The Royal British Columbia Museum, right next to our Victorian era Parliament, offers several special displays at Yuletide. The museum specializes in a 3-D walk through experience including an entire Victorian town, complete with cobblestone, shops, hotels (walkthrough as well), train station, cinema and Chinatown: a Victorian Victoria at Christmas time (and me with the skull kittens oversized top).
Linda and I first visited the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012 exhibit which is hosted by the Natural History Museum in London and shown in other venues. The photos were displayed with special lighting which made many of them truly 3-D viewing, and not something that could be reproduced on a computer screen or print. You can see some of the pictures online here.
We anticipated seeing them in under an hour but it took over two hours to look at all the pictures. It was often as interesting seeing how they took the picture as the picture itself. Some took days in a hidden blind with equipment costing thousands while another was taken in a single shot with almost the same digital camera I have. One category was ‘Urban Wildlife’ which featured the Northwest and this squirrel.
Photos were often taken in the Arctic or Tanzania and occasionally the UK, while the US seemed only represented by Yellowstone. There was a photo of a Kermode Bear, known as a Spirit Bear and perhaps Linda’s favorite animal. Due to a recessive trait, 25% of these bears are white. This photo was taken by Paul Nicklen, and is located right at the exit of the sea lane where the tankers will be going to and from the proposed oil pipeline starting at the Alberta sands and ending at the BC ocean. To reach it requires over 100 miles of traveling between hard granite mountains, shoals and some of the worst storm weather in the world, with supertankers. It has people concerned that with an oil spill, and contaminated protein sources, these bears would soon be extinct.
Ofer Levy stood in water chest high for a week to take a picture of the endangered grey haired flying fox, Australia’s largest bat. He wanted to show how it drinks water: by skimming the surface with belly and chest and then licking the water off.
After the photo exhibit, I popped in to the Kwakiult Lodge, one of my favorite places in the Museum. As it is kept at the lighting level of firewood (it smells of cedar, lovely), it makes it hard to photograph, which is why I took a tripod. This was created by Mungo Martin, who help teach native carving to communities along the coast who had lost the skill, after Christian Missionaries banned it for decades.
Mungo helped create the carving shed at the Museum, where his son in law, Henry Hunt, master carver, taught many of the Hunt brothers and sons. Jason Hunt, who carved the Whale, shown below, for Linda’s Birthday is his grandson. Jason has carved masks for the museum, as well as tables but wants to focus on Totem’s and moved back up island (near Port Hardy) to be with his family. This year Jason worked with his father, Stanley to restore a Totem pole made by Henry Hunt (now deceased) at Sunnylands. Henry made Stanley create his own tools, and Jason and Stan follow the very traditional Kwakiult style as did Henry Hunt and Mungo. For example, Stanley Hunt created a 42 foot totem pole for Canada Place in Argentina with Jason, finishing and shipped to arrive July 1, 2012. It is replacing the original totem pole (deteriorated) in Buenos Aires which Mungo made with Henry Hunt.
Old Town in the Museum was and still is one of my favorite places. There is an old cinema.
Plus there is the dimly lit historic Chinatown. I never was able to take pictures before, without the tripod to keep the camera still over a second. Victoria’s Chinatown was reduced dramatically by fire to the smaller size today. The Museum shows the vibrant Victorian Chinatown, whose inhabitants were 30-35% of the population of Victoria.
The old Chinatown was, during the days when Victoria was a ‘Freeport’, full of alleys, stacked and tight houses, and hidden backdoors for gambling or opium dens. I like how this alley includes the chalk sign on the brick, with more signs and windows going past the gate.
Many of the stores have no English signs, while one offers both herbs and tailoring. With no Panama Canal, or railway to the West Coast, China was far closer to Victoria than Britain.
The main hotel, which you can walk up the stairs and through, hosts a small Yule tree, below the picture of Queen Victoria. It has candles, to be lit on Xmas eve. And with all the fir around, decorations of green were not hard to come by. The tree at the end of the street shown in the picture at start of post stands at 14 feet.
A night on the town of course would include your fan and long gloves. Something which seems out of fashion, alas. We still however have the peacocks in the park, so collecting feathers to make your own fan like this might be possible.
Looking into a house, you see the Victorian Parlor, much like the one my grandparents built into their house in East Sooke. The notable things I remember as a child were a) chairs too hard and painful to easily sit on, b) the organ, c) the fireplace and mantle, d) the long clock and e) the tea service which was far too valuable for clumsy hands like mine.
Over here, through the other Parlor window you can see the Victoria style pop-up, or propped up card, sitting under the small Christmas tree.
My favorite place as a child was the Train station. It is as lowly lit as Chinatown, with oil skin windows. You can hear the train coming, then the station shakes as you see the lit windows of the train go by your oil skin station windows. Before the train comes, the telegraph rings out telling the schedule of the oncoming trains. The station ticket window was closed but showed an old phone, the telegraph key, a Station Clock, a CP train calendar, old adverts and tickets in rows for all stops on the line.
Leaving the Museum at 5:00, the dusk was already on the city and the lights on the Parliament building had been turned on. You can see the Xmas touches they have added to light up this Victorian Building as well.
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