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Two Hours

Two hours. That is all the time I have left in my contract with the MSA Museum Society. The minutes are ticking, the second hand is winding down and I am honestly at a loss for what to post.

I have never been one for goodbyes; in fact I usually go out of my way to avoid saying them. I never know what to say and they always leave me feeling a deep, inner kind of sadness. This is no different, but this is a goodbye I must say.

When I first started here last summer, I was a relatively shy and quiet kid who was blissfully going about her BA (well, about as blissfully as you can go about a BA, anyways), transiently going from class to class while working through her History major. Lacking a sense of inner direction and possessing a kind of transience with regard to career goals, I was in that awkward phase that saw me ducking and running for the refreshment table at functions whenever well-meaning people brought up the one question that will make university students tremble – “What are you going to do with that once you graduate?”. I stressed over giving tours, was generally clueless when it came to collections care and overall was just young.

Fast forward to now. I’m a little less quiet, way less shy and much closer to finishing my BA. Now, it may be true that I still do not know what exactly I want to do in life (at this point, it may come down to pulling straws…), but I know, at least after spending these summers here that I am at least in the right domain. Will it be graduate school? Will it be collections work? Will it be something else? I honestly do not know. But after working countless hours down at the warehouse, inventorying and discovering the collection, helping to restore artifacts and properly store artifacts and, while in the office, generally just sharing the history of Abbotsford with Abbotsford, I can whole-heartedly tell you that the work I have done here has been some of the most deeply gratifying of my life thus far. There is something so wonderful in telling someone from Abbotsford something that they did not know about Abbotsford and watching that sense of wonder and amazement come alive in their eyes, leaving me knowing that I had the opportunity to alter how they see the world. You walk away from those encounters knowing that you made a difference.

For this to have all happened, I owe many thanks to the ladies here at the museum, above all Christina. Under her guidance, I learned how to work the catalogue, how to deal with the problems that came up along the way and how to fix and restore artifacts if the need arose. She taught me how to become semi-proficient at 1920s IT support and generally allowed me to grow professionally and personally in ways that I didn’t even dream possible at the beginning of the summer. While I did not work directly under Anneleen, I learned to appreciate the intricacies of archival work and I always appreciated her wicked sense of sarcastic humour. From Dorothy and Shannon, I learned the many intricacies of office work – something I was inherently and incredibly clueless about when I first entered this office – and they have helped me realize and appreciate the sheer amount of work that goes into keeping an office functional. I have had some of the best laughs with these ladies and I can honestly say that my life has been deeply changed from having met all four of them. Thank you ladies and know that you have made a difference.

I am also deeply indebted to my fellow students, Sara and Sarah. I have learnt so much from both – Sara might be the most knowledgeable person I know when it comes to clothing and has such a deep breadth of knowledge when it comes to computers (she’s a wizard, honestly!) and Sarah might just be the most professional, worldly and organized person I have ever met. I have learned many things from both, including sharpening up my Photoshop skills and learning how to cast-on while knitting and both regularly made me laugh so hard that, at times, I have been on the verge of tears. I will miss them both and I am better off for having worked with them. Thank you both.

And finally, thank you Abbotsfordians! I have had the time of my life working here and sharing stories with you. You have been more than graceful and it has been an utmost pleasure getting to know you all!

Thanks, cheers and signing off for the last time,

Anna

How time flies!

Hello there everyone!

It’s hard to believe the summer is gone and that my time here is over! I’ve had a wonderful four months here and have managed to pick up more than a few useful skills along the way. I specifically enjoyed my experience working in the museum’s collections and archives and I really believe the work I did accessioning and cataloguing will go a long way towards my future career. It’s also given me food for thought about my plans for the year ahead and my goals for graduation. I’ve decided to work this year to save enough to go on an archaeological field school next summer, in part due to talking with my co-summer student Sarah and learning about her experiences. This fall I officially declare Anthropology as my major and I am also very excited to attempt the new minor in Anthropological Archaeology recently passed by the UBC Senate. I’m happy to say I am entering the fall with a new sense of motivation. I hope to find more experiences like my job here that will give me a greater skill set and broaden my horizons. I cannot thank the MSA Museum Society enough for giving me this opportunity. I will miss most the camaraderie and the fun we had together.

Goodbye (for now),

Sara B

Goodbye is the saddest word.

This is always the most difficult post of the year. The good-bye post. Other jobs, this wouldn’t so hard. You know the ones, all 9-5, coffee drinking, tired eyes and paper pushing. MSA Museum is so much more than that. Every day is different; the only thing that is constant is knowing you will enter an office ripe with laughter and wisdom.

The laughter comes from every corner. Our office is full of very different and unique personalities. When mixed together they have a great mixture of humor, maturity and dynamism. It’s always useful to bounce ideas off of everyone, because it’s guaranteed a point of view you didn’t consider will be presented.

The wisdom comes from all of our unique experiences. Dorothy has been an invaluable source of knowledge on non-profit functioning and guidance. Also, her healthy recipes are always delicious! Christina continues to share her knowledge on archaeology and the world with us, as well. Her experiences abroad, personally and professionally serve as a wonderful example for me and the other girls on how to balance a love of work, life and others. Shannon astounds me every day with her blunt sense of humor and honesty. Her guidance with administration and communication has been so helpful. Anna, our collections lead, has shown me what hard work and determination looks like in such a young package. Her contagious personality makes me work harder and strive for my best. Sara, my name partner in crime and archives lead, is one of the most well-read and intelligent young women I have met in a very long time. There is no doubt in my mind she will succeed; I’d advise you all to take notice!

On top of wonderful people, the summer itself was both challenging and rewarding. Last time I was with MSA in 2011, I didn’t get a lot of experience with the collection. This summer I worked in the warehouse 3 hours a day, 4 days a week. So, it’s easy to say I got experience this time around! Cataloging and inventorying were my main priorities. I learned proper care, and storing methods. Further, working in the house has helped me learn every nook and cranny of the place. It’s funny how a house can continue to surprise you, isn’t it? On office time, I was primarily worked on event coordination. I love meeting new people and planning, so this seemed like a natural fit for me.

As you can tell, the respect I feel towards these women goes far beyond just a “job”. I firmly believe every experience and person is a lesson in your life, and this has been evident this summer. I will carry them with me as I carry on towards graduation, and the rest of my life.

 

Thank you to everyone who has made this such a wonderful summer.

 

-Sarah

Storming the Weapons Cache: Justifying and Explaining a Warehouse Obsession

Hello again!

It’s been a little bit since I updated you on the goings-on around here! We are getting close-ish to completing inventory at the warehouse, which for us is super exciting and has been a product 2 summers in the making. This won’t mean that our work on the collection will be over – far from it, in fact – but it means that one portion of the work needed will have been completed. Until that happens, however, all of us students are still plugging away on inventory, which in my case entails doing more cataloguing and data entry for the more outdoorsy artifacts – shovels, axes, picks, etc. And, as has become habitual at this point, it is my feelings about these things that I would like to share with you today.

The area that I just completed (an area which I have taken to referring to, as everyone who works down at the warehouse knows, as the “weapons cache,” even though not everything is a defacto, made-for-use weapon) is ripe with agricultural, mining and forestry implements. We have split axes, pick axes, broadaxes, adzes, picks, chains, peaveys – you name it, we got it 75% of the time when it comes to tools that accompanied these local frontier activities.

To me, these are some of the coolest and most important things in the collection. Getting to see and handle items that you know were used during and following the advent of European arrival in the Abbotsford area is an immensely gratifying experience. Like the experience of handling most artifacts (at least, in my humble opinion), it adds a sense of continuity to the idea of time and truly makes you feel like an heir to history itself. However, what I find with the forestry, mining and agricultural artifacts in particular is that this feeling goes even further. These were implements used in the alteration of the land itself and, as such, actively shaped the world we live in, for example participating in events such as the draining of Sumas Lake or the deforestation of the area surrounding Mill Lake. Because they acted upon the environment, and the environment is something that we interact with on a daily basis, this means that the environment, in a sense, acts as a kind of living museum, which we inhabit 24/7, permanently displaying the “scars” of the actions of these items in the hands of our ancestors in a very visible way which we may or may not be conscious of as we go about our daily lives. As such, the physicality of these marks that they have left upon the land and which we continually deal with (especially in the case of Sumas Lake) mean that the actions of these implements have more direct bearing and influence on our lives than, say, a shirt from the 1920s. Now, nothing against twenties clothing or clothing in general, but compared to an axe used in active clear cutting, the tangible, lasting impact of a shirt is, at least in my view, relatively negligible compared to the more lasting impact of that axe (barring, of course, any instance where an important event or encounter occurred whilst a person was wearing said shirt, then the importance of that shirt goes up considerably).

In addition to being more physical in nature, these items and the marks they left behind also proves a saying that I have been taught all throughout my university career to be true. Even though I was taught the saying in a vastly different context concerning vastly different ideas, each swing taken with one of our picks and each hack of one of our axes taken back when the implements were in use really goes to illustrate the idea that “the past is always present.” The society we currently inhabit was built upon the societies or frontiers of the past, and, whether we like it or not, our society bears those markings, both physically, as we have just discussed, and societally, if we take into consideration political structuring, societal rituals, etc. We live and breathe history, whether we like it or not and we, ourselves, by consequence are the by-products of history.

Anyways, that’s where my mind’s been at for the past little bit. Hope you enjoyed the read!

Cheers,

Anna

Cancer Sucks.

Cancer sucks. There’s no other way of putting it. It’s awful and terrible and it sucks. That’s why we, the summer students, have decided to put together an event that is part fundraiser and part support. It is called Needling & Wheedling, is taking place August 22 from 4-6pm at Duft & Co. Bakehouse, in Abbotsford. It is a stitching get-together with a minimum $2 donation. We have decided to focus on the community side of the event just as much as the money. Why? That’s for the simple reason that cancer touches everybody in Canada in one way or another. It is the #1 killer of Canadians, and on average 524 new cases are diagnosed every day. The decision to host the event in the Historic Downtown was important to us, as well. Not only is Duft & Co. a beautiful, new, vibrant space in our community, but it is also across the street from some strategically yarn-bombed foliage. These trees are dressed to the nines in support of Karyn Waters, the co-owner of Birkeland Bros. Wool, who has been diagnosed with cancer. The article here by the Abby News is very touching. Creating an event was important to make a space where people can come together, knit, donate and add to those wonderful trees.

I have tried, up until now, to try and keep this event dissociated from my personal life and focus on others. However, as we draw nearer and nearer to the day, as I plan and do more research, I am reminded of the necessity for events like this, just purely from memory. As I mentioned before, cancer will affect all of us in our lifetime. Unfortunately, I had the experience of seeing cancer as an adolescent. My beloved family friend had a swift and unpleasant encounter with brain cancer when she was in her late 20s. Her difficult experience of diagnosis (because of her young age) and how fast it all seemed to happen after forced me to grow up at 15. It still affects me on a deeply emotional level. I don’t want to face another one of my loved ones’ mothers after they’ve lost their daughter. That’s something I would like no one to have to do.

By planning Needling & Wheedling, after seven years, it feels like that little bit of closure I still needed has showed up. Because this all happened at such a formative age, it’s been difficult for me to refuse to carry the baggage through life. This event has been an outlet for me to feel as though I am contributing to a larger cause which has been such a violent thief. It’s also reinforced the importance of community involvement and support in one’s own happiness. Although I just expressed a personal story (and feel a tiny bit guilty for it and how many I’s there are), the ability for me to work with my friends for the greater good makes me genuinely happy and optimistic.

I hope I don’t have to be alone in this. Because of the pervasiveness of cancer, the supportive portion of the event is a good way to convert negativity to positivity and realize, hey, the only way to move forward is to pitch in and grow.

Let’s come together, let’s be positive, let’s stitch cancer out of our future.

 

Sarah