This spring we talked about what teaching collections are and what that means for community history museums.
To recap: a museum is characterized by a collection of often unique objects that form the core of its activities for exhibitions, education and research.
Objects (artifacts) distinguish a museum from an archive or library, where contents are paper-based.
As the Maple Ridge Museum is both – museum and archive – we are in a unique position of what resources we have to offer the public.
While the teaching collection at the Maple Ridge Museum deals primarily with objects, our archive is an accumulation of historical records.
Archives contain primary source documents that have be collected over the course of an individual or organization’s lifetime, and are kept to show the function of that person or organization.
In general, archives consist of records that have been selected for permanent or long-term preservation on grounds of their enduring cultural, historical, or evidentiary value.
Archival records are normally unpublished and almost always unique, unlike books or magazines, for which many identical copies exist. This means that archives are quite distinct from libraries with regard to their functions and organization.
Often times, when dealing with research requests at the museum, people inquire to search through our archive, but what they really mean is research files.
Our research files are extensive — more than 1,200 distinct topics on community history. There are two copies — a digital one at the museum and a hard copy at the Maple Ridge library.
These files include buildings, people, organizations, neighbourhoods and local governance. The files are non-circulating but can be read and photocopied within the library. If you have a specific topic in mind or cannot access the library, contact us for digital copies.
Community members use the collection to get a deeper understanding of their location. The Maple Ridge branch of the Fraser Valley Regional Library has been a staunch friend and supporter of the Maple Ridge Museum since the early 1970s, when the library provided the museum’s first home.
Tucked into a corner at what became known as ‘The Old Library Auditorium,’ the museum stayed there until 1984, when it moved to the brickyard site, which is where it resides today.
In addition to our research files, newspapers are also available for viewing at the library. A joint project between the museum and the library raised funds to purchase a microfilm reader-printer and install it at the library, where there was more room for it than at the museum.
Since that initial purpose, the library has purchased microfilm copies of the entire available run of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Gazette and locally relevant parts of other newspapers, including the Weekly Columbian and the Fraser Valley Record.
When able, the museum tries to make archival documents digital to share with the public. Some are available for view with description at mapleridgemuseum.org/out-of-the-vault-archives.
One is the “1929 Big Bend Highway Telegram.” In 1929, Nelson S. Lougheed was the Conservative MLA for Maple Ridge and he was Minister for Public Works. Getting the Big Bend project underway was part of his portfolio.
This telegram illustrates a number of conditions of the day. It was a communication between two MLAs with Lougheed in Ottawa and William A McKenzie in Victoria.
McKenzie was the representative for Similkameen and Minister of Mines and Labour in the Simon Fraser Tolmie government from 1928 to 1933. Lougheed might have been in Ottawa to negotiate with his federal counterparts.
In those days, it was very difficult to have private conversations other than face to face. However, telegrams were also not private and so it was common practice for those in commerce, banking and apparently, politics, to use word replacement codes.
Fortunately for us, Mr. Lougheed has written in the translation.
• Visit mapleridgemuseum.org for more details, or if you have a research request, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Allison White is the curator at Maple Ridge Museum and Community Archives and Haney House Museum.