In 1992 the Rotary Club of Campbell River contributed $75,000 towards the New Museum Project. This named giving opportunity supported the Archives Research Centre and we are proud to recognize this donation on the signage as you enter the Archives.
This article was written in 2019, but this year as the Campbell River Rotary Club’s 75th Anniversary, we are posting it here to draw attention to this generous gift from Rotary to the Museum and the community.
Many people wonder what we have downstairs at the Museum. There are the usual things – a boardroom and some administrative offices – but there are also a large climate-controlled storage room full of artifacts, a huge collection of information about our region, and a reference library. And you know what they say about libraries…..
The library is dangerous, full
of answers. If you go inside,
You may not come out
the same person who went in.
– From “Don’t Go Into the Library” by Alberto Rios, 1952
The Museum at Campbell River’s vision is to “Preserve the Past to Inform the Future.” This is used as a guiding principle when deciding what services to offer the public. One way we try to achieve this is by making information about our past readily available for people. Our Archives Research Centre, which is open Tuesday to Friday from 1pm to 4pm or by appointment, contains a wealth of information. It is used by researchers writing books, locals looking for family history information, people who are curious about some aspect of our history, high school students learning research skills, and many more diverse users. Over 300 people a year visit the archives and another 160 people contact us with research requests.
The primary components in the Archives Research Centre itself are a library, catalogues of historic photographs, aural history recordings and vertical files. There are decades of local newspapers, all catalogued by date, which the archivist can retrieve for viewing. The Archivist, Megan Purcell, is available to help with research requests and aid users in finding information. “The most common requests are information about Ripple Rock, logging history, logging camps and past newspapers. We get a lot of really interesting requests!” she tells me.
I asked Megan to explain what the vertical files are. Personally I find them incredibly helpful, and I think other people would find them useful too. “The vertical files are information files that have been put together by Museum staff covering a whole range of topics. They include such items as newspaper clippings, magazine articles, interview transcriptions, research notes and anything else relevant to the topic,” Megan told me. The vertical files take up several filing cabinets and could include things such as the history of a certain building, place, person, organization or event. There is an index binder to help you see if there is a file on the topic you are interested in.
Many people are very interested in historic photographs. Our website has a lot of historic photographs that you can access from anywhere. I asked Megan about the photographic collection. “Our photo websites contain only a fraction of all of the photos we have in our collection. We have so many more, but to view them you need to visit the archives. When you visit, I’ll be happy to explain our cataloguing system to you and help you search for the photos you are interested in.”
Another person you may see in the Archives is Selma Kennedy. Since 2017 she has been helping Megan with cataloguing the books in the Archives Library. As a retired teacher-librarian, Selma is no stranger to books, so I asked her what she finds the most interesting about the archives. “It’s a collection that has been carefully curated by our current and past Collections Managers and Curators. It reflects the people and the settlements from Campbell River through to the North Island,” she said. What about some of the more notable books? “The truly rare books are kept in the climate-controlled storage room. The items in the reference room are there for public use. I think our collection contains something for any local topic you might want to research – from Captain Vancouver’s journals of charting the area, to the industries that brought large numbers of people here, to the First Nations culture and history, to the stories of our local Japanese and Internment, to the nautical stories of missionary boats, floathouse camps and lighthouses, and lastly to the flora and fauna.”
Currently, these collections can only be searched by coming into the Museum. This will all be changing. A new database system that the Museum has recently acquired is the first step in making the collection more accessible by allowing searches to be done off-site.
**Please note, this article was written in 2019. At the time it was published on the Blog the Archives are only open by appointment due to the requirements of our COVID-19 safety plan.**