An artifact on its own is a curiosity from the past.
Who owned the item? Why was it made? How did it come to the family or museum that owns it today?
The Nanaimo Museum is delving into the tales attached to artifacts in its collection during its latest exhibit the Story Behind the Artifact, which runs Friday (May 20) to September 5. There is a special exhibit presentation June 1 at 1:30 p.m.
“It makes it so much easier to connect to the artifact when you know about the thing and the stories,” said Aimee Greenaway, Nanaimo Museum interpretation curator.
Historical information about the artifacts the individuals, families or businesses that owned them are being presented in a different manner with this exhibit. The information is in letters, telegrams, newspaper clippings and letters to the editor. The format was inspired by the book Griffin and Sabine, written by Nick Bantock.
For example, people will get a chance to read a letter written by a fictitious character, but although the writer isn’t real all the material included in the document is.
Greenaway said the exhibit gives people a little bit more insight about how the museum’s collection works and how staff evaluate artifacts offered to the museum.
“Our mandate is very tightly tied to Nanaimo and an artifact that tells a great Nanaimo story,” said Greenaway.
Some of the artifacts included in the exhibit include items belonging to Laura and George Cavalsky. The family owned a dry goods store and the office housed Nanaimo’s first switchboard. The collection includes Laura’s wedding dress and shoes, a cake topper, a bible given to the couple on their wedding day, and tea set.
What’s interesting about the artifacts is they weren’t donated all at once, said Greenaway, over time different descendants of the couple donated the items.
“What we like about it is it is such a complete collection,” said Greenaway, adding that once people start putting the story about the collection together that’s when it gets “really exciting.”
Another collection of artifacts on display during the exhibit belonged to Anna Fong Dickman.
Her family lived in Nanaimo before moving to Vancouver. Dickman decided to return to Nanaimo for nursing training. Dickman wanted to become an RN, but was rejected from four nursing schools because of her Chinese-Canadian descent before being accepted in Duncan, said Greenaway.
The museum has Dickman’s RN pin, photographs and her nurse’s uniform. The museum recently acquired the uniform from the Vancouver Museum after asking for it to be transferred to its collection.
For more information please call 250-753-1821 or go to www.nanaimomuseum.ca.