Exhibit unearths stories on notable residents

NANAIMO - The Nanaimo Museum hosts exhibit called Characters, Con Men and Celebrities this February.

A carved wooden beaver was one of the pieces salvaged from Andrew Haslam’s tugboat Estelle.

During research projects, Nanaimo Museum staff continued to unearth unique and fascinating stories about Nanaimo’s past residents, but couldn’t include them in the exhibits they were creating.

Those stories were set aside and piled up over two years until the exhibit Characters, Con Men and Celebrities was created this spring.

The exhibit runs at the museum until May 7 and includes stories about residents from diverse backgrounds, including working-class citizens, wealthier residents, women and various ethnic groups.

“It’s our community and these are our stories,” said Aimee Greenaway, interpretation curator for the museum. “There are so many interesting stories from a diverse group of people in Nanaimo.”

Greenaway said although the exhibit is called Characters, Con Men and Celebrities, none of the individuals included have been put into those categories. The museum is leaving it up to people to judge which individuals belong to each category by posing the question: Who do you think deserves the title of Nanaimo’s most fascinating character, con man or woman or celebrity? To make a selection, people can cast their votes on the Museum’s Facebook page or cast a ballot in the box at the museum.

“We wanted museum visitors to read the information and form their own opinions,” said Greenaway.

Some of the people covered in the new display will be used in the museum’s permanent exhibit.

“It allows us to include more diversity in our exhibit,” said Greenaway. “Right now we could use more stories about women.”

Some of the artifacts on display include a journal from the 1860s, written by William and Phoebe Raybould, chronicling their journey from England to Vancouver Island. Greenaway said the journey took the couple five months on board the ship.

“The journal documents their travel. It’s quite detailed,” she said. “It gives us an idea of what the actual immigration experience was like.”

Greenaway said it’s interesting that the journal made it into the museum’s collections because in 1883 William Raybould died and Phoebe moved back to England. The couple didn’t have children.

Another object with an interesting story behind its wooden surface is a carving of a beaver that was originally in the wheelhouse of Andrew Haslam’s tugboat, Estelle.

The boat was constructed in 1891, but sank three years later. The eight crew members on board died.

Greenaway said researchers came across an article from 1895 stating that the nameplate of the boat had been salvaged. It washed up on shore. She said “presumably” the beaver carving was salvaged in the same manner.

The museum is hosting two special presentations of the exhibit Feb. 16 and April 19 from 1:30-2:15 p.m., where visitors can hear more detailed stories about the individuals in the exhibit and some who weren’t able to be included because of space constraints.

Pre-registration is required, at a cost of $5 per person, by calling 250-753-1821 or going to www.nanaimomuseum.ca.

The museum is also hosting Family Heritage Day Monday (Feb. 8) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Families can enjoy self-guided tours of the exhibits and the touch and coal mine. Children can also create a coal mine lantern and heritage toy in the crafts area.




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