Monday, March 16, 2009

Royal British Columbia Museum: Old Town, Cruise, Long House & slutty wharf women

We have just tonight finished sending off a few packages and 40 postcards, which worked us until 7:30 am, a nap and then back at it – all night working on postcards: The postcard project rolls on. We appreciate all donations, but right now, we haven’t had any postage stamps donated in 2009, or .94 cent stamps since…um...ever. It is $18.80 for 20 postage stamps and since this time we posted to New Zealand, Australia, South America, India, Two countries in Asia, the UK, and the EU (all of which require .94 stamps) – five continents (we do Africa next week!) in one week, and .94 cent stamps are required for all non-US bound post cards (I post the Canadian ones here). If you want to get some (talk about unsubtle, eh?) they are available for purchase through the post office from the wish list. It is just, we could have sent more postcards this weekend, but we ran out of postage stamps. OR, if you live in the US and have like 2 or 3 or 5 of the .94 lying around can you post them to me, pretty please? I and people literally all over the world will be grateful. I hope to do a blog post over at the Postcard Project Blog today or tomorrow to give some pictures and some updates as a lot of really cool postcards went out. Also check out Linda's post on Spring and daffodils at Girl's Gotta Fly.

Meanwhile with the Japan Cat Network, David is going slightly insane with work as he is teaching 50% more AND building a new shelter for his 75 cats, plus he opened up a satellite station in Tokyo for adoption. So maybe that will be 100 cats soon? Yikes. There are some friends going over and David said I can put up their address, so if you want to send them any medicine (Revolution!), cat toys, or other items that could be used, please do (here is the Japan Cat Network Help Page). We are going to try to find some online toys and such to have sent to them to take to David.

Addendeum: Due to a family emergency they are going to a different city before leaving. David apologizes for the loss in postage and asks if you want to still send things (I do, it's kinda cool!) you can send them directly to him.

David Wybenga
173 Inae-cho

Well, that was this weekend, as weather was terrible and we stayed indoors. But last weekend was ‘Tourist in your own home Town’ and I very much wanted to take Cheryl to the Royal British Columbia Museum. When we left to go to the UK, it was listed as one of the top 10 Museums of North America, I don’t know if it still is, but I was dropped off here every time my grandparents came into town and not only is it cool, it is kind of like home to me! Only this time I will see it in a wheelchair and on oxygen.

The Museum’s unique nature, of which I can only show you four examples in this blog post, is to create the entire experience of the history of BC in a walk through setting. So that you don’t see it, you ARE it. For example, upstairs (not wheelchair accessible, still waiting on that disability act, but don’t worry after 20+ years in committee, I am SURE it is almost ready!) there is a full fishery, the gutting table, the fish heads, the canned salmon, the nets, the whole thing. Here we are at the Coastal Biosphere. As you see, they show both the sea lion and the cubs and seals as well as the terns and other birds which are on the cliffs. British Columbia, having both the jet stream and two islands HUNDREDS of miles out to sea, one of which is over 150 miles long (Queen Charlotte Island, where the Haida tribe is from), have cliffs which house some of the rarest birds in the world. Other areas include an undersea submarine, and an entire walk through forest – in these areas they also include smell machines so you smell salt and kelp and the sea in the Coastal Biosphere.

My favorite, both as an adult and as a kid, has been Old Town. You enter through Century Hall (to go back to 1900), and see the exhibits for each decade, including the “I had that!” moments. Then into the town of Victoria at NIGHT, during 1899-1910 with cobblestone streets, the sounds and smells piped in for full realism. At the Blacksmiths, we found not only one of those new contraptions, an automobile, but MY automobile (it has my name on it! That is the plaque in the front).
We asked a nice guy going by to take our picture in front of the printer’s office (with a full press and plates inside). Gold is what put Victoria and Vancouver on the map, and there were MANY Gold rushes, including a small one just outside of town (remember when we visited GOLDsteam park, and kissed in front of the tree – yes, a small gold rush on the island too!). But mostly Victoria was a stopping ground, and a rough town because….we were low and sleazy, and a free port. If you went to the Colony of British Columbia where Vancouver is, you would have to pay TAX on everything in your ship. However, if you stopped at the British Colony of Vancouver Island which had no tax, you could continue on to Vancouver having your passport and papers stamped. Yes, we started off as a low down sneaky city and we still are!

Because it was night, the town was to be lit with the gas lights but also the area was as dusky as Victoria would BE during that period. One of my favorite attractions was the full old cinema with old fashion velvet seats showing different full length movies, mostly Charlie Chaplin. That’s right, you go in there and there is a movie playing with piano accompaniment and titles on the screen, much like the restored cinema in Port Townsend, but ours is FREE but plays only old movies. I liked it then, I like it now!

This is one of the main streets, with the Saloon, the Grand Hotel and a parlor. Behind me is China town including the sounds and an alley to escape a gambling house (one of the alleys still exists in our Chinatown, the oldest in Canada). To the left was the train station in which you can sit and wait and listen to the approach of a train, or hear and see on the blinds the lights of trains going through (fun as a kid!). Linda and Cheryl went up into the hotel, where you can see how the life of a lady of means lived, as well as how a lady with little means lived. I was left at the bottom of the stairs below the OF COURSE, picture of Queen Victoria (we still get the day off for Queen Victoria Day! A National Holiday! In the UK, I asked when they got it off and they said, “But she’s dead! And we don’t get off for the living Royals, why should we take a day off for her?”).

Here is a traditional middle class to aspiring upper middle class family parlour. And even though my grandparents were in the middle of the woods, THEY had one too. We went in on Sundays (it was freezing), and there was an organ, and the best china, the velvet couch, the fireplace and the nice paintings on the wall. I think the family bible was in there too. My Grandfather came over here at 4, and all he knew is what his parents thought was important, and his parents were Edwardian, so he built himself an Edwardian house where he could have tea at 11:00 and 3:30. I included the picture of the organ for Abi, as it is a home pipe organ with petals to provide air and stops as well. There is also a long clock (later known as a grandfather clock) which my grandparents had along with those ‘make you sit up straight’ oh so uncomfortable chairs they had imported from ‘the old country.’ So this is like looking at my old Grandparents place.

I included this picture from the sod house and farming section (my grandmother who I talked to recently remembered growing up in a sod house – which is a house made of….um, pieces of dirt). But this is an old, um farm machine, maybe a thresher or a harvester or something. But now Linda and Cheryl can send it back to their parents or grandparents and then get the whole family arguing about what it is, and how, “No, no, When I was with Charlie, working that summer on Morgan’s fields in the summer of ’52 we used one of these and it is definitely a. ……”

There is also a walk through life size replica of the Discovery (Captain Cook’s Ship), not wheelchair accessible and some wharves, so I amused myself as being a wharf slut . I tried to pick up sailors on leave, drug them, then take their money and sell them to the navy – a good old shanghai! Hey, this girl gets bored easily, besides that is good money making!

They also had down on the dock, a Sea Chest, which is something every Sailor had to make to stow gear. I show you this because you can see that it used joinery to stay together (not the greatest joinery, but okay). My Grandfather was in the Canadian Royal Navy and he gave me his Sea Chest, which he had used nails on (not good at joinery). I am pointing this out because if you had a relative in the Navy, there was something like this in the attic. Also, to a certain person taking a joinery class, I took a nice CLOSE up picture because....I want one! So consider that a commission, or a challenge!

Victoria not only had many steam ships, paddle boats (for the many lakes and coast) but also cruise line, the Empress Line (ergo, we have the Empress Hotel), where people could visit the other colonies of the empire or immigrate on the Empress of India, Empress of Australia, etc (one of those ships is still in use as a cruise ship in South America: still has the old dance hall and a two level movie theatre). This section uses the type or perhaps original carpet from the Cruise days. With Linda and Cheryl ready to embark. There was also the Empress of Japan, which is how I think the Emperor’s daughter made her way to Victoria, and how we ended up with cherry blossom trees. Here is a glimpse at the glory days…if you had the money. Which is why I was so glad to stay last year in Hotel Kanaya, where Ghandi and Helen Keller stayed amoung other notable people. Because it was the same, a connection to that lost world (the train station, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, has a DANCE hall on the second floor – are people to dance the waltz until their train?).

Leaving the old Imperial Empire, the Museum hosts an floor of impressive collections of Native art including the extremely rare Haida art. The Haida were the geniuses of the west coast and though hundreds of miles to the north and far out at sea, would come down annually to raid down here, against the Salish and other tribes for slaves (oddly left out of most 'traditional heritage enactments'). When some British merchant traders arrived at the Queen Charlotte Islands expecting the native population to be awed at the ‘shiny beads’ – the Haida just saw them as sort of “slave take out – delivered!” And took the white traders slaves, and then made them teach them how to use cannons (which they found on the ship). When the Royal Navy showed up to rescue the traders, the Haida had made a trap and took them hostage too. In the end, the King had to ransom his subjects back. NOT AMUSED.

Up on Queen Charlotte, there are several Haida Villages on the south island which are as they were left, some 80 years ago. They are a world heritage site, full of long houses and totem poles. And even though I taught there and Linda and I later visited, you have to hire a boat and have about 5 days if you want to try and see it. It is very remote. However, another village, which was about to fall to pieces (and had in many areas), was taken and restored, inside the museum, including the long house.
The art which is unique to the Haida besides working only in Black and Red is the Argillite stone carvings. The stone is only available on one mountain in the WORLD, out on Queen Charlotte, so the carvers are very strict about learning the trade and how it is done. Indeed, the art of the argillite is a story of resistance. As in the 1920’s things like flowers and European influences started to show up. The old carvers got together and no one knows exactly what was said but the carving went back to traditional motifs ONLY, and stayed that way for the next 70-80 years. This is only one of several walls of display but most of these pieces are in the thousands of dollars (these ones, being over 100 years old are tens of thousands). We happen to have one because while living in the UK, a charity shop was selling one as an oversized ash tray (they couldn’t figure out what it was?), for 3 pounds. That included the inlay of ivory. Oh well, not a lot of Argillite comes through charity shops.

Let's end with a look at Linda and Cheryl in front of the Long House. It is nice to see the native art in the lighting that not only preserves it but also makes you feel this is what it might have looked like at night.

I wish I had time to tell you more, but that will have to suffice for our first glimpse at the museum. So, if you do go to Victoria, please go to the Museum. If you have a Recreation and Integration Pass (sent in the post free if you ask for it and are disabled), your companion gets in free. I will come back with part II of the Museum and the rest of ‘Tourist in your Home Town’ in a few days.


Lene Andersen said...

Ooh! I want to go!! The Museum of Civilization in Hull has a section with the same sort of walk-though history and I loved it! This looks better, though.

And your mention of the home organ sent me down memory lane. My grandparents didn't have a phone for a long time, so they'd use their neighbour's (Mrs. Andersen, no relation) and I'd also pop in there every now and again to play her organ. I loved it. The intricacy of pushing the pedals, pulling the stops and playing... well, it wasn't recognizable, but I made noise alright. ;)

Thanks for the flashback!

Kate J said...

Wow, one of my favourite museums in the whole world! I go there ever time I'm in Victoria (which, given I live in Wales is not that often... but I have been there four times. When he was younger, my son liked the mammoth, of course! And the ships. The "Old Town" didn't appeal to me so much, but only because we have several similar in the UK... ('xcept ours are older!) I have to say the First Nations art and history was what most interested me, especially the Haida stuff. Those argillite carvings! Last visit to Canada, I also went to the museum in Vancouver (the one out at UBC... is the musuem of Anthopology?) and the museum of Northern BC in Prince Rupert, too, looking at First Nations art (mainly Tsimshian there of corse) What I like about these museums is that there is historic art, and also contemporary artists at work too.
And this year (yes, I am coming to Canada...) I'm definitely hoping to make it to the Queen Charlotte Islands. Already picked out a B&B! Won't be able to manage those remote villages (we'll only be there a few days, unfortunately) but the new Haida museum and art centre that has opened at Skidegate looks great.
I didn't know you had taught up there... that must have been great. Was that before or after you lived in Wales?
Good to know you had a really fine day out, anyway, and hope it raised your spirits somewhat... certainly raised mine, just reading about it and remembering visits to those museums!
Love, peace & sisterhood

Abi said...

Ooh - I got mentioned! How exciting!

It looks as though you had a good (albeit frustrating with the access issues) time at the museum.

I have to confess (actually, I don't - I decided to confess, and then decided not to delete the confession because it is about as interesting as I can muster at this moment in time) that I find many of those old home organs really spooky. I don't like to look at them on e-bay, and wouldn't really want to get too close. It might be the carving. I think that perhaps I am some sort of weird freak - spiders are certainly a more conventional thing to be slightly afraid of. I hope that if I actually met one it wouldn't realise that I thought it was weird. I actually nearly bought one a while ago (with a full pedalboard), but baulked at the idea of transporting it.

I think that you might be trying to hint that you want me to make a sea chest for you. I have looked at a couple of pictures, and am not entirely convinced by the design (the wood looks as though it might be liable to warp), but I suppose that the design wouldn't have lasted for very long if it wasn't actually any good. I may be able to make one, but have no idea how to pay for transporting it to Victoria. Would a little one do? It would be very cute! I could learn how to do dovetails on it - haven't done those before. It would certainly be a learning experience! You would be able to see, first-hand, the limitations of my joinery skill. That is to say, of course, that it would, erm, be perfect in every minute little detail. *Cough* :-D

Anonymous said...

So cool, makes me want to belive in Night at the museum.... I'll think I'll go for the totems.

rachelcreative said...

Wow. What an amazing place - the exhibits are stunning! Thanks for taking the time & effort to share it with us. I learnt a lot too!

Veralidaine said...

Wow, I really like the Argillite carvings! How neat!

The museums here are not that cool or that interactive. But they are (mostly) accessible... except that the stairs and inaccessible bits are a nice interactive experience, while the person in the wheelchair gets to go around the corner away from the awesome dinosaur bones, get into a plain undecorated elevator, then rejoin their group at the bottom. Would it kill them to make the elevator at least attractive?

Glad to see you had a day out, and that top is very cute!

yanub said...

Veralidaine, now that you mention it--yeah, why are the elevators so boring?

Beth, what a great bunch of exhibits! I'm jealous.

Victor Kellar said...

Thanks for the museum tour. It looks to be a really good one. I can spend hours in the Egypt and ancient Greece exhibits at the ROM and sometimes forget the history of my own country .. though I grew up in Kingston which, prisons aside, is a kind of museum in its own righ

Elizabeth McClung said...

Lene: It is a great museum, I know you would love it. I want to see the one in Hull, and I never thought I would say, "I want to go to Hull"

I used to try and play on a pedal organ which like an old pedal sewing machine is like trying to pat your head and rub your tummy, as if playing wasn't hard enough!

Kate J: Great, I love it too, I used to spend so much time in all the little nooks and crannies. I miss the giant canoe or long boat they had which was carved and is now over by the preserved totem poles outside - do you remember when the lobby was the giant long boat and then the waterfall coming down - now it is Imax entrance but at least the Mammoth remains, and the forest section.

I taught up there before I came to Wales. If you can try to get a ring from the artists (there are like little huts which are stores and only open two days a week - you know small islands) - but these are the only places you can get the top quality gold and silver haida art rings, many of them aren't even brought down to high end galleries (about 200-400 pounds for the ring but it is a unique piece of art which will just get more valuable).

Glad you had good memories. Will you come and visit me?

Abi: Yes, I told you I think of you often, but always with valor. Bahahaha! Yes, the accessiblity was annoying but as I had seen it 20-50 helped but it did make a sort of 'them' and 'me' experience which is annoying, particularly for someone with issues people will leave her.

Well, I did get a closer full screen picture of the organ but now I won't send it as it turns out in churches they are safe, in houses, creepy. Okay!

Taking a picture of the joints and saying "I want this!" is a hint? Um YES, I would like a jointed sea chest, and a mini one would be cute, but if it is too mini it will make the jointing all the much harder. I don't think 100,000 or a 500,000 sailors can be wrong, they wanted a chest to keep items safe in storms, so maybe patterns post the 30 years war as that was huge navies, or the swedish or german designs, I don't know, I leave that to you. As for Transport, just give it to Kate J to carry over, look - she is just one comment above you, that must mean she is close to you...right?

Anon: Yes, it is much like night at the museums, though no tigers, I wonder what all the sea lions would do besides eat seals?

RachelCreative: I really like it, and I hope you come and see it as it is a museum that is one which you roll through so little effort but you are surrounded by atmosphere and it is fun. So not like learning at all (though since I spent many years in uni, I must find some learning fun).

Veralidaine: yes, I went to some US museums and that was it, the rest of the group goes up the Edwardian staircase and I go around the corner to an elevator wedged between the toilets and join them later.

Thanks, I was wearing my green corset, and my arm warmers with a spike braclet, and black skirt with black tights and converse red skull shoes - I tried to make an effort!

Yanub: yes, one of the advantages of living where I live is that all the cool things are like 8 blocks from my apartment. So I can go down when people visit, and I wanted Cheryl to see it - to experience my past, as it were.

Yes, let us make our elevators more like the ones at fine hotels!

Victor: Well, the colonies of Vancouver Island and BC were always at war with each other in sly ways as well as the US (like our war of pigs - one pig was killed on an island that the US owned one side, we owned the other, and both wouldn't admit to killing it so went to war). So there is a lot of odd bits of history, like how we told Blacks they could be citizens if they came to Victoria (our mayor was a total sleaze, but an imaginative one), but when they got here, he put them on salt spring island! So there is a huge graveyard and bits of old houses as after the war they were like, "You lied, we aren't citizens, I'm going home!"

One of the big events is every now and then the Museum decides to have a sort of word of mouth auction and sell of some books, some art, some of the native stuff that they nicked, I mean, preserved - the stuff they can't present or are too full to ever present and then people on the island get excited and prices can go quite high or low depending on who wants what. I doubt the smithsonian does that. We also have the Archives here - including the original books of Captain Cook, including a book of textiles where he put in textiles he found from native tribes all around the world - and the book is here, you just need academic credentials you can look and touch all the textiles of Fiji and Salish from hundreds of years ago. Wild!

Lene Andersen said...

p.s. I love your wharf slut pose!

wendryn said...

Very cool! We'll have to go there sometime!

Raccoon said...

Cobblestones... ugh!

This setting room, was that a harp, beside the organ?

Museums are like anthropological treasures -- I love all of the history that gets presented.

It looks like you had lots of fun.

Joan K said...

What a wonderful museum! I hope I get to see it some day. It is amazing they included scents in the experience.

I tried playing the organ for a bit but I never could get the foot part down while playing the keyboard. I'd played piano when younger.

I appreciate your sharing.

cheryl g said...

I loved the museum and want to go again and again! It is really cool and the kind of museum I like to visit. The argillite carving is amazing. Thanks for sharing the adventure with me.

FridaWrites said...

What an awesome museum. I loved the photo of you and Cheryl with the wooly mammoth behind.

I have been on some scary museum elevators already--ones that aren't typically in use. I'm kind of an elevator phobe (bad dreams, a remnant of all my falling dreams post fractures) and prefer stairs, since Abi brought up phobias.

I wish things were more accessible for everyone there. We found out this summer why I got into one tourist attraction free--it's because I really couldn't see much.

Neil said...

Verilidaine & Yanub: Personally, I prefer boring elevators. The one at the university where I go for weekly meetings (Society for Creative Anachronism) has new flooring, but the ride is so, um, entertaining, that I decided when I was a student to avoid it at all costs. My new year's resolution this time was to stop using elevators for fewer than 6 floors if at all possible.

Beth, thank you for the enlightening tour. You're a few blocks away from Captain Cook's fabric samples?? You've got my creative side drooling now! Not medieval, but close enough.

I've not heard of Argillite before. Must check into that, too.

Love and hugs,

SharonMV said...

Dear Beth,

thank you so much for the tour of Olde Victoria & the museum. I've long wanted to visit Victoria, even before I met you. Now yet another great reason to go. And I liked hearing about your grandparents' house too.

Dennis & I had out the north american atlas a couple of nights ago & showed him Queen Charlotte Island. We were wondering where you lived when you taught there.


Tammy said...

WOW! I love museums and that one looks absolutely awesome. Those pictures are fabulous. It looks like you all had a great time. I want to walk on the cobblestone streets. I bet that was fun to go over in the new chair.
Thank you for sharing the pictures. Love them

Kate J said...

Of course I'll come and visit you... and take you out for tea and scones at the Empress... and if all goes well I'll be running the Terry Fox in Victoria, in my wheels & wings t-shirt too. Hope this dream is one that does come true... 2nd week of September, Insh'Allah.

Lisa Moon said...

Growing up in Victoria, I've made many a trip to the Royal BC Museum over the years (it used to be FREE!!!). I haven't been in ages - since my son was small and we last did the Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown thing ourselves - but this has brought back fond memories.

I used to love the example of the First Nations home (forget the name, darnit) - the type that is semi-underground with the fire in the centre?! I always wanted to climb inside it SO badly! (You technically could, but it wasn't for the public).

And the wooly mammoth - so huge and intimidating to think they were real! And the Olde Towne - so neat and it felt almost real...

Thanks for the reminder of the various exhibits and how lucky we are to have this museum here. said...

wanna sell your argillite ashtray? lol

Anonymous said...

Got your sea chest. Mortise and tenon joinery and through joinery. Blacksmith hammered iron straps and iron blacksmith made rings. You can see it here at this link: