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!