Fern Davidson

Archivist sparks talk of 19th century

Learn what life was like from 1890 to 1920 on the shores of Oak Bay

Jean Sparks still has the small wooden box she thought would be her log when the Oak Bay Archives started two decades ago.

Then a Heritage Committee member, she became the archivist in 1994, when they officially began in Oak Bay.

“I knew nothing about archives but I was on the Heritage Committee,” Sparks said with a laugh. “I’ve been muddling around ever since.”

For about six years, the Oak Bay Archives volunteers worked from a card table in the hall. Then for the millennium, council endowed the organization with a space of its own.

“We keep edging out,” Sparks said, seated at a boardroom table away from boxes of archival items.

Amazed by things like old photos, she loves history, historical novels, period movies and studied history and art in university. So Sparks is right in her element among the thousands of photos the Oak Bay Archives now boasts. Many now scanned and available for residents, and potential residents, to peruse.

“That’s one of our major focusses,” she said. There’s an extensive collection of old assessment cards, police logs, maps and building plans. “A cross section of things, and we accept donations of things within our mandate, which involves the boundaries of Oak Bay,” Sparks said.

Plus there’s a handful of oral histories.

“A lot were done about 1975, they’re people who grew up here in the early part of the 20th century,” Sparks said.

The offices now boast up to four working at a time out of the basement office at municipal hall, alongside a volunteer roster of about 11.

To celebrate the the 20th anniversary, Oak Bay Archives and Oak Bay Heritage present a lecture by Sparks called Tales from a Seaside Village, c.1890-1920 at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 17 at Windsor Park Pavilion.

“They’re usually quite well attended,” Sparks said of the heritage group’s talks.

She’s basing the talk on three or four photo albums that depict life at that time, including the Haynes family, for which Haynes Point is named, and another family that lived a year in the boathouse at Turkey Head in 1916.

Tales from the Seaside Village is Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. at Windsor Park Pavilion, 2451 Windsor Rd. Admission is by donation.

Did you know?

Oak Bay Archives, 2167 Oak Bay Ave. is open Tuesdays 9:30 a.m. to noon and Thursdays 1 to 4 p.m. Appointments are accepted between noon and 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and 3 and 4 p.m. on Thursdays. Email obarchives@oakbay.ca to arrange an appointment.