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History is alive and well at the Museum & Archives

The image of a Remington typewriter has caught the eye of Bowen Island community members in the windows of shops and cafés around Snug Cove during the past week.

The image of a Remington typewriter has caught the eye of Bowen Island community members in the windows of shops and cafés around Snug Cove during the past week. It is featured on the posters for the upcoming AGM and Antique Appraisal event, which will be hosted by the Bowen Island Museum & Archives on Sunday, June 28 from 12:30 – 3:00 PM.

Sequestered behind a row of Lodgepole pines, the modest front of the Museum building has often gone unobserved by passers-by despite its central location on the corner of Miller and Bowen Island Trunk Road. This year the AGM event aims to expand its membership base and make its ongoing preservation of Bowen history more widely known and accessible. It is a way for the Museum & Archives to reinforce our connection with both the Island and Lower Mainland communities, and to ensure that the material we document continues to be shared and preserved.

I began working at the Museum & Archives two weeks ago, as an Archival Assistant for a summer term of the UBC Arts Co-op program. During my first day working in the Archives, a young child came upstairs full of questions about what he had seen in the exhibit below. He told us that what made the Bowen Island Museum & Archives so special for him was that he could interact with the objects –fascinated by the old Remington, this little boy came upstairs to do his own research at the Archives. 

It just so happened that we had a second typewriter sitting on the office table. A much newer Olympic model, it was owned by the famous sportswriter Jim Kearney, who lugged it across the world to cover the Munich Olympics of 1972. As with many children his age, our young visitor was thrilled with our story and began typing away on the same keys that Kearney had idled over. Not really into news reporting, the boy began drafting a Superman installment on how the Marvel hero saved Bowen Island.

It may be that his typewriter creation was not too far off the mark – not only is local history central to what Bowen Island is, but there is something heroic in ensuring that those details are saved. And just as importantly, that they are brought out and shared with incomers, new comers, old timers, and overseas visitors alike. In our guest book, a recent entry reads “Interesting objects” in a friendly scrawl, alongside a name from Munich, Germany. 

It is not just off-island visitors who come to the Museum & Archives for the first time. A mother returning from the Artisan shops was caught unaware when I mistook her for a visitor. She decided to extend her shopping trip, and brought both her young daughter and father into the Museum. Her father was visiting from the family home in Patagonia, but she herself has been a resident on Bowen for almost a decade and did not know the Museum existed. Peering around at the objects we have on display, that same old Remington typewriter caught her eye. She told me when she was a school girl in Patagonia, the typewriters they used were identical. This single object suddenly opened a clear memory from her own past. 

“There was a tidal wave,” she said, “and seawater came up to our knees. The light was coming in, and there was seaweed hanging from the typewriter, one just like this.”

The words and objects housed in the Bowen Museum & Archives can have their own history and can also speak for themselves. The Remington, donated by Katie Carter in 1994, has in only two weeks allowed two visitors to personally connect with the past. The Antique Appraisal will be a similar opportunity for familiar and unassuming heirlooms from Island homes to shake off the dust of disuse and be given new value. 

It is important for the Bowen Island community and incoming visitors to see that the Museum & Archives is not a backlog of public records, or a storehouse of dated local knowledge. Local history is not an empty history of facts and dates, but one with names and faces that can connect a stranger to a time so spatially or temporally removed from their own. In community development, it offers a deep-seated anchor amidst tides of cultural and generational change. It is something that we share, and can continue to share, no matter what year we were born or what corner of the world we were born into. 

 I feel privileged to be part of the work done here at the Bowen Island Museum & Archives and I hope that this letter finds itself out in the community to gather and strengthen public support. I highly encourage everyone to attend the AGM and Antique Appraisal Fundraiser – to bring by your heirlooms, to share your own family histories, and to take in the timeless view of Snug Cove over some locally made treats at Bowen Island Marina.