Salt Spring Island Archives

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Demystifying a Box of Archives

Mary Davidson

Accession Number Interviewer SSI Historical Society Address
Date January 14, 1997 Location
Media 2 cassette tapes Audio CD mp3 √
ID 130 Duration




Unknown Speaker 0:00
I'm very pleased to try to demystify the archives, the archives ism. It's not really anything special, I'm not an archivist, I was a school librarian. But history of courses is my biggest interest. And running the archives is a lot of fun. Now, I used to have a partner but she became very ill and doesn't come very often. Now, I also have several very, very good helpers that come when they're called and often just come every week and help out. And that's, that's an important part of the archives too. It's, it's not being run the way it used to be, because it's pretty hard to keep things going. But I come on call if somebody really needs to work in the archives, then I do what I can to be there, and Peggy still does come out in the middle of the week, quite often, if somebody falls, she will go down. And as long as it's very quiet, she is quite able to help out. We always had the idea that she was the north end, and I was the South End representative. But now it's it's become much more difficult. So I've turned to sue and Ivan, many, many occasions for the north end. And just sort of struggle along with this, this box of goodies came through more. And before more, I believe it was given to him by an MOA. Now, and isn't particularly interested in history, but her husband was. And I believe that this has come through him. Now to access this and write down all the correct data about it, I really have to find out where it came from. But we haven't gotten to that point the box has been in the archives for some time, and really not much has been done. So I'm going to bring out bits and pieces and show you what's here. And demystify opening a box that's been given to the archive. So donation, it's I think that you will find archives very interesting. I do. I think it's

Unknown Speaker 2:55
it's a wonderful hobby. And I think that we will, you will find out just sort of what we do.

Unknown Speaker 3:08
When a box comes in, now, this is the way it came. All of this stuff tucked away. This one says worth looking over. That's a note for more. So there's a lot of interesting stuff there. Please excuse me, I'm getting over Hold on I have to stop periodically. These these things were all loose in the box as they still are. Now I have no idea what this is or what it's for, or whatever it was used for. Is it it belongs in a museum of course, we have a drawer in the archives where we keep stuff like this. Rather than throw it away. It shouldn't be there and we don't have the storage space for it. But we keep it because we just will pay you with my turn some of it away. But I'm a pack rat and I just hate throwing anything away. So we have this I'll probably get in touch with John. person that looks after the museum for the farmers Institute. This is one of those Centennial metals. Pioneers God. I don't know whether this belongs to Colin or if it came from the Collins brothers. Because a lot of this stuff has come from the Collins family. So I'm not sure I have to find out I have to be in touch with them. This is eraser I believe I think maybe somebody has always stuck into a box and taken it to call him because he was interested. And an has just located it in a, in an attic or someplace and turned it over to more. I believe these are lenses. So I don't know what that stuff is tall. And it's got nothing to do with the archives. But it might be part of somebody's life. And it deserves to be saved into the hands. More has put on, on some of this, probably no value. But he examined this very thoroughly because he was doing the agricultural part of the book. And if he could find anything, the columns brothers were farmers. So he was looking very, very clearly at everything. And he said, probably have no value. But you know, I think maybe there is some value, maybe not for salts for an island. But maybe for another archives or another place. What I do with this is examine it thoroughly examination is the first part of the job to find out whether we're going to keep it, is it any good for our archives? Does it do anything for salts bring it all. And if well, for instance, one of the glass slides was a Christchurch Cathedral. Now that's in Victoria. So Tony, very kindly took it to the archives at Christchurch Cathedral. And that's where it belongs. If anybody is doing any research on Christchurch Cathedral, they have a beautiful picture. It's it may not get developed, I don't know they don't have very, but they still may look after it and do something with it. And eventually it will be abused. So yeah, when you're going through a box like this, you have to think, well, maybe somebody else will really need it. If we don't, it's quite important not to throw anything away. On the other hand, if this is all columns, stuff, and I'm not sure if it is I'm sure there's bits and pieces that are not. And by columns, I mean the columns brothers, there is a little bit that belongs to color mode, or came from him. There's also a small amount from wh more. So there's all kinds of bits and pieces here. Now this have no value. I think these are pictures of Ireland. This is Blarney castle, and this is a cathedral. I can't see what it says right now. But where it is, but somebody in Ireland might very well want that. I don't know whether the Collins family came from Ireland or not. Maybe they belong to them. I don't know where this came from or who they belong to. But we have to find that out. And when we do this book is called the session. And we have to write down exactly where things came from and who they belong to, and if possible, even a biography of the person who donated them. Now, I'm not sure if we're going to have more disparate donator or an as the donation. But anyway, there'll be some kind of a brief biography, perhaps of the whole string of people where this came from. In here, there's a letter from the Bank of Montreal to one of the columns. Now, that's part of this person's life. This person was pioneer on Saltspring island. It doesn't probably have any particular value because just about a little savings account, but it's part of this life. And that's what we save something that makes us understand the person and understand the history involved here. All of these things are so you might call them bits and pieces. But when they all add up to somebody's like, it's an important thing to have. Someday somebody might want to write up a history. This is recipe for rheumatism, bruises and sprains beautiful handwriting. I don't know where it came from or who it belonged to. It's just it is absolutely fascinating to go through a box like this high school correspondence courses it's the Collins brothers take high school correspondence courses are done. This belongs to someone else. This one is to Mr. Collins. It's from the tea and company. And it's about his hearing aid. tells him how to use it. And how to accustom himself to it. And then he hope that everything will be all right. Signed by Bob Maxwell who obviously worked for eton's optical or sorry, acoustics. These are just newspaper clippings mainly on totem poles and things like that. So I the West Coast needed people so I'm not sure. Throughout this pack these packages, there are a lot of letters entered in black. I think probably they were relatives. But it's hard to say this one is married wise. I don't know if it came from Britain. I had no idea at this point. The date may 12 18th. At age 80. There's a religious verse. And in memoriam party before the well, is this doesn't necessarily have to belong to the phone family unless it actually says Dear Mr. Collins, or mentioned the calls. I don't know it could be Colin Morris. It could be somebody before that. There are all kinds of little bits and pieces. I've just left things in the packages that they came in. This one is school lands Link was incorrect. And this is apology to Ivan, a little blurb in the paper. You might want to look at that sometimes. This is recipes for cream cheese, Carnation culture, somebody loved flowers, obviously. Pruning, prune, and

Unknown Speaker 13:03
something called lumber and logbooks. Now, I'm not sure what value these will have, unless they belong to the Colts. Well, they could have value if they belong to call and mode to because we have a huge amount of stuff on the family. So we just have to think about this. This is this is another recipe for cheese. So obviously a farmer who have lots of spare milk from wanting to make cheese. And this is just natural history a little bit. I haven't thrown away anything at this point. It's just a matter of hanging on to it and discovering the history of each little piece.

Unknown Speaker 13:58
I suppose to a lot of people, this kind of thing is kind of a waste of time. But it really isn't. It's amazing what the researchers find when they look through stuff like this. Some I think Ruth Sandwell has been my best example of searching out every last little detail about things. And she's put it all on this in her computer. And when she finally gets her dissertation done, she turns everything over to us. Now, some of it she's actually found in our archives. We don't even compare to Victoria archives, provincial archives, but things that you wouldn't think of a researcher might find very valuable. So you don't want to throw anything away. You want to keep it all and hope that you are going to find a use for it. Now this I don't know who wrote on this, it says various items for marks consideration. And oh, maybe it's Mary's consideration, I guess that's what it says. If not wanted for our times, please return to more. But more, it's not gonna get any better. I just don't get rid of anything at all it comes into the archives. Here there's a little story about John Craven Jones. And there's a little tag here with Myrtle Harmons name on it. And I believe that she has given this information to more when he was doing his writing. This one is from all of Mowat and it's to do with the plans for the United Church. And he also his other hat, besides being the agricultural writer for the the book, he is also very involved in the United Church Administration. And this is a Caldwell letter on the history of the United Church, and of Broadwell, widow, history of Broadwell widow. In this there is a WMO sketch of history of the Methodists. Dated, oh, no, the dates of his history 1861 to 1952. And

Unknown Speaker 16:41
this is a great deal to do with it. Frederick Phillips, and now we were talking about this cabin that's going to be burned out.

Unknown Speaker 16:58
The Tolson brothers as Bob Tulsans. grandfather built the cabin for Phillips, this Phillips also wrote a book for the farmers Institute, a little pamphlet type booklet, in 19. Two, so anything of interest about Phillips is interesting to us, too. He was quite artistic. There are some, quite a few pictures in his little booklet. This has to do with the farms Institute, lamb. These are all land land registry items. So they will, that particular part will go into the pharmacy Institute box. I think in the case of this kind of a box. Instead of following the rules of the VC archivists Association, I think what we're going to do with a lot of this stuff is to separate it, because it really hasn't come from one particular place, it will be given one number, but it has come from many, many places and as about many different people, and I would feel better putting it all together, all the columns family stuck together, and all the the other items with the family that they belong to, as far as I can prove. Now this one called worth looking at over is is very much worth looking over. Besides a lot of snapshots, family snapshots, I guess this is the farm there's a huge amount of stuff in the columns family. I'm not sure who this receipt was made up to but it was signed by a patent burger. So we're covering the whole island here. Vaguely. And here's one somebody called Michael I don't know who he would be Sam. I think it's Sam Michael. It's another receipt

Unknown Speaker 19:30
and a huge number of another these. This is full of hair it's very sad. You feel you feel quite moved about some of these

Unknown Speaker 19:46
are very Victorian. Yes. But that's what's in that one. And I don't know who that was allowed to but maybe the columns family. There's a newspaper clipping of a marriage All kinds of pictures and I'm sure the pictures are Collins because the house is there. Pardon me. MARY Yes. Well, I think it took place in England because it's it's the parish that the columns is came from it. Charles St. Peter Percy George Welsh deputy LCH it tells all the people present and all the gifts they brought

Unknown Speaker 20:38
the pictures are mainly Collins pictures, I think

Unknown Speaker 20:47
oh, this is half, half a letter here. That's another thing that happens. As you can see, one of the things we do immediately is get rid of all of these clips. We have plasticized paper clips. paper clips are really really bad. If you have a bunch of ancient documents in your home and you want to take good care of them, get rid of the metal paper clips, take them off and the plasticize ones are very reasonable and then you can be sure that they're not going to mark your pieces of paper. What we do with pictures and a lot of this will all have it we put it in earnest looking at earnest name here we put it in acid free containers the pictures go into little glassine envelopes you can see through them they're not as good as the really clear ones but they cost a lot less this is this is a letter to the Collins brothers from an MOA

Unknown Speaker 22:13
and this is a letter from Colin mod to the to the Collins brothers. I think they must have been quite close. And these are wheels these wheels of earnest Edwin and set all of them and this is the probate for earnest George Collins. So these are items of considerable value in the history of a family I don't know anything about the columns except that they have this farm that's now a beautiful bed and breakfast. There were three of them three brothers

Unknown Speaker 23:08
that was the old man and Ernest are the are the guardians and the older and older

Unknown Speaker 23:20
they didn't live in the same house. So the old house that that's now the bed and breakfast that was the father's house. Now there was a miss Pinter who wasn't

Unknown Speaker 23:41
provided area

Unknown Speaker 23:43
without missing miss the columns mother's maiden name was Petter. So she must have been a cousin

Unknown Speaker 23:55
see later that they retired to qualify for a refund

Unknown Speaker 24:06
oh that's how they became so friendly with Colin Colin

Unknown Speaker 24:12
Welcome to the office, the business where the family got together with a very very dear friend of mine, Bill Hall it was

Unknown Speaker 24:28
so this was a generational friendship

Unknown Speaker 24:32
for many years. So the point is to deal with

Unknown Speaker 24:43
what you see the next step is to sit down and interview Ivan and then go and interview and and find out as much as I can because there is a considerable amount. These people are going to get one of these nice little acid free boxes all to themselves at this point. We didn't have very much on the columns family before. The people in the bed and breakfast had given us a number of pictures. And that was about all we had. So now we have more of the history of the family. And now we have a little bit better understanding of the family and there is something more to go on. This is another package very similar to the last one's a lot of pictures in this package. And I'm not going to open that out because I've got a couple of other things showing.

Unknown Speaker 25:43
Roll in big boulders

Unknown Speaker 25:49
when he shouldn't have now this this picture is in very bad shape. In marks one of marks notes, he suggests that perhaps this should go to Victoria, because this is the Victoria agricultural Association. The only trouble with it is I don't know why it would be here unless there were some of the Saltspring people in it. So somebody who knows something about what they looked like in those days, maybe can look at this. And it says color more on the back here. No, no, I don't know the exact uncle Association. And if we don't give it to Victoria outright, I don't think we will because it belongs to the more family and whatever we have on them goes into the mod box. And I'm sure that there will be Saltspring people in the picture. Therefore we will keep the picture. Private. Well, we could do that for Victoria, if they wanted, they might actually have a better coffee. This one is pretty badly damaged. Oh, I should have mentioned that when we come across something like this, this was broken right off. This tape will not damage the picture. It's on there to hold it together. For the time being it can be easily taken off without peeling off the picture. And it could maybe be repaired. In big archives there are people that do nothing but repair. In our archives if it gets repaired, we have to do it ourselves. So we'll just leave it like that for the time being. It's Oh it says 1910 BC central farmers Institut 1910 Victoria BC.

Unknown Speaker 28:08
Now, in here, we have a couple of other items that came with the package, but I had started to put them away because they were they were too big for the box. And they were just getting more ruined. And it was better to put them away. This is I won't open this out. But this is the Floor Plan or the building plan for the United Church. And there's a note on here to the Reverend Barry cook. Now. This is a very difficult decision for me. Because this church is on Saltspring everybody connected is on Saltspring. But there is a United Church archives at UBC. Now, some years ago, I did a little history of the Burgoyne United Church when they had their 100th birthday. And they were wonderful from the EBC. They sent great big box of stuff to do with that particular church and the history of the United Church on Saltspring, which was a Methodist church up until 1925. It was a very early church here, first established one. And when I got finished with all the stuff, I sent it all back. It's a very, very difficult decision. Because this is original plan. It's a building that's still in use today. It's not a church anymore. But it's it's really very difficult to send it over there. But that's probably what we'll end up doing with it. Because the United Church archives is accessible. They're very, very good about letting people well, these archivists there At this time

Unknown Speaker 30:03
this would be etc Now, no. It would be the building that's been painted purple etc. Okay. The Manse was the one that was painted. Now this is a certificate of John Collins, John Hahn. And it is

Unknown Speaker 30:31
a Certificate of Good farming. And I don't know why a person would get a certificate of good farming. It's in very poor shape, which is why it was wrapped up.

Unknown Speaker 30:49
British Columbia Dairy Farmers Association, this diploma together with a Silver Medal is awarded to John T. Collins for proficiency in the science and practice of dairy farming and dairying. And then it's signed by Sheldon and avoid to come down to the Empress Hotel for tea. And they gave them these metals. I don't know whether the salts bring on people when she was living in Victoria.

Unknown Speaker 31:31
This is acid free paper that I'm wrapping this in. So the destruction and this happens I can't do much about it. All we can do is prevent it from getting worse.

Unknown Speaker 31:51
Want to get it back. This is an acid free box. It's called a matte box. But it's it's good for certificates and true plans and anything else that's long and slim, fit in there. Very handy to have. Now another thing that these people, and I think these all belong to the phones, family, they collected postcards. These are absolutely wonderful postcards. And they're from all over the place. And that's the only thing that I've really sorted out. One batch has writing. They are addressed to the columns family, this one is to E and R columns. And it's from Kurt and Bunny. So I don't know a few people, some of you might know some of the names on there. But the rest of these are, there's no writing on them at all. And they're some of them are Canadian, this whole pack is Victoria. And there might be some interest at the Victoria archives for copying some of these pictures. But I think these, these will go into the box of the for the cons family. Except if somebody wants to make copies. Because this is part of their life, somebody was a collector collections go into archives. Now eventually we'll run out of space. And people will say, Well, why would you say those but things that people did, are part of their history. And the whole idea of the Archives is to preserve the history of Saltspring. So that's what we do. We're just keeping as much as we possibly can. That packages Vancouver party. Yes, they're sorted. More or less, I've made mistakes, because I've looked at the back and discovered that some are in the wrong pile. So they have to be done. Again, these are from the United States. That just all kinds of them. There's some of these lovely little pictures. And they're really it's an lightly I could leave it out because some people would like to look at them. But if you look at them, please make sure that the elastic goes on on the same package that you take it off. So that's what sorting is done remains. Now perhaps some of you think that this is just a bunch of garbage. And it's true that you do find stuff like this in the garbage sometimes ago, we were given a package of stuff, I think maybe Tom Holtby brought it in, found in the garbage. And it belonged to one of the pioneer families here. There were a lot of fairly recent pictures, and a lot of pictures of the family before they ever came to Canada. While the pictures taken in England, somebody's ancestors, beautiful picture a lot. So I packaged them together, and I told Sue about it. And she's been in touch with the, with the person who is a descendant of these people. And someday she'll come and get them. Not the ones that belong on Saltspring so much as the ones that belong in England, because these are these leaders ancestors. Now, if it was me, I'd be over there in a flash, because pictures of my ancestors are very important to me. But in the meantime, they are being kept safe. We know which family they belong to. So that's, that's the important thing is to know where things came from and why. That's the whole point of the Archives is to preserve, collect and preserve as much as we can of the history of Salzburg. We have had a lot of wonderful contributions. When Tom published his book, he gave us all of the what would it be the draft with all the footnotes, just just absolutely fabulous stuff. You know, a lot more than went into the real book, really. And we're getting the same from Ruth. And when Charles gets finished, there'll be all kinds of stuff that everybody that was in the group has researched and put together. So it adds up, we get a lot of interesting things that way, everybody's working away on researching, and putting things together. Now, I think I've covered just about everything here, except to tell you that the idea of collecting this stuff isn't just a historical way. The idea of it is, so it's available. And that's the hard part of the archives, because I go down Wednesday morning. But invariably, people who want to work in the archives come on weekends. That's not great. It messes up my weekend, or piggies, depending on who's available. Sometimes we just can't manage all. Sometimes they come on a Monday, and a Monday is a disaster, because Monday afternoon is when the artists have their new in the in the windfall room, and they don't like it, if we interrupt them, we have a bit of a problem there. Sometimes somebody will come that can't come any other time. And it makes it very, very difficult. When the windfall room was filled, it was it was our suggestion, we went to the library and said this windfall money is available. And so the board at the time, the Library Board and the historical society, particularly in the archives people got together and we asked for money from the windfall of money, and it was granted. And that's how the room got built. So actually, we do have a right to be there. We're not just sort of living off the archives, although not the library, they're very good

Unknown Speaker 38:57
to us. But the room wouldn't have been built. And if we haven't suggested that it will be a good idea.

Unknown Speaker 39:06
Anyway, accessibility is a very important part of our lives as the cutbacks, the ones that are supported by the government are cutting back on hours great within it later in the morning that you can get in and earlier in the evening that they close and it's it's quite difficult. Now Victoria has a little advantage because it's the provincial archives, but it's very hard. And as volunteers it's it makes it more difficult. Thanks to Peggy and Sue and a few others that help out and we we manage to help people as much as we can. So we hope anybody that wanted to do any research will come on a Wednesday morning Once in a while people give us stuff in this restrictions. One of the pioneer, who isn't very well spent many, many hours writing a family history. But when he gave us his article copy of the family history, he said it was just our family. Nobody else. So that's a restricted item. And we do accept restrict restricted items. It's kind of difficult sometimes. You know, it's, you feel well, if it's here, but if somebody has stipulated that they don't want other people to have this, then we put a restriction on it. I can't hear your opinion forever. No, I think this will be the decision of the other the children of the family. No, this this person is, is very unwell. And, and he just absolutely does not want this to be public. So I think it was very, very good of him to give it to put it in the archives and to trust us that he did and and we're grateful. So we keep that restriction on. Merkel's mother's story about Sylvia Stark is also restricted. But that's only for photocopying. Anybody can sit and read it. But because she's a member of home her and she says yes, you may, you may let people coffee.

Unknown Speaker 41:44
So the restriction is, is quite, quite nice. And she's still available by phone. So restrictions have to be honored. But we are also very, very happy that people trust us enough to put put these kinds of things into the archives.

Unknown Speaker 42:08
Now, just one more little thing. Am I going over time? This is what we've been doing with pictures to identify them. This is this is one of the jobs that I've missed does. I have a large number of pictures of

Unknown Speaker 42:31
beaver point school because one of my cousin's went right through the record school from grade one, right, right through I guess, grade eight in those days. And I didn't get the identification of all the people. No, I know quite a few of them. And I can see quite a few of them too. So we sort of sketched them in. But we're going to take these two to my customer and get him to fill them in. At the present time. Bob Eckerman has a picture of our wedding that took place on Russell Island. huge number of people. And he's got exactly the same setup. It's got all these little circles over the faces. And all the pages numbered. And he is presently identifying all the people in that wedding picture. This this has to do with Maria Montoya family. This was her daughter's wedding. Tom spirit. Picture. No, no. And then we have another picture of Isabella point school. I can just recall the date a long time ago, but we didn't know hardly anybody in a few our minutes a couple have mentioned in the Toynbee snapshots. One of the boys got the certificate and the teacher. So that's the next thing that's going to bog Hmm. Because he will probably know some and then I thought maybe some of the Lazy Girls might be able to help there too. Anyway, this is the picture of Isabella points. So all of the heads have been circled. And then there's this list right? All with all numbers and then to listen to right. Who may on

Unknown Speaker 44:35
here, somebody who's doing a SPFs teacher failed as a family. They wanted a copy.

Unknown Speaker 44:46
They do. Alright. You given them a copy

Unknown Speaker 44:57
when Tom was doing his work he pieces Have the archives of what he was writing.

Unknown Speaker 45:04
We have a pretty good collection. It's coming along nicely. So that is another thing that we do is try to identify our pictures. If you were here and saw Betty's display of all the pictures that she

Unknown Speaker 45:24
took from the glass negatives, we aren't doing too bad. Bobby Crimmins had the box, the next person will be goody. We don't actually sit with them now, because we have a second set that Betty has made. So we all set goals write to them with a magnifying glass. And they do this at their leisure because we felt that it was just sitting there and waiting that they might not take the time to really study the pictures. So those are two of the things that we do we look through boxes when we identify pictures. We have quite a good picture file, as well as good oral history file. That mainly was Sandwell did. And I think she has come and spoken to you about them. And we have a set of diaries of lithium Palmer who was one of Bullock's boys. And this set of diaries takes up four big cardboard boxes because they were started in the early part of the century. And he's got maybe two lines on a page. But they go right along to the 60s. So there's a book for every year. Not much in them. I don't know if if they have a lot of values, but they belong to a pioneer and there are words in his own handwriting in these books. One day somebody might want to sit down and read them all. I guess that's pretty well all I have to say today. Charles brought a big bag of stuff and said well you can add this in but I can't do that because I don't know what's there. I'm just going to leave that. But if you want to look at these postcards and things you are welcome to come up and look