Showing posts with label material culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label material culture. Show all posts

Friday, October 2, 2015

ICH @UVic Day 5 - Indigenous Language and Culture

Today was our second-last day on the intangible cultural heritage course at UVic. We started off with a visit to the First Peoples House. Pamela Clermont and her co-workers showed us around the building, created as a social, cultural and academic centre for Indigenous students on campus. It is a gorgeous space, which you can read more about here, packed full of local, amazing, indigenous art.

Outside is an ongoing totem pole carving project. The artist, Hjalmer Wenstob, has posted the artist's statement on site:

"I see the totem as a means of bringing together and strengthening connections between cultures, both Indigenous and Non-Indigenous. It creates a space to come together where we are all equal, to create a future where we can walk side by side on the same path. To bring together academic and traditional Indigenous teaching for a common goal of unity, understanding and respect. - Hjalmer Wenstob"

After our visit to the First Peoples House, we had a conversation with Janna Wilson, Program Coordinator with the Cultural Management Programs at UVic, who has been working on their Indigenous languages retention programs. Then we went off to the Royal BC Museum for a behind-the scenes look at the Our Living Languages exhibit, with Michael Barnes, Head of Exhibitions, and Dr Martha Black. Curator of Ethnology.

Thanks to all who gave of their time today, and for freely sharing all their expertise and experience!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

More on Cowichan Sweaters - Dief the Chief, Steve McQueen, and Mrs. Johnny Bear

Yesterday, my intangible cultural heritage class at UVic met Alice Trueman, a knitter from Salt Spring Island, who talked about Cowichan sweaters (you can read about that here). Alice mentioned in her interview a photo of John Diefenbaker wearing a Cowichan sweater. A quick internet search later, here he is, in his sweatered glory. The first is from 1967, the second from 1958.

The website "Ask Andy About Clothes" has some great photos of Cowichan sweaters, including one Steve McQueen sporting one featuring the "Greek Key" design Alice talked about, and a fabulous photo of Mrs. Johnny Bear, a Cowichan knitter, posing with her knitting needles.

ICH @UVic Day Two - From Chicken Feet to Cowichan Sweaters

Tuesday was day two of the course on Intangible Heritage I'm teaching at the University of Victoria. We started out this morning, bright and beautiful, at the Gates of Harmonious Interest, marking the entranceway to Victoria's Chinatown, the oldest Chinatown in Canada.

We had a busy morning, with the students starting off by doing quick sketch maps of the district, and then locating within the district examples of the five domains of intangible cultural heritage as defined by UNESCO:  Oral Traditions and Expressions; Performing Arts; Social Practices, Rituals, and Festive Events; Knowledge and Practices Concerning Nature and the Universe; and Traditional Crafts.

We then met up with Chris Adams of, who gave us a great tour and talk about Victoria's Chinatown and the link between the tangible, built heritage of the district, and the intangible cultural heritage that permeates it.

It was my first time meeting Chris, but I've met his father and company founder John Adams before (we even were on a panel together about ghost tours, back in 2009). Chris was a fabulous guide and raconteur, and introduced us to some fabulous places, a highlight being the Tam Kung Temple on the top floor of the Yen Wo Society building.

It is an incredible gem of a space, and one I'd never seen before.

After that, we had a quick lesson in the game of Fan Tan, and a lecture on opium dens, and then we went to the famous Don Mee restaurant for Dim Sum, including my requisite feed of chicken feet and egg tarts.

After lunch, we rushed back to UVic, for a chat about ethnographic documentation, including my tips for oral history interviewing

Then we had another treat, a visit from the very charming Alice Trueman, a knitter from Salt Spring Island. Alice grew up on Vancouver Island, and doesn't remember a time when she didn't knit. I conducted an oral history interview with Alice while the class listened and watched.

Alice was another gem of the day; she was a font of knowledge about knitting. We talked about the tradition, her involvement, and how the tradition of knitting has shifted over the years, and the knitting retreats she runs on Salt Spring Island.   

Alice spoke knowledgeably about many aspects of knitting, but particularly interesting was the discussion we had about Cowichan sweaters, a very specific type of sweater made by First Nations knitters in one region of Vancouver Island.

You can download an mp3 of Alice describing Cowichan sweaters here, or in other formats here, or listen below. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Another peak inside the Marshall Building/Stott Vaults, 123 Water Street #nlheritage #architecture

This week, the NL Historic Trust reported on its Facebook page about the possible upcoming demolition of the old brick and stone vaults located at 123 Water Street, shown in the exterior photo above, from May 2005. The Trust writes:
"St. John's City Councillor Sandy Hickman said today that the developer of the new Alt Hotel - which will likely occupy the vacant lot at the corner of Prescott and Water, the former Marshall Brothers property - considered keeping the vaults on the property but they are not structurally viable."
The Trust included a link to a fabulous set of photos taken by local photographer Paul Kinsman, which you can check out here.

The Trust and Kinsman both refer to the vaults as belonging to the Marshall Bros. store, but the earlier history of the vaults is linked to a merchant by the name of Stott.

The entire area surrounding 123-125 Water was destroyed in the 1892 fire. Prior to 1892 there was a stone structure on the site, which possibly belonged to James Stott, a liquor and spirits dealer. As a result of the fire, Water Street was realigned, so the location of the later-day 123-125 Water Street did not sit exactly on top of the building site that was pre fire. The older structure was set back from the current street line. It is possible that these vaults belong to the stone building that was destroyed in the 1892 fire. This would explain rubble that was uncovered on top of the vaults during the demolition of the building above it, which may have dated to the period of the fire.

According to research submitted by Neachel Keeping of the City Archives on June 6, 2005, the building over top of the vaults was owned and let to a variety of tenants. From 1880-1918, the owner/occupier was James Stott, General Merchant (Stott rebuilt on same site after 1892 fire). From 1918-1921, the owner was still listed as James Stott, but from 1923-1963 it was owned by the Stott Estate (Stott died sometime between 1921 and 1923).

This is what the interior looked like in October of 2003, prior to the demolition of the building above it:

Additional photos taken November 2004:

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Can you help solve the mitt mystery of Long Beach, Trinity Bay? #nlheritage

I recently got an intriguing email from Wanda Garrett of the Southwest Arm Historical Society, concerning a pair of children's mitts dug up by her father. Wanda writes:
A few years ago, my father dug up two children's mitts on his land in Long Beach. I am trying to find out some historical information about the mitts - how old they are, etc.

The mitts appear to be children's mitts as they are small. They are two different sizes. It appears that the mitts were dipped in some type of solution to make them waterproof - maybe linseed oil?

The land where the mitts were found is now owned by my parents but it used to belong to my grandparents. When my parents took over the land, my grandparents' home was in bad shape and falling down so they had it bulldozed and buried on the land. We don't know if the mitts were in the house when it was bulldozed or not. My grandparents purchased the land and house in the '50s. The original owners of the land lived there from 1873-1961. 
I asked my mother (who is 81) if she remembers seeing these mitts before but she does not. I also asked her brothers, who are a little younger than her, and they also do not remember them. Therefore I am thinking they belonged to the people who owned the house and land before my grandparents. When they sold the house to my grandparents, they left some belongings in a back room upstairs. These mitts may have been among their items.
Have you seen or worn mitts like this? If you have, send me an email at, or leave a comment below.

- Dale Jarvis

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Folklore Photo - The Hole In the Floor and Adolphus's Wake

This week's folklore photo might not look like much, but it comes with a great story, and is a very good example of how intangible cultural heritage and our built heritage are intertwined. 

We've been working on an oral history of the Jenkins House in Durrell, Twillingate, which was owned for a portion of its history by Adolphus and Lucretia Jenkins. 

According to oral history, Lucretia contracted tuberculosis and suffered in the home for many years with the disease. She was confined to her bedroom while her daughter Leah Jenkins cared for her, surprisingly Leah never contracted the disease herself. While Lucretia was sick her husband Adolphus passed away. Adolphus was waked in the home, which was tradition at the time. Bedridden and unable to leave the upstairs of the house, Lucretia still wanted to see her husband one last time. The family decided, instead of trying to bring her downstairs they would saw a hole in the floor by the side of her bed so she could rest and still be able to see her husband, so that is what they did. Today, the cut in the floor is still recognizable by the newer boards that fill where the hole once was. 

Corey Sharpe remembers his Grandmother Leah recounting the story;
“Well, I tell you about that now. I never told anybody about it before. When father passed away, they waked him downstairs. So Lucretia was bed ridden upstairs with TB and separated from the family. She wanted to see her husband while they had him waked. So what they did, instead of bring her downstairs, they cut a hole in the floor so she could look down from her bed and see him. So the floors are to stay like that.”
You can download the full oral history report on the Jenkins House in PDF format here.

- Dale Jarvis

Monday, June 22, 2015

Invite to Heritage Day in Hodge’s Cove, Trinity Bay, Saturday June 27th

Guest blog post by Wanda Garrett, Southwest Arm Historical Society

Come and step back into time at the first annual Heritage Day of Southwest Arm Historical Society on Saturday, June 27th at the Lions Club in Hodge’s Cove, Trinity Bay. Doors open at 2:00 p.m. and the admission is free!

Museum for the Day
From 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., view the museum items that are on display for the afternoon. There could be everything from school yearbooks to vintage cast sad irons to a model or mould used to construct a punt. View and touch some of the many items that your ancestors used every day. You may be aware of most of the items but there could be some that you haven’t seen before or even know their purpose.

You might see items such as these two Maritime Archaic tools that were found at Heart’s Ease – a slate knife blade and a stone celt (axe). These items are approximately 4000 years old.

or you might see pottery inkwells that were found when the pond was drained at Heart’s Ease Beach in 1990….

or maybe a complete kit for loading bullets…

or items your grandmother or great-grandmother used around the house such as this sad iron or chopper…

The possibilities are endless so don’t miss out!

Share your ‘Old’ Photos
The Southwest Arm Historical Society will also take this opportunity to collect photos for their website. There will be a couple of computers and scanners set up at the Lions Club in the afternoon to scan your photos while you view the items in the ‘museum for the day.’ Be sure to bring along your photos of people and places of Southwest Arm and we will scan and return them to you before you are ready to leave.

Home-made Soup for Supper
What event in Newfoundland and Labrador would be complete without a little food? Join us for some homemade soup and sandwiches between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. – cost just $5.00 each.

‘Old-time’ Square Dance
And a little entertainment to round out the day! We will finish off our Heritage Day with an ‘old-time’ square dance. Don’t know how to square-dance! No problem; a number of square-dance pros will demonstrate how it is done and then offer you an opportunity to give it a try. Sound like fun? The square dance will start at 7:00 p.m. with local live music (accordion and guitar) – must be 19 years and older – cost only $5.00 each.

We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

New on the Digital Archives: Purse Seines to Lobster Pots (1952)

Our colleagues over at Memorial University's Digital Archives Initiative are constantly uploading new documents to their already impressive collection of archival material.

Recently added was a fabulous short pamphlet entitled "Purse Seines to Lobster Pots" by F.H. Wooding, published in 1952 by the Department of Fisheries of Canada, and printed by the fabulously-named Edmond Cloutier, King's Printer and Controller of Stationery.

The booklet is from the Marine Institute Collections, 20 pages long, and provides an introduction to everything from British Columbia herring, to ice-fishing on the Prairies, to the fisheries of the Atlantic Coast. It includes some great photos of the era, including the Newfoundlanders with the cod trap, above, and the scene of men launching dories somewhere off the Atlantic coast, below.

The booklet also includes a series of great line drawings, such as the illustration of an Atlantic coast sardine weir, shown below.

The publication can be viewed online, or downloaded as a pdf document. Happy fishing!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fishing Stage - Fishing Shed – Shed Stage

Guest blog post by Jennifer Murray, P.Eng

Ever notice the stages in rural Newfoundland? No, not the fishing stages – the performance stages. Nearly every small town and outport in Newfoundland has one these days.

These are the places where the summer festival is held, where local teenage bands play their first gig, and touring entertainers put on the big show of the summer. It’s the spot where local mayors announce the winner of the raffle, thank all the volunteers, and ask the owner of the red pickup to please move his vehicle because he is blocking traffic.

Mostly simple structures – a shed with the door on the wide side – they are cleverly designed to their purpose and climate. Unlike many amphitheatres and outdoor stages in other parts of the world, the shed-stage has a roof and walls on three sides to protect performers and their equipment from the wind and the rain which are a common feature of summer festivals in Newfoundland.

During performances, the doors can be opened out of the way or made into an extension of the stage; when not in use, the doors are secured and the building becomes a storage facility for equipment.

With the closure of many rural churches and schools, and the decline of fraternal organizations which once maintained large halls, these stages and the fields and recreational areas they typically adjoin have become the spaces where the community can come together for celebrations and special events. This infrastructure also supports the expression of many aspects of our intangible cultural heritage. These small stages represent a relatively new form of vernacular architecture, and demonstrate an adaptation of an existing type of building to meet the needs of small communities.