps, paintings, photographs, and early travel accounts. He commented on the challenges and rewards of this type of research.

21 September 2008

“Are we there yet? On the road in BC Travelogues, 1940-1970”

Archivist and film historian Dennis J. Duffy presented highlights from some of the travelogues. In the middle decades of the 20th century, he explained, the BC government used motion pictures to promote tourism. Made largely in-house, these films reflected the era’s optimism, as well as the rising importance of automobiles and highways to the vacation traveller.

25 May 2008

A walking tour of James Bay

Historian and heritage interpreter John Adams led a walking tour that started from the Reference Room of the BC Archives, where Friends examined some early maps of the James Bay neighbourhood of Victoria. They proceeded to the Parliament Buildings precinct and along Belleville Street towards Fishermen’s Wharf. This was an opportunity to take a literal step into the past and view James Bay through the eyes of the people who planned and resided in the community, before the current commercial development of the Inner Harbour.

20 April 2008

“St. Margaret’s School: 100 Years of History”

Deidre Simmons, archivist, author, and director of the Friends of the BC Archives, provided a fascinating talk on St. Margaret’s School (1908), the oldest independent school on Vancouver Island. The all-girls academy, she said, was founded by Edith and Isobel Fenwick. She described some of the milestones in the school’s history, including a shipwreck in 1911 that claimed the lives of the school founders, and some of the many memorable people associated with the school. She also described her work to establish the school archives and research for her new book, Servite in Caritate: The First 100 Years of St. Margaret’s School (2008).

16 March 2008

“The Trail of 1858: British Columbia’s Gold Rush Past”

Authors Greg Dickson and Mark Forsythe (of CBC Radio’s Almanac program) spoke about their new book, which celebrates the anniversary of the 1858 Gold Rush and the founding of the Colony of British Columbia. The book combines their own research and contributions from listeners who recounted their own family legends about this seminal event in B.C.’s history.

24 February 2008

“A ‘Certain Slackness’ in Administrative Procedures: BC’s Civil Service, 1870s – 1940s”

Robert A. J. (Bob) McDonald, a member of the History Department at the University of British Columbia, spoke about the “blatant pandering to patronage” and reluctant embrace of the merit principle that characterized public administration in British Columbia well into the twentieth century. He said that the “dismissal without notice” in September 1898 of poor Miss Wooley, secretary to three premiers through the 1890s, symbolized the history of BC’s civil service up to the Second World War.

20 January 2008

“The Summer of Love”

Producer/director Stan Fox presented a collection of archival films shot in and around Vancouver during the ‘psychedelic’ 1960s, including the film “What Happened Last Summer,” his 1967 CBC program on the turbulent hippie movement in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood. Stan has spent a long career in the realm of film and television production in Vancouver and Toronto and served on numerous film and television festival juries.