22 November 2018

The Royal British Columbia Museum, 20 October 2018

One of the gems of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada is the Royal British Columbia Museum, located on Belleville Street near the city's Inner Harbour and the provincial legislature.  Home to a vast collection of over seven million natural and man-made artefacts, the museum was founded in 1886 and moved to its current building on 16 August 1968.  Along with a special gallery displaying travelling exhibits, the museum houses permanent galleries devoted to British Columbia's natural history, its First Nations people, and its European settlement and subsequent economic development to the present day.  Your MoMI curator spent nearly six hours in the museum on 20 October 2018 and presents you with this comprehensive photo tour of key highlights.

Museum Grounds

The Native Plant Garden in front of the Royal British Columbia Museum was planted in 1968, the same year the museum opened.  The gardens are home to more than 400 tree, shrub, and herbaceous plant species native to British Columbia, including the camas plant, whose bulbs were cooked and eaten by the Salish people of Vancouver Island.  These west coast native species are adapted to the coastal climate of mild, moist winters and dry summers.  Organised by vegetation zone, the plants are grouped into Coast Forest, Dry Interior, and Alpine beds, with two beds dedicated to sand dune and wetland habitats, respectively.

The Netherlands Centennial Carillon, a 62-bell carillon standing in front of the Royal British Columbia Museum at the corner of Belleville and Government Streets. A gift from the Dutch community of British Columbia to commemorate Canada's role in the liberation of the Netherlands during the Second World War, the cornerstone of the carillon was unveiled by Queen Juliana of the Netherlands during Canada's centenary year of 1967 and the carillon opened in May 1968. The carillon's first 49 bells were cast at the Royal Bell Foundry in Aarle-Rixtel in the Netherlands, with an additional 13 bells being added in 1971.

Mungo Martin House, a Kwagu'ł ceremonial house on the grounds of the Royal British Columbia Museum. A sign in front of the house notes that the house is part of the hereditary cultural property of Chief David Knox of Fort Rupert. The Kwagu'ł are a Kwakwaka'wakw tribe of the aboriginal peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast on northern Vancouver Island.

Several totem poles carved by British Columbia aboriginal tribes are displayed on the grounds of the Royal British Columbia Museum.

Standing in the grounds of the Royal BC Museum are various historical structures from First Nations and European settlers, including Helmcken House seen here.  A statue of Doctor John Sebastian Helmcken stands outside the house.  Helmcken arrived in Fort Victoria in 1850 to work as a physician for the Hudson's Bay Company and established his first home, a small log cabin, on this site in 1852.  As his family grew, he built the house seen in the photo, which is one of the oldest homes in western Canada.  Helmcken practised medicine during British Columbia's fur trade, gold rush, and colonial eras, and also served as the Speaker of the First Legislative Assembly of Vancouver Island in 1856.  Although initially opposed to Confederation with Canada, he travelled with the British Columbia delegation to Ottawa in 1870 to negotiate the terms of British Columbia's accession, after which he retired from politics and returned to his medical practice.  John Sebastian Helmcken lived in this house until his death in 1920.  In 1939, his family transferred the house and Dr Helmcken's memoirs to the provincial government.      

The main entrance to the Royal British Columbia Museum.

The lobby and ticket counter of the Royal British Columbia Museum.

Front and reverse sides of an adult admission ticket to the Royal British Columbia Museum, 20 October 2018.  Adult admission was $26.95 at the time of writing.

Below: Front and reverse sides of the Royal British Columbia Museum visitor guide.

Special Exhibit - Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs (18 May - 31 December 2018)

The entrance to the temporary special exhibit, Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs.

Visitors are greeted by a statue of a pharaoh, likely Amenemhet II, depicted in a standing, pacing position with hands thrust out in a way that suggests the expression of prayer.  He wears the nemes headdress and loincloth with triangular front, and his aged expression suggests a long period of rule.

Museum visitors look at a collection of statues, sculptures, and relics linked to the central importance of the Nile River to ancient Egyptian society.  A curved wall on the right displays animations and text depicting the Nile's role in transport and agriculture.  

In a gallery devoted to six notable pharaohs, a display on Ramesses II (ruled 1279-1213 BC), the third pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty and regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the New Kingdom (circa 1550-1077 BC).

A display on Khufu, the second pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty in the first half of the Old Kingdom period (26th century BC).  Khufu is best known as the pharaoh who commissioned the construction of the 44-storey high Great Pyramid of Giza.  The display contains a model of Khufu's barque, a sailing ship entombed with Khufu for his journey through the afterlife.  Before burial, the model was dismantled into 1,224 parts and only excavated and restored upon its discovery in 1954.  Also on display are a relief bearing the name of Khufu, believed to come from one of his son's tombs, and a relief fragment from the Great Pyramid temple complex at Giza depicting a goddess.  

A relief insert of Thutmose III (reigned 1479-1425 BC), depicting the god Heh kneeling on the hieroglyph for 'feast' while raising a cartouche bearing the name of Thutmose III.  As the word 'heh' also means 'millions', this artefact may express Thutmost III's hope for countless anniversaries of his rule. 

A rose granite head of Amenhotep III, once part of a larger funerary figure (shabti) of the king.  Amenhotep III was the ninth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty and ruled between 1391 and 1353 or 1388 and 1351 BC, a period of unprecedented prosperity and artistic achievement in ancient Egypt, and when the empire reached the peak of its international power.

Visitors watch a video on the pharaohs and inspect various artefacts from the reign of six notable Egyptian pharaohs.  As a display notes, pharaohs were more than kings, being seen as descended from the sun god Ra and thus representing the divine on earth and mediating between gods and humans.  Beginning with Menes and ending with Cleopatra, Egypt was ruled by about 170 pharaohs.

A sphinx sculpture dating from the Ptolemaic period (3rd to 1st century BC).  The sphinx was a manifestation of the sun god at the horizon and sculptures of them often guarded temple entrances.  The largest and most prominent sphinx, which rests near the Pyramids of Giza, takes a common form, combining a lion's body with a pharaoh's head; however, at Karnak, sphinxes take the form of ram-headed lions, evoking the main temple god, Amun-Ra, who can appear as a ram.

A display of earthenware bowls, vases, and jugs used by ancient Egyptians in their domestic lives.  In the Old Kingdom, serving bowls of different styles were used to present offerings, their material and quality varying according to their intended purpose and the status of their owner.

Three clay bottles made in the Greco-Roman period (3rd century BC to 3rd century AD).  These bottles, excavated in western Thebes, are simple and well-suited to travel due to their portable shapes and sizes and would have featured clay or linen plugs.

A display of various small ancient Egyptian statues.

A sandstone stele (slab) dedicated to Sobek-Nakht, the guild master of the table of the ruler, who was in charge of the dining table for the prince of Elkab and thus responsible for food storage and preparation, as well as supervision of kitchen staff.  This stele dates from the Middle Kingdom, 13th Dynasty (circa 1600 BC).

A few of the many shabtis on display in the display devoted to ancient Egypt's belief in the afterlife.  The shabti was a small servant figurine that accompanied the dead to the grave and worked on the deceased's behalf in the afterlife.  The word 'shabti' meant 'responder', since the shabti responds to a call to work.  In the New Kingdom, a shabti was required for every day of the year and kept in a special shabti box. 

Natural History Gallery

The entrance to the Royal British Columbia Museum's permanent display on the natural history of the province.

A display about the Late Cretaceous Epoch (66-100 million years ago), during which global temperatures were 10-15 degrees Celsius warmer than today.  The fossils displayed here are of clams, ammonites (molluscs), crabs, cycads, and palms that once flourished locally. 

A display on the Pleistocene Epoch, a series of cold and warm periods between 2.6 million and 12,000 years ago, during which time huge glaciers formed and melted and sea levels fluctuated.  The display includes fossilised teeth of the woolly mammoth, as well as bones and tusks of the giant land animals that roamed the tundra and grasslands of the Pleistocene era.

A life-sized mannequin of a woolly mammoth, which once lived all over North and Central America, including on Vancouver Island.  With insulating hair a metre long, the mammoths used their enormous tusks to dig through snow to grasses and other plants that served as their main food, consuming a soccer field's worth of tundra grass and lichen every day.  As the glaciers melted, woolly mammoth and other megafauna populations declined, with the mammoths largely gone by 10,000 years ago due to rapid climate change and human hunting.  The last woolly mammoths lived on Wrangel Island, off Siberia, 3,700 years ago. 

A large diorama depicting forests from five sites on the British Columbia coast at different stages of development.
This section of the exhibit depicts the dry coastal forest which covers areas of southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, where winter rainfall is moderate and summers are dry.  Douglas fir trees dominate the lower, drier lands east of the southern Vancouver Island mountains, while rare Garry oak meadows support arbutus and Garry oaks in open, park-like settings on well-drained southern slopes and rocky outcrops.  Ocean-spray, salal, and other shrubs grow beneath the forest canopies, while drought tolerant licorice ferns, stonecrops, and mosses live on open, rocky knolls.  Animal species depicted in the dry coastal forest diorama include the Columbian black-tailed deer, chestnut-backed chicakdee, band-tailed pigeon, Bewick's wren, and the cougar. 

A representation of the Stand of the Giants forest, Cathedral Grove, near Port Alberni, BC.  Here a herd of Roosevelt elk forage beneath giant Douglas firs and western red cedars which can grow to enormous sizes (up to 100 metres tall and 4 metres in diameter) in the moist climate and deep soils of a coastal valley.  Ferns, shrubs, and hemlock seedlings grow on the forest floor.  

A grizzly bear hunts salmon in this diorama of the Northern Coast River Flat, Kateen River, near Prince Rupert, BC.  The forest stream allows light beneath the forest canopy, keeps the soil moist, and distributes nutrients along its path.  Red alders grow along the riverbed where more sunlight can reach them, while consistent soil dampness encourages the growth of plants like skunk's cabbage and devil's club.  A salmon carcass rots in the stream after the fish has spawned, its body serving to feed upland animals and fertilise streamside forests.  In addition to the grizzly, other animals represented in this diorama include the western screech owl, common raven, red-breasted sapsucker, winter wren, and Douglas' squirrel. 

A display of intertidal zone animals and birds, including the black oystercatcher, raccoon, great blue heron, mink, and sea otter.

A diorama depicting British Columbia's outer coast, where plants and animals have adapted to cope with heavy surf and strong winds.  These include the northern sea lion, a pack of which is seen here lounging on the rocks.  The northern sea lion is the largest of the eared seals, with males growing up to four metres long and weighing over 1,000 kilograms.  The larger males arrive on rocky beaches in May and establish territories that they defend from other males.  Pregnant females arrive later, with each giving birth to a single pup and, within weeks, mate with the dominant male in the territory. 

An exhibit on the Fraser River delta, the largest estuary on North America's Pacific coast.

A diorama depicting bird life in a typical marsh in the Fraser River delta.

The last exhibit in the Natural History gallery is devoted to ocean species and is designed to resemble a Jules Verne-like undersea research station.  A variety of hands-on, interactive displays are designed to appeal to children.

A display of crabs, including the red box crab (top); tanner crab (middle); and Alaska king crab (bottom).

A fan coral (left) and red tree coral (right) on display in the undersea exhibit.

Human History Galleries

The entrance to the Human History galleries of the Royal British Columbia Museum.

The Human History galleries comprise exhibits on First Peoples' history and European settlement history.  

A cutaway reconstruction of a typical log-roofed kekuli, or pithouse, an earth lodge built underground by the aboriginals of the interior of British Columbia in the pre-Contact era.  Kekuli were used as housing and also for storage of foodstuffs and for cooking.  Dug into the ground with a domed roof of timbers and an earth covering, access to a kekuli was typically by a slide hole or ladder through the fire hole at the top of the roof.   

A display of stone hammers used by the First Nations communities of coastal British Columbia, which developed their woodcarving skills about 3,000 years ago with the formation of the coastal Western Redcedar forests.  The Western Redcedar was the most important plant to coastal First Nations, used in almost every aspect of their lives.  Its soft, straight-grained wood was easy to chop, split, and carve.  Using hand-held stone tools, coastal aboriginals crafted large houses out of cedar timbers and planks.  For example, the Coast Salish people built fixed post-and-beam framework homes measuring between 6 and 18 metres in width and between 12 and 36 metres in length, capable of housing several families.        

A display of stone bowls used by aboriginal communities of the southern British Columbia coast and excavated at sites dating back 2,000 years.  Although archaeologists are not sure what the bowls were used for, more recent bowls (i.e. 200 years old) found in other parts of the province were used as mortars for grinding paint pigments or native tobacco.
Display cases contain artefacts used by British Columbia aboriginal communities for sport, hunting, fishing, and ceremonial purposes.

A display of animal hide clothing and the tools used by aboriginals in the preparation of such clothing, a labour-intensive task usually performed by women.  After skinning the animal, the woman scraped off the remaining flesh, after which the hide was soaked to loosen the hair to aid in its removal.  An oily paste made from brain and fat was then worked into the hide to ensure softness and flexibility, with wringing of the hide also used to aid in the softening.  Following this, the hide would be soaked, dried, and stretched on a frame, after which another vigorous rubbing would be performed to further soften the hide.  The hide was usually smoked as the final step in the process. 

The clothing and regalia of an aboriginal chief of a coastal First Nations community.  Coastal communities were led by powerful chiefs who controlled economic resources and important ceremonial privileges.  Chiefly wealth, rights, and privileges have been handed down through generations and can be increased through potlatching, marriage, warfare, and trade.  The chief mannequin here is adorned with various items from the Nisga'a and Gitxsan communities, including a raven rattle, chilkat robe, neck ring, headdress plaque, dance apron, and dance leggings.  

A display of various elaborately-carved chiefs' staffs, symbols of the power and authority of the tribal chiefs.

A display of hats and headdress plaques used by various aboriginal communities of British Columbia.  

Two Haida shaman figures.  In the last decades of the 19th century, Haida artists began to produce curios which portrayed subjects and scenes formerly considered taboo.  The depiction of esteemed figures such as shamans in ritual regalia likely reflects the breaking down of traditional Haida cultural values under the weight of population loss and the work of Christian missionaries.

A display of aboriginal handicrafts and ceremonial items in the period after first contact with European explorers and settlers.  Manufactured goods became available in greater numbers with the emergence of a strong, land-based fur trade following the 1821 merger of the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company.  Introduced materials, like woolen blankets and colourful beads, quickly assumed economic and cultural importance for aboriginal communities.  Woolen blankets became a major trade item on the coast.  Decorated with mother-of-pearl buttons, abalone shells, and cloth applique designs, they were used as ceremonial robes.  Beads and, later, silk thread were adopted as decorative materials by interior aboriginal communities, supplementing traditional materials, like porcupine quills.     

Display cases lining the corridor contain hundreds of aboriginal artefacts from the post-Contact period, including hand tools, trade goods, and artwork manufactured for curious European collectors. 

A scale model of Ḵ'uuna Llnagaay, also known as Skedans, a Haida village at the head of the Cumshewa Inlet on the northeastern coast of Louise Island, Haida G'waii (Queen Charlotte Islands) as it would have appeared in the 1870s.  The model was painstakingly constructed over five years by a museum technician working mainly from photographs of the village taken by the Geological Survey of Canada in 1878.  Between 1836 and 1841, approximately 439 people lived in Skedans; in the 1870s, there were 16 houses and 44 totem poles in the village, reflecting the declining population due to disease, the effects of colonisation, and the departure of villagers to other population centres, such as Cumshewa and, later, the town of Skidgate.  By the 1880s there were no longer any permanent residents in Skedans.  Nevertheless, the site of Skedans is still considered home by many Haida people, and the site of the village is protected by the Haida Gwaii Watchman Program.  

A display of art made by British Columbia aboriginals for sale to European collectors.  When the sea otter trade declined around 1820, aboriginal communities sought additional sources of income.  They began creating a variety of new objects, specifically made for sale to the white population.  Both traditional materials and commercial goods were used, with old techniques being employed to craft innovative forms and designs, often based on European prototypes.  On display here are woven baskets, carved miniature totem poles, masks, picture frames, walking canes, and tableware.    

A carved raven mask of the Nuxulk people, also called the Bella Coola.  Bella Coola art is characterised by bold, bulbous carving, with surface painting consisting of solid 'u' forms, both following and crossing carved planes.  Bella Coola masks were generally used as representations of supernatural beings inhabiting various worlds above and below the earth.

The centrepiece of the First Peoples exhibit is a collection of intricately-carved historic house poles.  

The painted pole on the left is a Haida house post, placed inside the house of a chief of the Eagle clan in the village of Skidegate.  The pole depicts a raven with two frogs, a man or boy, and a hawk or thunderbird holding a whale in its talons.

Spotlights illuminate the museum's diverse collection of carved wooden house poles from a variety of different aboriginal communities and clans.

The interior of a Kwakiutl house belonging to the late Jonathan Hunt, Chief Kwakwabalasami, of Fort Rupert, British Columbia.  The frontal painting on the house, the carved posts, dance screen, speaker's figure, log drum, and other ceremonial objects reflect the rights this Kwakiutl chief inherited from his parents or obtained through marriage.  By a legal agreement, Chief Kwakwabalasami permitted the Royal British Columbia Museum to exhibit his house and some of his privileges.  The house and its furnishings were mostly carved by the chief's son, Henry Hunt, and grandson, Tony Hunt. 

A display of argillite carvings of the collection of Francis and Kay Reif of Vancouver.  Over 20 years, the Reifs acquired outstanding examples of all kinds of argillite sculpture, donating the entire collection of 111 items to the Royal British Columbia Museum in 1978.  Argillite is a dense, soft, black shale composed of fine mineral clay and carbon that have been modified by heat.  Wet when quarried, argillite is slowly and carefully dried before being carved with ordinary woodworking tools.  The Haida people obtain argillite from a quarry reserved for their exclusive use on Slatechuk Creek, near Skidegate, Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands).  This case displays argillite sculptures depicting shamans and tribal chiefs, as well as figure groups carved between 1880 and 1900; with traditional culture breaking down amongst the Haida people in the late-19th century, artists carved images of tribal chiefs and shamans, figures who would never have previously been depicted on tourist art when their authority held sway. 

A collection of argillite carvings, including platters, chests, poles, candlesticks, and inkwells, dating from the period 1885-1920.  Haida artists continued the argillite tradition through years of suppression of their traditional culture by civil and religious authorities, paving the way for modern Haida art forms, such as those practised by well-known Haida artist Bill Reid.   

The entrance to the Becoming BC exhibit, which traces the province's colonial era history from the 1770s.

Visitors enter the gallery via a mock-up of the stern section of Captain George Vancouver's ship, HMS Discovery, which departed Falmouth, England on 1 April 1791 on a surveying and mapping mission to the northwest coast of North America.  In company with HMS Chatham, Captain Vancouver aboard Discovery spent three summers mapping the coast of what would become British Columbia.  Although a strict disciplinarian, Vancouver cared for his crew and lost only five men out of 180 during the four year, 105,000 kilometre journey.  HMS Discovery was a three-masted sloop of war, measuring only 29 metres long, armed with 10 four-pounder guns and 10 swivel guns, and crewed by 99 men. 

A reconstruction of Captain Vancouver's cabin aboard HMS Discovery.  In 1792, during his mapping mission to the Pacific coast, Captain Vancouver also met with Spanish commander Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra at Friendly Cover on Vancouver Island to negotiate their countries' respective claims to the Nootka territory.  Although many issues remained unresolved, the two men departed on friendly terms.  Captain Vancouver had first visited the British Columbia coast in 1778 as a midshipman aboard a previous ship named HMS Discovery, then captained by James Cook.  Following his return from British Columbia in 1794, Vancouver spent his remaining years preparing his journals for publication, before dying in 1798.      

A display case holds artefacts from the period of British, Spanish, and Russian colonial rivalry over the Pacific Northwest coast of North America, including replica uniforms of Captain George Vancouver (right); Russian naval officer Captain Aleksey Chirikov (middle); and Spanish naval officer Captain Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra (left).  The case also contains the dagger allegedly used by Native Hawaiians to kill Captain James Cook at Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii on 14 February 1779; although it is of Spanish origin and quite different from the traditional weapons used by native Hawaiians, the natives may have acquired it from Cook or with Spanish traders. 

The maritime gallery, showcasing British Columbia's nautical history, including the province's shipbuilding industry, the naval presence, coastal ferry services, and the Canadian Pacific Steamship Line's operations across the Pacific Ocean. 

Made to resemble the wood-panelled saloon of an old passenger steamship, the maritime gallery's display cases are filled with ship models, uniforms, promotional pamphlets, shipboard tableware, and other artefacts. 

A display on coastal ferry services in British Columbia, including tableware from Canadian Pacific, Canadian National, and Union Line steamships, a model of the CPR steamship Princess Victoria (1902), and various colourful pamphlets advertising the various coastal destinations served by the ships.  The large brass bell in the centre of the photo is from the Princess Victoria.  

A collection of promotional guides and pamphlets for various coastal shipping lines that once operated along the British Columbia coast.  The province's long and rugged coastline could not have been settled, nor its resources developed, without reliable sea transport.  Steamship services became essential economic and social links along the coast, with many coastal ferries operating for decades; however, the advent of air travel and the construction of good road links led to the decline and cancellation of coastal steamship services by the late 1950s.

A model of the Margaret Haney, one of 12 five-masted Mabel Brown wooden auxiliary schooners built in British Columbia shipyards under the Aid to Shipping Act (1916) during the First World War.  Made of local timber, these schooners helped fill an urgent wartime need for shipping.  Margaret Haney was one of six Mabel Brown schooners built by Cameron-Genoa Mills Shipbuilders Ltd in Victoria at a cost of $150,000 each.  She measured 240 feet in length, displaced 1,470 tons, and could carry 1.5 million board feet of timber in her holds; she was powered by a Bollinder oil-fired engine driving twin propellers.  The Margaret Haney was later sold to the French.

A model of the steam-driven sternwheeler Moyie, which was the last sternwheeler to operate in southeastern British Columbia, plying the waters of Lake Kootenay for 59 years, between 1898 and 1957.  Prefabricated in sections by the Bertram Iron Works in Toronto, Ontario at a cost of $41,275, the ship was assembled by the Canadian Pacific Railway in Nelson, BC, where the company maintained a shipyard for its lake and riverine services.  It was launched on 22 October 1898 and entered service on 7 December 1898, with capacity for 250 passengers with freight or 400 passengers without freight.  Today, the Moyie has been preserved as a National Historic Site and is the world's oldest intact passenger sternwheeler, open to tourists in the village of Kaslo, BC.  The ship measures 161.7 feet in length, with a beam of 30.1 feet, and displaces 834.87 gross tons.  It was powered by two single-cylinder high pressure steam reciprocating engines, with a top speed of 14 mph (22 km/h).

A display on the naval presence in British Columbia.  The presence of the Royal Navy on the coast of British Columbia, at first occasionally, and, after 1865 on a permanent basis, brought political and military stability and contributed to the growing body of knowledge about the region.  The creation of the Royal Canadian Navy in 1910 and the Government of Canada's assumption of control over the former Royal Navy dockyard at Esquimalt, near Victoria, ensured the continuation of a permanent naval presence on Canada's west coast.  The items in this display include a seaman's cap; cap tallies from various naval vessels; a piece of oak from the hull of HMS Ganges (1821); a Lieutenant Commander's full dress uniform (circa 1920s); Royal Navy wardroom dishes (1860s-1890s); decanters and a silver tray from the wardroom of HMS Ganges; a late-19th century Royal Navy food 'digester' (i.e. pressure cooker); and models of a Royal Canadian Navy Flower-class corvette and the destroyer HMCS Skeena (1957).   

A model of a Flower-class corvette, a small antisubmarine escort vessel based on the design of oceangoing whale catchers and built during the Second World War in large numbers to serve as convoy escorts in the North Atlantic.  Flower-class corvettes measured 205 feet in length and 33 feet in beam, with a displacement of 945 tons.  They were powered by a double acting triple-expansion reciprocating steam engine providing a top speed of 16 knots (30 km/h) and a range of 3,500 nautical miles (6,482 km) at 12 knots.  As originally designed, the corvettes were crewed by 85 men and armed with one 4-inch gun, two Vickers .50 machine guns, two .303 Lewis machine guns, two depth charge throwers, and two depth charge rails with 40 depth charges.  The simple design utilising parts and construction techniques familiar to merchant shipbuilders ensured that Flower-class corvettes could be built at many small commercial shipyards around the United Kingdom and Canada, including several in British Columbia.  The Flower-class corvettes proved invaluable in the Battle of the Atlantic, providing some degree of antisubmarine protection for convoys of merchant vessels bringing war materiel from North America to the United Kingdom, filling the gap until sufficient numbers of larger, better equipped frigates and destroyers were available.                

A model of the Royal Canadian Navy St. Laurent-class destroyer escort HMCS Skeena (DDE 207), built by Burrard Yarrows Ltd in Vancouver, British Columbia between 1951 and 1957.  St. Laurent-class vessels measured 366 feet in length and 42 feet in beam, displacing 2,263 tons as originally built.  The ship's propulsion plant consisted of two-shaft English Electric geared steam turbines providing a top speed of 28.5 knots (52.8 km/h), with a range of 4,570 nautical miles (8,463 km) at 12 knots.  Original armament consisted of two twin-mount 3-inch guns for use against surface and air targets; two single-mount 40mm Bofors guns; and two triple-barreled Limbo antisubmarine mortars.  HMCS Skeena commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy on 30 March 1957 with a crew of 12 officers and 237 ratings and was assigned to the Second Canadian Escort Squadron based at Esquimalt.  In 1964-65, the ship was converted by the Davie Shipyard (Lauzon, Quebec) to carry a CH-124 Sea King helicopter and recommissioned into the navy with the new designation DDH 207 on 14 August 1965.  Following an upgrade under the Destroyer Life Extension (DELEX) program in the late 1970s, HMCS Skeena returned to service until being decommissioned on 1 November 1993, sold in 1994, and broken up in India in 1996.      

A collection of artefacts related to Canadian Pacific Steamships Ltd and the 'world tours' popular with wealthy Europeans in the first half of the 20th century.  Western Canada was a popular destination on any world tour, and Canadian Pacific trains would often stop in the Rocky Mountains before taking travellers on to the port of Vancouver to board CP steamships for the onward journey to Hawaii, Japan, China, or Australasia. This display includes photos, an Orient-themed fan and sun umbrella, various articles of clothing typically worn by female passengers on trans-Pacific voyages, and a model of RMS Empress of India, the first of the line's famed Empress ships.  Empress of India was built in Barrow-in-Furness, UK in 1890-91 for Canadian Pacific Steamships Ltd, and arrived at Vancouver harbour on 28 April 1891.  With a contract from the British Government to carry mail between Britain and Hong Kong via Canada, Empress of India and her two sisterships, Empress of China and Empress of Japan, made regular voyages between the west coast of Canada and the Far East.  Empress of India's typical routing was Hong Kong-Shanghai-Nagasaki-Kobe-Yokohama-Vancouver.  In 1914, Empress of India was sold to the Maharajah of Gwalior for use as a hospital ship and renamed Loyalty in 1915.  The 5,905-ton ship measured 455.6 feet in length and 51.2 feet in beam, and was powered by steam reciprocating engines with twin propellers, giving an average speed of 16 knots.  As built for Canadian Pacific Steamships, Empress of India was designed to carry 770 passengers (120 First Class, 50 Second Class, and 600 Steerage Class).  The Empress of India was sold for scrapping in Bombay in February 1923.   

A scale model of Fort Victoria in 1847, as it was undergoing expansion.  New stockades are being built to enclose a new powder magazine and two new warehouses.  Originally constructed in 1843 on a harbour site believed secure from attack, Fort Victoria replaced Fort Vancouver as the Hudson's Bay Company's Pacific headquarters.  The fort's inhabitants and other Vancouver Island settlers soon developed small farms, sawmills, fishing fleets, and coal mines to supply the fur trade.  After 1849, additional regular work was found in provisioning visiting ships and trading with American ports.  Gold miners passing through Fort Victoria during the gold rush of 1858 found a local population of 700 mostly Scottish inhabitants living in a closely-knit society reflecting the styles, habits, and values of British country gentry.  Although the Hudson's Bay Company initially tried to monopolise all of the gold rush trade, the City of Victoria was incorporated in 1862 and, by 1864, Fort Victoria's last structures had been demolished, marking the symbolic end of the Hudson's Bay Company's dominance of British Columbia.  

A tableau depicting the rugged, remote, and mountainous Stikine Country of northern British Columbia, which was hotly contested by British and Russian traders in the 1830s on account of the region's plentiful populations of fur-bearing animals. 

Part of the exhibit dedicated to British Columbia's gold rush, which began in 1858 following discovery of gold nuggets and flakes in the sand and gravel of the Fraser River bed.  These flakes and nuggets (placer gold) were eroded from lode deposits in gold-bearing veins within rock located upriver; these lode deposits could only be accessed through mining.  Prospectors flooded British Columbia, initially to pan for placer gold, but later moving north into the Cariboo region to search for the lode deposits.  The trek over the inland mountains in search of the mother lode was harrowing and treacherous, with supplies scarce and expensive and prospectors facing wet, freezing temperatures and filthy conditions.  While some struck it rich, many others toiled away without any payoff and were forced to depart when their funds ran out.  This display case holds a number of artefacts used in gold mining, including gold pans, sluice rocker trays, mining claim tags, and bottles for the mercury that was used to assist in separating the gold from dirt during sluicing.  

A replica Cornish water wheel in the gold rush exhibit.  Such water wheels were brought to the Cariboo region by way of California by Cornish tin miners and were used to pump water out from deeper placer gold deposits after surface level deposits had been depleted.  The water was directed to the wheels by flumes and ditches tapped into springs, creeks, and lakes, with the wheels powering pumps that kept deep gravel deposits dry and winches that lifted buckets of ore to the surface.  After going through the wheel, the water was fed into sluices that separated gold from dirt, allowing the heavier gold flakes to be captured in riffles (wooden slats) on the bottom of the sluice.  Although an essential piece of equipment, Cornish water wheels required skill and money to construct and thus were most often operated by companies of men who joined their claims and resources to mine the deep ore.  In the area around Barkerville in the Cariboo, $35 million worth of gold was discovered over a 20-year period.      

A display case contains gold nuggets discovered during the British Columbia gold rush.  The large nugget on the left is the Turnagain Nugget, discovered in 1937 by Alice Shea, who noticed a glint behind a boulder while walking along a creek to her husband's mining claim in northern British Columbia.  The Turnagain Nugget is the largest nugget ever found in the province and weighs 1,642 grams.  Other, smaller nuggets and flakes on display here were found in Alice Shea Creek, the Cariboo, and the Spud River valley.  

A diorama depicting the Aberdeen fish cannery on the Skeena River on British Columbia's north coast, which operated between 1878 and 1939.  Although Hudson's Bay Company fur traders at Fort Langley first successfully harvested, salted, and exported salmon from British Columbia in the 1830s, the province's first commercial salmon cannery opened in 1871 at Annieville on the Fraser River.  Evidence of quick profits soon drew many other canneries to British Columbia and, by the end of the 1880s, canneries were found on every major salmon river.  By 1892, 67 canneries were in operation along the coast, employing thousands of labourers. As seen in this photo, canneries featured a long butchering table, the waste parts of butchered salmon being disposed of through holes in the table which allowed heads, tails, and innards to rain down into the sea below, much to the delight of hordes of feasting seagulls. Cannery workers hand-packed the salmon into cans, then cooked the cans in large pots before sealing them.

A scale model of the Britannia Cannery at Steveston on the Fraser River in 1900, a typical example of a British Columbia coastal cannery.  The Britannia Cannery was built  in 1890 on stilts over the water, with a wharf to allow scows of freshly-caught salmon to be tied-up alongside for processing.  Large bluestone pots on the wharf were used to soak fishing nets in copper sulphide to disinfect and preserve them.  Each cannery was allocated a certain number of boat licences for its fleet of gill-netting skiffs.  A network of weekly and daily steamship routes operated by the Union Steamship Company, the Canadian Pacific Railway, and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway kept coastal canneries in touch with each other and the rest of the world, delivering people, supplies, and news from Vancouver, Victoria, and Prince Rupert to the isolated processing plants.  Steveston's 'Cannery Row' had 17 fish processing plants by 1911.  

A display on British Columbia's commercial fishery, including the integral role of Japanese immigrants in the province's fishing industry as early as the 1890s.  Japanese fisherman introduced seine nets and initiated the harvesting of herring, which were salted and exported to the Japanese market.  Items displayed here include nets and floats, pieces of shipboard equipment, a coastal map of Barkley Sound, different types of hooks, and nautical flags. 

A model of the fishing boat Loyal No. 2, originally named Kuroshima No. 2 and built for Japanese fisherman Kanzo Maekawa of Ucluelet, British Columbia in 1930.  The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941, and the Canadian government's fear that British Columbia residents of Japanese origin might connive to assist a Japanese attack on Canada's poorly-defended Pacific coast, led to the official confiscation of Japanese-owned fishing boats, including Loyal No. 2, and the internment of Japanese-Canadians at inland camps during the Second World War.

Mechanisation came to British Columbia's fish canneries early on, with the first butchering machines being introduced around 1900 and the first sanitary canning machines being introduced a decade later.  The mechanisation of the industry massively increased productivity, with huge quantities of salmon being canned and exported to the British market.  Seen here is a fish butchering machine, built by Victoria Machinery Depot in 1909, which replaced 30 cannery workers and was capable of butchering 60 salmon per minute.  It automatically removed the tail and fins, sliced open the belly and scraped out the guts.  Because the fish butchers that these machines replaced were typically Chinese, the machine was given the racist nickname 'Iron Chink' by its manufacturer.   

A display of just a few of the dozens of different brands of canned salmon produced by British Columbia canneries.  Before the advent of mechanised canning machines, skilled Chinese labourers, usually working for a contractor, would cut, shape, seal, and lacquer the cans by hand.  The fishing and canning industries employed a diverse mix of people in addition to the Chinese, including East Indians, Greeks, Yugoslavs, Japanese, First Nations, Scots, Scandinavians, and many others.   

An exhibit dedicated to British Columbia's farming history, which began with fort dwellers growing food for themselves and the brigades of fur traders who operated across the province.  During the gold rush era, they supplied food to miners, military garrisons, and frontier towns, though the trade was local and too often inadequate.  Except for fish and game, foodstuffs were so scarce during the colonial era of the 1820s to the 1880s that most British Columbia pioneers relied on crops and livestock imported from California, Oregon, and Washington State.  Between the 1880s and 1920s, railroads and farm machinery made mass production, mass processing, and mass distribution possible.  By 1911, British Columbia produced more food than it imported and, by the 1920s the province's farm products were being exported worldwide.

A diorama depicting a wintry day on the Tremblay Homestead in British Columbia's Peace River District, circa 1912.  Northern settlers gradually transformed this hard, rich soil into Canada's last great western farming region.

In the exhibit on British Columbia's timber industry, a diorama depicts a log dump, circa 1930.  From 1900 until the early 1950s, railroads were the primary means of transporting logs from the cutting areas to the log dumps.  From the log dumps, the logs were moved to mills for processing.  Floating the logs downriver to the mills was a cost-effective and efficient means of moving large quantities of timber to the mills.  Beginning in the early 1900s, migrants from South Asia (especially the Punjab region of India) began arriving in British Columbia to settle and work in rural communities involved in the logging industry. 

A recreation of the Robinson Sawmill in the Rocky Mountain Trench, 1889.  The construction of railways in the province between 1881 and 1917 required huge amounts of timber to build trestles and buildings, shore up tunnels, and provide sleepers upon which the rails were laid.  Beginning in the 1770s, frontier logging was done to meet local needs, with sea captains undertaking ship repairs using coastal timber and fur trade forts and gold rush towns being crafted from lumber hand-sawed onsite.  After 1860, rough lumber was exported by ship to boom towns in California, Hawaii, Chile, and Australia, though insufficient transport made supplying large markets difficult and the British Columbia timber industry grew slowly as a result.  Timber demand soared with the massive influx of settlers to the prairies, which peaked in 1911-12.  After the First World War, ex-servicemen provided a ready source of labour and the Panama Canal halved transport times to Europe, which provided a good market for British Columbia wood products; with a provincially-financed lumber schooner fleet and Commonwealth tariff agreements in place, the British Columbia lumbering industry continued to see healthy sales throughout the 1930s Great Depression.  Beginning during the Second World War, American corporations became the biggest buyers of British Columbia companies and wood products as many of their own prime wood lots had been exhausted, thus fundamentally altering trading patterns and accelerating the shift from European to North American export markets.  Today, forestry accounts for 50 cents of every dollar generated in British Columbia.            

A display on coal mining in British Columbia, which began on Vancouver Island as early as 1837 to supply fuel to navy ships, fur trading forts, and frontier towns.  The development of large-scale coal mining operations started near Nanaimo in the early 1860s.  The industry grew quickly thereafter, both on Vancouver Island and on mainland British Columbia, with much of British Columbia's shipping, railroads, cities, and industries relying on Island and East Kootenay coal.  Coal production peaked in 1910, when three million tons was mined for domestic, industrial, and transportation needs and for export.  Early coal mining was dirty and dangerous work, with long hours and low wages, and with many miners killed or injured by mine-gas explosions, cave-ins, or other accidents.  The coal mining industry declined as coal was displaced by cleaner-burning oil and the closure of many coal mines was accelerated by the Great Depression of the 1930s.  By the 1960s, only a small amount of coal was still being mined in the Crowsnest Pass coal field; however, beginning in the 1970s, the introduction of underground hydraulic mining techniques as well as surface mining led to a resurgence in the mining sector, with an expansion of export markets.  The display case contains various artefacts from the coal mining industry, including helmets, drill bits, coal samples, photographs, and miner's lanterns.  

Old Town gallery, a representation of part of the business district of a typical British Columbia town around the turn of the 20th century. Generally, the buildings on the left resemble those of the 1890s, with coal gas or kerosene lamps, and the buildings on the right are reminiscent of the first decade of the 1900s, with electric lighting. The street is paved with about 30,000 pressure-treated Douglas fir blocks, though there was little paving outside cities during this period and transportation was mostly by railway or steamboat. Immigration to British Columbia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was mainly to towns and cities and not to rural areas.

A replica furniture and household goods shop, with a variety of fine china, crockery, glassware, and oil lamps on display in the windows.

The Salmon River Livery seen here is based on Esquimalt’s I.X.L. Livery, opened in 1900.  The Livery was home to the town's blacksmiths, whose main job was manufacturing horseshoes, wagons, and tools, as well as selling related wares and renting horses and buggies to those who did not have their own. Blacksmiths may also have performed veterinarian work on horses if a veterinarian was not available. In 1916, the blacksmith shop in Enderby, British Columbia earned $30 to $40 per day. A blacksmith would make $2 a day, while apprentices would make about $1 a day. For horseshoeing services, the blacksmith charged $7 for a team of two large horses and $6 for a team of two small horses.

A recreation of the Port Moody Railway Station.  In the late 1880s, railroads were the most important link for British Columbia's towns and cities and brought supplies and people, including waves of immigrant settlers, to and from distant communities.  Indeed, towns often grew up around railway stations, rather than the other way around.  When the Canadian Pacific Railway came to British Columbia in 1886, the province's socioeconomic ties were North-South, especially with San Francisco; however, the railway altered these ties to East-West with the rest of Canada.

The interior of the recreated Port Moody Railway Station, featuring a waiting room with wooden benches, a ticket office, and the telegrapher's shack, where news from distant towns and cities was received via the telegraph wires running alongside the rail line.  

A display of posters for the Canadian Pacific Railway's railroad, steamships, and hotels, which offered passengers a complete service from coast to coast.  Passengers who travelled on a CPR train cross-country stayed in CPR hotels en route, and sometimes finished their journey on a CPR steamship to Asia, Australia, or New Zealand.  Canadian National Railway also provided a similar range of services.  

Dominion Drapers, a shop selling women's clothing and hats, as well as bolts of fabric, reflecting the growing wealth in British Columbia by the beginning of the 20th century.

Peering in the window of Dominion Drapers, one sees a selection of fine women's clothing and hats.

The Grand Hotel, based on Nanaimo’s Royal Hotel built in 1890.

The ground floor parlour of the Grand Hotel, outfitted with rugs, comfortable settees, musical instruments, a grandfather clock, and a fireplace for keeping warm on damp British Columbia winter evenings. 

The Grand Hotel's saloon, where thirsty travellers could relax with an alcoholic beverage and play cards.  Bottles of ale, gin, and brandy are on display on the wooden bar and in the glass cabinets. 

Upstairs in the Grand Hotel, with its Victorian period decor.

An importer's office of the 1890s, with its ledgers, adding machine, and safe.

A sample bedroom on the hotel's upper floor shows the accommodations of a colonial couple newly retired from Asia and waiting for their new house to be built.  A variety of exotic Asian souvenirs, such as the lacquered privacy screen and tea set, speak to the European fascination with exotic Asian arts and crafts.  

Another look at the cluttered bedroom on the upper floor of the Grand Hotel.

City Garage, showing a Ford Model T, which was first manufactured in 1908.  As British Columbia's road network expanded in the 20th century, automobiles and trucks took over much of the duties performed previously by the railway and coastal steamship services. 

The Majestic Theatre, representing early movie houses.  Prior to the introduction of theatres, stage productions were usually presented by the military aboard British warships for invited guests.  The Royal Engineers built the first theatre in British Columbia, the Theatre Royal, in New Westminster.  The earliest theatres in Victoria, the Royal and the Colonial, were operated largely by American touring troupes following the gold rush.  It wasn't until the 1920s that movie houses became the primary source of entertainment in North America, with films previously being given second-billing to vaudeville acts.

The interior of the Majestic Theatre, where visitors can sit and watch short silent films produced during the early 20th century.

An alleyway off Old Town's main street takes visitors to Chinatown, a representation of the dingy, narrow streets of British Columbia's early Chinese neighbourhoods.

Colonial Drugs, a representation of a typical pharmacy of the early 20th century.  Arthur Langley is believed to have been the first independent druggist to settle in British Columbia, opening Langley & Co. Druggists (Wholesale and Retail) at Fort Victoria in 1855.  Prior to the introduction of pharmacies, fur traders and settlers had relied on their own medical knowledge or that of Doctor John Sebastian Helmcken.  With a rapidly growing population between the 1850s and 1880s, Victoria and Esquimalt had 20 pharmacists by 1889; however, it was not until 1891 that laws were enacted to prevent the sale of drugs by grocery and hardware stores and to regulate who could establish a business as a druggist.

A Chinese grocery store, Kwong Hing Lung & Co. Importers and General Merchants, in Old Town's Chinatown.  A variety of exotic Chinese grocery items hang in the window.

A view inside the Chinese herbalist’s shop in Old Town's Chinatown.  Externally, the shop is modelled on the On Hing building at 544 Fisgard Street in Victoria, in which Man Yuck Tong ran his Chinese medicine shop.  The interior was reproduced to be as similar as possible to the original, and includes the shop's tailoring section. In Chinatown in the 1910s, it was difficult to run a successful shop if the proprietor was involved in only one line of business.  Because Man Yuck Tong could not have been profitable by selling only medicines, he also ran a tailoring business mainly serving Chinese labourers.  The herbs sold by Man Yuck Tong were imported directly from China or elsewhere in Asia, and stored in the wooden drawers behind the counter or in boxes and chests scattered around the shop. 

The Building British Columbia exhibit showcases the skilled trades that built the province's towns and cities, from surveyors and architects to carpenters, stonemasons, plasterers, plumbers, and electricians.  The cases display some of the tools of each trade.

Century Hall, 'an eclectic look at the past 100 years of British Columbia's history'.  Designed to resemble the Royal British Columbia Museum's early incarnation in the east wing of the province's legislative building, Century Hall was designed at the end of the 20th century and exhibits a diverse mix of artefacts from each decade of the century from 1900 to 1999, arranged chronologically.  The vintage glass display cases are from the Vancouver store of Henry Birks and Sons, which was demolished in 1974.

A display of artefacts from the 1940s, from toys and sewing machines to military uniforms and small consumer electronics.

A few of the decade-specific text panels dedicated to recounting the high and low points of British Columbia history from 1900 to 1999.  The panels seen here address the periods 1920-1929, 1930-1939, and 1940-1949.

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