Ben Fast

Culture - Community - Museums - Travel

Category: History (page 1 of 5)

Mercator’s Atlas and the BC Archives Open House

While most people at the Royal BC Museum know me as “the new guy working on the Families exhibit” (officially the “Families Digital Intern”), or perhaps “that guy who tweets a lot,” one of my actual roles is to work with public programming for the BC Archives.  My unique internship situation – being shared between the Learning, Digital and Archives departments – means I spend approximately two days a week working on digital projects for the archives that are connected to the new exhibition or relating to genealogy, with a bit of general public programming on the side.

On Wednesday, all hands were on deck for the BC Archives Open House, an event for local archives, records management, and library staff to come see the BC Archives collection and learn what’s new with the provincial archives.  There were lots of interesting records and items on display (a huge hit), as well as an update on the archives’ role in the upcoming Family: Bonds & Belonging exhibition.  People could take tours of the stacks (always busy), there were holiday snacks (in the lobby, of course), and plenty of networking opportunities with the BC Archives archivists and staff.

My role was to answer questions about the archives’ role in the new exhibit, a unique situation where the archives were involved from the beginning of the planning process to provide materials and visual content for the museum exhibition, as well as to keep the video slideshows going (harder than it sounds) and answering basic questions as needed.  Thankfully nobody asked me too many hard questions, and I was able to talk a bit about my projects.

The poster for Family: Bonds & Belonging

The poster for Family: Bonds & Belonging

It was great to see some old colleagues and meet some archivists from around town.  The open house was a great success and people really seemed to enjoy their visit!  This was a great step forward for the BC Archives: engaging other institutions through fun, welcoming, and educational programming, and showing large-scale events are manageable (and good!) in the often quiet and reserved reference room.

The biggest highlight for me, however, was getting to spend some time at the end of the open house looking through the Historia mundi or Mercator’s Atlas, a volume from 1635 currently housed in the BC Archives special collections (reference number: NWs 912 M553).  I love old maps (though I admit to knowing very little about them) and had just purchased a book on maps, which featured Mercator’s atlas.


The title page of a 1635 edition of Mercator’s Atlas, the original of which was the first collection of maps in book form to be called an Atlas! NWs 912 M553


The frontispiece of the atlas, including a picture of Atlas holding up the world (though Mercator first published it with Atlas as king) and a poetic explanation of the image. NWs 912 M553

Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594) was a Flemish cartographer and geographer who is famous for being the first to project sailing routes on maps as straight lines (see Mercator projection) and was the first to describe a collection of maps as an atlas (his 1595 atlas, published posthumously).


There are actually more pages of text in Mercator’s Atlas than maps themselves. These small chapters explain the history of the region and its name. NWs 912 M553


Them maps themselves are quite detailed, showing towns and some topographical features in an attempt to create as accurate as possible a map for navigation. Mercator’s use of straight lines for shipping routes (not seen as much in his maps of land) and stretching the globe into a cylinder (though distorting the northern reaches of the map) were useful for creating mathematically accurate maps. In this map of Ireland, you can see Dublin (Dublyn) in the bottom right though Belfast (Belfaft) is a bit harder to find. Take a look at it compared to a modern map of the northern half of the island. NWs 912 M553

Put anything old in front of me and I’ll usually be interested, if not impressed, but having the chance to look through this atlas that I had just read about was a lot of fun.  With my former colleague, Delaney, we turned the pages looking at the old maps and type fonts, laughing about the way things were written and marveling over the detailed maps from around Europe.

Having just talked about family history, we both turned to pages where parts of our family hail from (the Netherlands for me, Hungary for Delaney) and took the obligatory photo of the maps.


This closeup of the “Lordship of Groninga” is for my grandma Angie. Can you see where you were born? I really loved the history Mercator wrote about Groninga (today’s Groningen). He said (with original 1630s spelling “Englished” by Wye Santonstall): “Groninga is the head Cittie of the Province of Groninga, and the faireft Cittie in Friefland. Some thinke it to bee that which Ptolemie calls Phileum. They derive the name from Grano a certaine Trojan or Friefland Prince, but Vbbo [Ubbo] Emmius, rejecting other opinions which are grounded on fabulous reports, fuppofeth that it was fo called from the greene Meddowes, and tufts of trees therein.” NWs 912 M553

A special thanks to Genevieve for her work on the Open House, and to Claire for letting me explore (and share) Mercator’s Atlas!

Vancouver Museums Weekend

Last weekend I travelled over to Vancouver for an overnight museums weekend trip! I was able to tag along with my mom (who was heading over for a work trip) so I could use the car and go see some museums I haven’t been to yet. Arriving late Friday morning, we both visited the Vancouver Art Gallery that afternoon before her meeting, and I went to the Museum of Vancouver and the Vancouver Maritime Museum the following day.

Here are some highlights from my weekend in Vancouver!

Vancouver Art Gallery

As an employee of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, I felt it was my duty to go visit our friends in the big city. There’s a lot of cross-over between the two organizations, both in shared exhibits and art pieces, and often in membership. I was excited to see the VAG as it is a bigger gallery than the one in Victoria and I was sure it would have some good displays.

Cool stairs at the VAG

Cool stairs at the VAG

I was not disappointed on the quality displays! The VAG is currently hosting the Of Heaven and Earth: 500 Years of Italian Painting from Glasgow Museums exhibition. As someone who likes classical art more than modern art, and given that I’m a sucker for anything Scottish, I figured I’d like this. I’m also a big fan of Glasgow Museums after studying some of their programs in school.

(No photos allowed, as is frustratingly typical of travelling exhibits, but check out this promotional video)

The exhibition was amazing.  I loved the bright colours of the paintings and the great diversity of works (size, subject matter, different periods, etc.) and the presentation was good too. The paintings were displayed through a series of small, well-lit and colourful rooms bringing the viewer chronologically through the history of Italian painting from the late Middle Ages to the 19th Century. The exhibit was crowded, and the other people in there seemed to be really enjoying it and taking their time to look through the works. I’m not sure the small rooms allowed for the best viewing of some pieces, especially the smaller ones when the room was crowded, but I did like the feel of viewing the paintings up close and personal.

I also really liked Material Future: The Architecture of Herzog & de Meuron and the Vancouver Art Gallery, an exhibit about the architects in charge of the future VAG building project (Herzog and de Meuron have designed such buildings as the National Stadium – the Birds Nest – in Beijing and the Tate Modern in London). As the AGGV approaches its own building project, albeit on a smaller scale, it was neat to see such a large project in the early stages at the VAG. This exhibit also included (or was placed right next to) an area showing the growth of the VAG over its 84 years through smaller pieces. These were really fun to look through, and I learned a lot about the Gallery itself – like the fact that, since 1931, more than 8,560 artworks have been donated to the Gallery as gifts or bequests. This represented more than 75% of the 11,537 artworks acquired for the collection! Amazing! Another exhibit that caught my eye – or my ear – was Stan Douglas’s Luanda-Kinshasa (2013) video of a hypothetical psychedelic jazz recording session. While the concept may be hypothetical, the jazz wasn’t, and I enjoyed 20 minutes of sitting and listening to the great tunes!

A visual representation of how I often feel visiting art galleries.

A visual representation of how I often feel visiting art galleries.

While the exhibits were interesting (especially Of Heaven and Earth), I was left a bit disappointed by my visit to the VAG. A number of small distractions got in the way of my full enjoyment and experience. For one, there was a lot of security at the VAG, including at least one in every room of Of Heaven and Earth. Perhaps it’s my naive small-town attitude (we only have one security guard at the AGGV) or the fact that some major touring exhibitions have specific security requirements, but this security presence was surprising and off-putting. At times, security would hover behind you, quite obviously too, from when you walked into a room until you moved away from the first painting. It made me feel rushed, distracted, and watched in a way that really distracted me from the paintings themselves, especially in such small rooms. I haven’t seen security in galleries like this since seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre.

I was able to visit the VAG for free as they honoured the fact I too work in the industry, and I’m very thankful for them doing so. I became even more thankful when I found out almost two full floors of exhibit space (out of four) were closed for installations. This was purely bad timing on my part, I missed two exhibitions by one week, and it was neat seeing the packing process in action. It does raise the question, though, should galleries and museums charge a reduced fee when some spaces are closed? Regular entrance is $20, and while I found Of Heaven and Earth alone worth that, do other non-museum people think the same?

Packing up and heading out.  Missed it by that much!

Packing up and heading out. Missed it by that much!

It will be good for the VAG to get a new building too, as some of the exhibition spaces are small and confusing to navigate (NOTE: the new designs were released on September 29.  Take a look here, they are…interesting!). The gallery store is quite impressive though, and with a cool location in the main lobby, but my timing was off again as almost nothing remained from the Of Heaven and Earth save for a few postcards.

15 second tour of the @vanartgallery Vancouver Art Gallery. #yvrart #yvr #artgallery

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Museum of Vancouver

Saturday morning brought some heavy rain and a much-anticipated visit to the Museum of Vancouver. I have been looking forward to visit the MOV for a year since they helped me with my week as curator of We The Humanities.

The MOV did not disappoint! I started with their Neon Vancouver | Ugly Vancouver exhibit of neon classic neon signs. The black room was full of colourful light and cool stories of how the city’s lit advertising grew bright then dimmed with changing attitudes towards aesthetics and taste.

I was blown away by the exhibit, it was such a neat look into Vancouver’s past, a subject I had never seen covered by a museum before, and the signs themselves were lots of fun to look at. I could have spent a long time in that room!

After the neon signs, I managed to get my phone locked into a museum display… Thanks to the nice MOV staffer who got it out for me!

(It worked once for five seconds, but the second time I put it in it didn’t allow me to add time to the safe clock.  Cue the technology anxiety…)

I was excited to see I didn’t completely miss the recently-closed MOV exhibit The Happy Show#makesmehappy is a surprise after-exhibit that the MOV put together in the wake of the tremendously successful Happy Show that inspires people to boost their happiness with simple acts. Ten participants from Vancouver went into the MOV’s collection and selected objects that sparked memories of happiness, which were displayed with short texts and activity prompts in the first gallery room alongside a play area for small children and a post-it wall where people could write what made them happy.

Part of the #makesmehappy display, someone reminiscing about keeping a journal.  The prompt says "if you kept a diary, what would be the first sentence of today's entry?"

Part of the #makesmehappy display, someone reminiscing about keeping a journal. The prompt says “if you kept a diary, what would be the first sentence of today’s entry?”

The other exhibits (c̓əsnaʔəm, the city before the city, which goes until January 2020 and the other permanent galleries) were just as good. Some highlights included the dress-up box for kids at the beginning of the 1900s-1920s: The Gateway to the Pacific gallery (nothing better than getting into character!), the great use of text panels and artefacts to tell stories, and some of the interactive displays throughout the galleries. In the 1950s gallery you can sit down in a recreated diner booth and read stories of life as a teenager in that decade printed on newspapers and menus (I’ve never seen teen stories in a museum before) as well as drop 25 cents into a working jukebox. The diner seat looks out through a window at an amazing old car complete with White Spot drive-in tray! Those were the days… There was also a rotary telephone in another gallery where you can “call” a recent immigrant neighbour and hear their stories of moving to and living in Vancouver. But the trick is you actually have to dial the phone – imagine how many kids have never worked a rotary before!

A great display for the story of internment and displacement of Asian Canadians during the Second World War

A great display for the story of internment and displacement of Asian Canadians during the Second World War

Such a great interactive section! Come sit in the diner looking out at the fancy cars and read about teens in the 50s!

Such a great interactive section! Come sit in the diner looking out at the fancy cars and read about teens in the 50s!

The displays at the MOV are very cool to look at.  They remind me of my trip to the Museum of London last year, similar in presentation style where you can walk through time and learn about the development of a city. It is busy, and could be overwhelming for some people as there is a lot to take in, but well worth the reading and the time spent in the galleries!

@Museumofvan #15secondtour. This place #makesmehappy, so glad I could stop by! #museums

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Vancouver Maritime Museum

After lunch in the car to charge up the phone I walked down the short rainy path to the Vancouver Maritime Museum. It just so happened it was International Talk Like a Pirate Day, so what better way to celebrate than by learning about Vancouver’s and Canada’s maritime history?!


I started my visit with a tour around the RCMP St. Roch, one of the most important ships in Canada’s history being the first to navigate the Northwest passage west-to-east and back again, and later to complete the circumnavigation of North America (Halifax to Halifax via the Panama Canal). It is quite a large boat compared to the size of the museum and fills the beautiful A-frame building from end to end and right to the top! It’s fun to be able to walk on, around and even through history when that history has a custom-built home.


The St. Roch goes right up to the ceiling!


After exploring the St. Roch I ventured back into the gallery section of the museum. Across the Top of the World: the Quest for the Northwest Passage was a fascinating look into the early voyages to the Arctic ventured in an attempt to find a North West Passage. I did not know attempts were made as early as the 1500s, and I know very little about the first successful voyages other than the Franklin shipwreck discoveries that have made national news in Canada recently (although the exhibit showed me a lot about the historical searches for Franklin put on by his wife that I had never known about). The exhibit was very well done, with great text panels and interesting maps separated by some artifacts (not a huge amount, but it’s a small gallery).

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I found the arctic exhibit reminded me a lot of the exhibit about longitude that I saw last year at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, UK. There was the same sense of exploration discovery, of imperial conquest over nature although with perhaps less success, and the exhibits had the same ‘feel’. I really enjoyed learning about the North and those early voyages leading up to the St. Roch.

The rest of the museum is full of great wonders of BC and global maritime history, from the early steamships that arrived in Vancouver to the children’s pirate play area and discovery room (very cool part of the museum). There was also a history of navigational aids (cool for me as I used to work next to Fisgard Lighthouse), the evolution of fire boats, and some beautiful art inspired by West Coast towns.

This model (and a few others in the museum) are made out of bone!  They were made by prisoners during the Napoleonic Wars.

This model (and a few others in the museum) are made out of bone! They were made by prisoners during the Napoleonic Wars.

The Vancouver Maritime Museum has a great children's discovery area!

The Vancouver Maritime Museum has a great children’s discovery area!


The museum is full of many amazing and highly-detailed models.

The Vancouver Maritime Museum is a smaller museum, and a lot of the collection on display is, perhaps surprisingly, not large boats. This made me think of the fate of my local maritime museum, the Maritime Museum of BC, and how it might look if it is forced to lose some of its collection (with many boats) or move into a place where gallery space changes the approach to the maritime history on display. My visit made me hopeful and positive that it can happen and it can be successful in the long run.

Me with the captain of the St. Roch!

Me with the captain of the St. Roch!

Found it!  ...that wasn't so hard...

Found it! …that wasn’t so hard…

The Vancouver Maritime Museum staff were very friendly and their museum is one to be proud of. I even managed to pick up the final catalogue for the Across the Top of the World exhibit on sale for only $10! I hope to learn more about how they and the MOV work together, if they do, given they are located so closely together (and with the space centre).

The museum faces onto the mouth of False Creek and English Bay.  There's a great collection of wooden boats out in the little marina!

The museum faces onto the mouth of False Creek and English Bay. There’s a great collection of wooden boats out in the little marina!

I had fun taking the 15 second tour videos you see here too, and while I like the idea, I’m not sure I’ll do them again because Instagram doesn’t let you load videos that short (also, reversed type in selfies? ugh…). Something to think about in the future though!

All in all, my trip to Vancouver was a success, I saw the museums I wanted to see, enjoyed my visits, and hope to return sometime soon. Thanks Vancouver!

Not a Regular Week in Marketing

Note: this very long and detailed article was put together in spare time over the course of two months after May 15, 2015.  Feel free to just look at the pictures…

End of the Internship

My final week of interning with Parks Canada at Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites didn’t go quite as planned.  I was there to do marketing, which usually meant sitting at a desk sending emails, but in my final week it meant shouldering a 1916 Lee-Enfield rifle and trooping through the woods firing blank ammunition.  Oh, and a Bren machine gun!

One of the advantages of doing an internship in the Spring is that you can be around as the new summer crew trains and gets ready for tourist season.  At Fort Rodd Hill, that means training for historic weapons demonstrations runs a day after the “how to accept credit cards” talk.  As it does in most workplaces, right?

The new group of heritage interpreters for the site are excellent.  I really enjoyed getting to know them and spending some time sitting in on their training.  There was a fun atmosphere between us all, really relaxed but also keen to learn.  While I was in training as part of my job requirements for the internship (even though I was training in my last week for things completely unrelated to my job), and they were brand new to the site, we still had a lot in common and were able to work well as a team.  I wish them the best of luck this summer, but I know they’ll do fine!

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Bring out the Guns!

As I had an office just around the corner from the curator, I was able to get sneak peaks at the preparations happening all week.  Rifles magically appearing in the office, the sounds of bolts being worked behind closed doors, and muffled talk of “rounds for the musket.”  I was able to help Dave carry some things over from the storage building on Wednesday, the first time I’ve ever handled a machine gun!

Not your typical curator's office!

Not your typical curator’s office!

Thursday was when it all kicked off.  The boardroom was converted to an armoury, the guns were brought down, and the team spent the whole day going through a chronology of modern weapons.  Grant Tyler, Parks Canada’s military curator who teaches Parks staff historic weapons and tactical scenarios for demos, went through all the proper handling and inspection techniques to ensure all staff knew how to make safe any weapons that arrived on site or that belonged to the Fort.  It is especially important to recognize the difference between live and dummy ammunition, as well as to know anybody handling weapons is operating under safe conditions.

While Fort Rodd Hill focused on 20th Century weapons, we also went through other eras of weapons to prepare for other timeline events that occur on-site during the summer.  We learned about…

  • The India Pattern Musket, the primary sidearm in the War of 1812.  I’ve never had to use ‘frizzen,’ ‘half-cock,’ or ‘draw rammers’ in a sentence before, but I sure know how to now!
  • The 1853 Pattern Enfield Musket (Crimean War), a major improvement in rifled musket technology that allowed troops to operate more individually than in dangerous large formations.
  • The 1856 Snider Enfield Rifle, which could now use cartridges dropped into a breach block.
  • The Martini-Henry, a remarkable lever-actuated rifle with NO SAFETY that was used in the North West Rebellion but not much else in Canada, although it was well-known for its use in the Zulu Wars.  The British introduced it in 1877 but had moved on to other rifles in less than ten years.  Can’t picture it?  Just think of any cowboy movies (likely a Winchester rifle, but same idea).
  • The Magazine Lee Metford, the first magazine rifle.  While it wasn’t used by Canadians, it set the standard for the 10 round magazine.  It also sparked the transition between black powder cartridges and the more powerful Cordite smokeless powder which required sharper rifling seen in the…
  • Lee-Enfield Mk. 1 (1895), a remarkable gun that had some funny trust issues built-in.  The magazine held rounds for quick firing, but the gun had a magazine cut-off so soldiers still had to load bullets one at a time, only disengaging the cut-off when ordered to do so.  Was this because officers didn’t trust the soldiers to save bullets?  Perhaps…  It also had an innovative bolt that cocked the weapon as the bolt moved forward (saving time and actions), and is still known as the quickest bolt-action rifle in the world because of that.
  • The Ross Rifle.  Permit me a moment of history nerding out.  I held a Ross Rifle.  Ok, so many people have held a Ross Rifle, but nonetheless this is a rifle with a storied past and one that I have heard about for years in my First World War classes and books.  The Ross replaced the British Lee-Enfield in Canadian Service in 1905.  The Mk. 3 went overseas with the Canadian contingent in 1914/15, but it went through 80 variations in those 10 years!  One major issue was with the type of ammunition it could use.  While being the same .303 calibre as the Lee-Enfield, the Canadian and British-made ammunition was different.  Canadian cartridge cases didn’t expand much at all when fired, but the British-made cartridges expanded just a tiny bit more, which caused hard extractions and jams the cartridge in the breach (so the weapon couldn’t re-cock).  The rifle also didn’t do well at all when exposed to dirt, or mud…or water…..or really anything.  The overly complicated sights could move with the recoil force, making them occasionally inaccurate, and it got overheated which led to even more jams.  Mr. Tyler also described the gun as “not soldier proof,” meaning the bolts could be installed the wrong way around and it could fire back in your face.  Take ALL of this together and give it to brand new soldiers at the Second Battle of Ypres (when the Canadians entered battle for the first time as a contingent) and…very quickly Canadians were taking the rifles of dead British soldiers.  By the end of the summer, the Canadian contingent was refitted with British Lee-Enfields, and the entire Canadian army was refitted the following year.
  • in 1915-1916, in comes the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield.  This is actually an old cavalry carbine introduced at the end of the Boer War, but the idea was that everyone would get the same rifle from then on.  The Mk. 1 was introduced in 1895, the Number 1 Mk. 3 was introduced in 1907, and then the Number 1 Mk. 3* (yes, that’s a star) is the one Canadians used in the First World War, the star indicating the magazine cutoff (above) was gone.  This gun could still be in service in certain parts of the world (now the Mk. 4), and the Canadian Rangers even went back to using them in 2014 (although this link says they were phased out)!  The Mk 1 (1895) was the one I used when stomping around the woods (see below).
    • The Number 4 Mk. 1 was basically the same weapon but lighter, shorter, and with a different sight.

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We also went through a few pistols, sub-machine guns and grenades:

  • Sten Mk. 2 was a sub-machine gun first used on the infamous Dieppe raid.  It had a 32 round magazine, but it was recommended to only load 18 rounds at a time so the spring doesn’t get overloaded.
  • Percussion Revolver: We looked at an amazing 1851 Colt Navy model with an etched cylinder of ships.  These are still common in Canada as they were widespread through cavalry units in the 1800’s.  Each chamber needs to be loaded individually then put lard or oil on the top of each round so no chain reactions happen.  While a six-shooter, it was normally only loaded with five rounds, and while widespread was slow to load.
  • Enfield 1882 Mk. 2 revolver: this pistol was used by the North West Mounted Police and used a .476 calibre bullet, but could take ammunition from other guns.
  • We also looked at two other pistols, one by Enfield and one by Webley.  These were the standard service revolvers from the 1930’s through the end of the Second World War.  Unlike the Colt, this revolver ejected all six rounds at the same time and could be loaded quickly.
  • The grenades are common, with millions of copies being made.  The #5 Mills Bomb was introduced in 1915 and the #36 was introduced in 1918 but remained the main British grenade through the 1970’s.  The US Mk. 2 Fragmentation Grenade has a lever instead of a ring (like the older #5 Mills).  We learned how to take the grenades apart and check for fuses and explosives, but thankfully were told to call the RCMP if we found anything, rather than attempting to remove it ourselves!

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After going through all the firearms and learning how to make them safe as well as how to load and shoot them, we moved on to formation training.  The best part about all this was Mr. Tyler demonstrated everything with toy soldiers!  One of the best explanations was about the ‘tactical bound’, meaning the distance between the front section and the platoon commander.  The bound could be a field or set of bushes, or something that delineates the separation between the front and the commander so the commander could still see the front but communicate easily with the section commanders in the rear.

Machine guns and toy soldiers!

Machine guns and toy soldiers!

Military movements are very complicated.  I have studied formations/group makeups and some attack plans through researching in archives and studying for a history degree, but it is amazing what Parks Canada interpreters need to pick up in less than a day of training.  Not only do they need to know the names and what each formation looks like, but they need to know each command, how to execute them, and how to command them as well (as some staff will reenact the role of company commander, sergeant, etc.).  It all needs to be historically accurate too, minus the fact that Fort Rodd Hill National Historic site will demonstrate a frontal assault when that would rarely if ever be done at a section level.

Practicing using the Bren gun without ammunition

Practicing using the Bren gun without ammunition

We also learned the proper techniques for holding weapons, firing, loading ammunition, and much more, including heading out to our makeshift range and yelling “BANG BANG BANG” when Sgt. Tyler gave us a command.

Day 2: Really Loud Noises

The second day of firearms training involved putting what we had learned into actual practice.  I was a bit out of the loop already as the interpreters had been able to bring home training manuals to study, whereas I finished day one with emails and actual marketing work before heading home to watch TV.

Dressed in full period gear, the group spent the morning revising the load and fire steps of some of the guns we (they) would be using on site.  I went off and helped curator Dave load some black powder charges for the musket, which we were hoping to fire.  [note: we didn’t get to that day, but they did bring it out for the Firepower demo that Saturday.  It didn’t work, which was a shame…).

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Everyone got a chance to practice firing a few shots with the rifle they would be using when practising advances later that day, but we also tried the Bren gun (amazing, but I only got two shots off) and a pistol.  The pistol was interesting, much harder to fire than I expected as it took some muscle to pull back the trigger.  I don’t think I would have been great at accuracy had I had real bullets, because the weight of the gun and the effort to squeeze made my arm move up and down a lot.  The rifles were easier, but WOW they make a lot of noise!  They make so much noise in fact that although the Fort is quite secluded down in the woods, the staff had informed the Canadian Forces located across the bay, the local police, and local residents that we would be firing all day.

Click the following for videos of me firing the pistol and Bren gun:

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The Long March

After lunch, Sgt. Tyler led us on a route march down the service road, going through formation drills and silent commands (which include some rather funny rude hand gestures!) and sending scouts ahead to survey corners and buildings.  Even though this was just fun, we were loaded with blank ammunition and the full uniforms and heavy guns made our hearts race by both excitement and exertion.

Heading up the side driveway into the Fort area, we definitely got some funny looks by visitors and volunteers who were setting up tents for the weekend event.  Sgt. Tyler, all smiles and friendliness would often halt our troupe with a rough yell, making us take a knee (oh those pants are scratchy) and turn all soft-spoken and joking to a long-time reenactor friend.

We began our attack training by marching in long winding circles towards a set of geese.  Setting up our formation, with the Bren gun to the side, we encircled and charged, firing from the hip first then running in and screaming.  The geese, for all it’s worth, barely moved, and just looked rather perturbed that we felt the need to be there in the first place.

Our attacks got a little more serious afterwards, storming through the bushes and trees behind the oTENTiks where the demonstrations would normally occur.  Two times through yelling our shots out and making stuff up when asked why we were out of position and we were ready for the actual advance.

Ear plugs in.

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We stormed through the trees in bounds, one section going five paces and dropping to the ground or a knee, firing as cover for the other group moving ahead by another five paces, and so on until the Sarge decided it was time to stand up and charge fully.  I’ll admit I was a bit lost.  For one thing, our guns only hold five rounds, and we very quickly ran out.  Most of us had trouble re-loading.  We also had ear plugs in and were somewhat deafened by the guns, so we weren’t paying attention to our line.  Needless to say, we were not the most successful squad ever.  All six of us plus the Bren section would likely have been shot before we made it to the treeline…

A second advance was a bit more successful (oh we got that oak tree we were charging for!) although we still ended up quite significantly past our original objective and in a line that looked more like a mountain range than a ruler.  And we made a lot of noise!

Guns away, just for fun

Marching out of the woods, sweaty and blistered, knees aching and arms drooping, we sat down at the picnic tables to learn how to clean our weapons and to recover all unspent ammo (we needed to pick up all our cartridges and blank rounds that fell out when our guns inevitably jammed, so that helped slow us down).

This time of cleaning helped provide some reflection.  We were charging through some woods, in a national historic site, with curious onlookers standing quite close by.  We were relatively clean, had ear plugs, and were all over the place.  Sure, we had only trained for one day prior, but we could all understand just a tiny bit the effort and training and fitness needed to be a soldier in the First or Second World War.  We also understand that much more how difficult it would be in combat situations, with loud noises surrounding you, adrenaline pumping, and a (rather mild-mannered) sergeant shouting at you above the din.  Our experience was just for fun, hard to imagine a real experience of war.  What an experience.

I managed to pull a desertion as I needed to get back up to the office to finish closing down my files and computer as this was my last day at Fort Rodd Hill.  Thanks to those who stepped up and cleaned my rifle for me, I appreciate it!

All in all, this was not a typical week in my marketing internship!  But it was a really interesting one with experiences I’ll likely never have again!

The Curious Suitcase

Where do you keep your family history?  For the Royal BC Museum’s Head of Learning, Janet MacDonald, the family stories live on in her mother’s suitcase, full of turn of the century photographs and the family bible passed down since at least 1853.

The contents of the suitcase, items given to Janet by her late mother, are the focus of Janet’s upcoming article in Curious about genealogy, family histories, and keeping memories of ancestors alive.  On Tuesday July 21, Janet brought the suitcase to Royal BC Museum photographer, Shane Lighter, to create some images for the article.  I got to sit in on the shoot and see Shane at work as well as see the visuals come together for Janet’s article.

Janet's suitcase of ancestors.

Janet’s suitcase of ancestors.

Shane worked really quickly, moving strobe lights into place around the fragile paper objects and setting up the camera to best capture the objects according to the Curious style of white backgrounds, created by shooting on a lighted table.  It was cool to see him work while Janet told me more about the family bible, the people in the photos, and how she’s added her own touch to the hodgepodge of family mementos stowed between the bible’s pages.


The RBCM’s photographer, Shane Lighter, sets up the lights and light table for Janet’s Curious suitcase shoot.


Shane works to shoot the suitcase, which still has Janet’s mom’s initials embossed by the handle.


Janet shows Shane some of the unknown ancestors and talks about her creative ideas for how to display the images.


Some of the unknown ancestors, faces that Janet doesn’t recognize and/or that might not even be her family. She envisioned this photo as all the ancestors thrown into the suitcase, a jumble of unknown faces intertwined just as their lives might have been intertwined over a hundred years ago.

To learn more about Janet’s suitcase, and to learn more about ancestry, make sure you read the latest issue of Curious when it comes out in early September!

Sometimes Shane needs a step up to get the perfect shot.

Sometimes Shane needs a step up to get the perfect shot.

An example of one of the images that will be part of Janet's article in the next issue of Curious: the family bible with some of the myriad personal items from within its pages..  This was taken on my iPhone, Shane's photo will be much better!

An example of one of the images that will be part of Janet’s article in the next issue of Curious: the family bible with some of the myriad personal items from within its pages.. This was taken on my iPhone, Shane’s photo will be much better!

While not specifically the focal point of the shoot, Janet's family bible sure was interesting.  Take a look at the calligraphy from 1853 found on the inside cover!  The family bible used to be one of the most important ways for families to keep track of family trees, personal items of importance, and connections with other members of the family passed down through generations, although now it seems Facebook has taken over this role.

While not specifically the focal point of the shoot, Janet’s family bible sure was interesting. Take a look at the calligraphy from 1853 found on the inside cover! The family bible used to be one of the most important ways for families to keep track of family trees, personal items of importance, and connections with other members of the family passed down through generations, although now it seems Facebook has taken over this role.

Shortly after the photo shoot, I ran into Steven, a member of the museum’s Exhibition Arts team, in the basement.  He’s a really nice guy and I always enjoy chatting with him, and today he gave me a fig!  Turns out he grows them in his backyard and brings dozens of them to work during the harvesting season.  I’ve never had a raw fig before, and I have to say it wasn’t quite my favourite, but it was fun to have the experience!

It seems Stephen is one of the only guys who "gives a fig" at the RBCM!

It seems Steven is one of the only guys who “gives a fig” at the RBCM!

Portfolio: Scenario Planning Document

The following paper is a sample from the Global Tourism course taught by Dr. Geoff Bird.  It is an example of the variety of projects we worked on in the MA in Tourism Management program.  Instead of just a standard research paper, this assignment had us explore either a scenario planning approach (what I did) or a critical success factors approach to global tourism trends and issues.  I chose to look at how military museums are navigating the ‘way ahead’ for their sector either in Canada or overseas.

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