Histories come to life in museum projects

Beth Ross (left) and Yvonne Macnab of Angle 5 Media Productions Film at Duncan’s Archives, in City Hall.  - Peter W. Rusland
Beth Ross (left) and Yvonne Macnab of Angle 5 Media Productions Film at Duncan’s Archives, in City Hall.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Cowichanians will get a multi-media hors d’oeuvre of unique projects prepared by the Cowichan Valley Museum.

First Nations photos — explained in Hul’qumi’num and English — oral histories and a documentary of Duncan’s past are planned for Friday’s open house in the museum housed in Duncan’s heritage train station.

“This is one way for people to get a taste of what we’ve been doing,” said curator Kathryn Gagnon.

“Seniors enjoy history and they’re part of it.”

She and her volunteers have secured a $24,600 New Horizons For Seniors grant to fund the three projects that will help toast Duncan’s centennial next year.

Visitors can view four large giclee prints of the museum’s Native-theme archival photos, complete with stories about each shot explained by Cowichan elder Ruby Peter.

The museum has about 100 First Nations photos in its collection of 10,000-odd pictures.

Peter and SFU linguistic profess Donna Gerdts teamed to translate the shots.

“Donna saw First Nations photos on display here and worked with Ruby Peter before,” said Gagnon.

“The photos were a jumping-off point for developing Hul’qumi’num vocabulary and stories.

“The photos sparked stories by Ruby as she can identify lots of people in the pictures.”

Excerpts from the museum’s Maple Bay Oral History Project can also be sampled on a laptop computer Friday.

Some 20 oral histories have been done through the Maple Bay Community Association and Sheila Kitson.

A website is being built to access those tales from memories of valley seniors.

Photos and geologic reports were also used in the project.

Finally, Yvonne Macnab and Beth Ross of Angle 5 Media Productions are creating a 45-minute documentary — tentatively titled Remembering Cowichan — of interviews about Cowichan’s past.

The film should be running in the background Friday, and a community screening is being planned for a larger venue, Gagnon said.

“I’m just excited to have visitors see what Duncan was like over the decades,” she said of a half-dozen interviews with locals including Ruth Chaster (who spoke about the old golf course), Ruby Peter, Ellen Lukaitis (King’s Daughters’ Hospital), Andy Jagger, Jan Dwyer, Sally Smith and brother Gus Townsend (whose father managed the Duncan Garage) and others.

“The exciting thing is recording stories that became part of our historical record.

“We’re all about building the historical record here.”

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