Oak Bay Heritage Day honours cultural history

Crowds turn out to explore gems from Oak Bay Archives

Oak Bay celebrated Heritage Week on Tuesday (Feb.20) with a day of exploring history through the archives. Municipal hall saw over 100 inquisitive residents come through the doors to go behind-the-scenes of the archives, view artifacts, and take a free heritage walking tour of Oak Bay village with historian John Adams.

Residents had a chance to see recently donated items, and those dug out of storage.

A recent acquisition, that the archivist has barely had an opportunity to dip into, features more than 1,000 film and glass negatives from a prolific Oak Bay photographer.

A collection of over 1,000 glass-plate and film negatives of B.C. and the NW Coast by Oak Bay photographer Bertram Howell dated 1890s to 1920s

The well-labeled files are the work of Bertram Howell, a photographer who lived on a street where the Oak Bay Recreation Centre now sits. He worked as a commercial photographer as well as electrician and his images range from Victoria to Washington State, Oregon and B.C.’s interior with some fantastic First Nations communities, Duncan said.

They have been tucked away in an attic for decades.

“Nobody has seen these,” says Caroline Duncan, Oak Bay archivist.

Local images they know so far include the exhibition building that graced Willows before it burned down in 1907. “Until they’re digitized we don’t know the full extent of what’s there,” Duncan said.

Florence Dick of Songhees Nation showcased her great great grandfathers cultural winter shirts that are over 150 years old and have never been displayed to the public. Dick asked her dad to showcase them at the event citing the importance of sharing the heritage that comes through their culture.

Florence Dick of Songhees sharing stories of Songhees heritage

Other historical gems included records such as the first council minutes, and a page or two from decades old police blotter. A newly donated album featuring photos of the 1938 ribbon cutting ceremony for the fire hall on Monterey Avenue was also on display. Willows Camp, which acted as a military training ground during the war, was featured prominently with albums that an elementary class put together during one of their recent trips to the archives.

Mayor Nils Jensen proclaimed Feb.20 to be Oak Bay Heritage Day.

Mayor Nils Jensen proclaims Feb. 20 as Oak Bay Heritage Day

Heritage BC’s Heritage Week is Feb. 19 to 25 under the theme “Heritage Stands the Test of Time” with a clear First Nation focus.



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