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Next up at the museum: Bowen Blankets

“Bowen Blankets” a Bowen Island Museum and Archives exhibit in partnership with the Bowen Library runs from April 15 – May 15.
Green and white blanket with a design of lines of green diamonds
A blanket part of the Bowen Blankets exhibit in April 2021

Objects store memories and stories; these stories connect us to the past. The spring exhibit “Bowen Blankets” is available for viewing at the Bowen Island Museum and Archives and Bowen Library from April 15 through May 15. This intimate and unique textile collection on display presents blankets from the 1860s through 2000s. These blankets tell stories of our history, sometimes the stories are familiar and intimate, while others play a less personal utilitarian role. 

Textiles with their embedded stories are everywhere in our lives. Each blanket is unique. Blankets reflect and express personal, community and commercial values.

Can you imagine the time, place and user of each blanket? In the collection both handmade and pre-Second World War commercial manufacturing are represented. It’s interesting to see that only a narrow range of textiles were used to make these blankets, wool, cotton, satin, felt and small portions of synthetic fibres.

The early commercial manufactured blankets include a Union Steamship blanket of wool and embroidery, as well as a Union Steamship blanket of cotton jacquard floral patterns in pink or green with white. These blankets were used at Bowen Inn, and Steamship cottages (1920-1956). The wool blanket was used at Strachan Lodge (1920 -1956). 


A red and white blanket with what appears to be West Coast First Nations art workBlankets that are part of the Bowen Blankets exhibit in April 2021. Courtesy of B.I. Museum and Archives


Other blankets on view feature handmade examples. The quilt from the Bowen Island Community Church reflects the community and life on Bowen. It was made for a church fundraiser and donated to the museum collections by the winner, Barbara Weismiller (1994). The Button Blanket, handmade by Rosa Helenius, Bowen’s revered Post Mistress, for her son Robert. Rosa was born in Masset, Haidi Gwaii. Her grandfather was one of the founding members of the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia. You can learn about Rosa at the Archives (1996). The handspun settler blanket from Ontario, of multiple patterns in red, blue and white was brought to Bowen Island by an early family (1860). 

On display at the Bowen Library is a quilt by Foxglove Fibre Arts, a Bowen based organization, for a collaborative fundraising project. It is a community loan quilt courtesy of Mary Leigh, the raffle winner. The process and shared experience present a beautiful example of collective community culture. 

“Bowen Blankets” a Bowen Island Museum and Archives exhibit in partnership with the Bowen Library runs from April 15 – May 15. Bowen Island Museum and Archives is open from Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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