Ben Fast

Culture - Community - Museums - Travel

Tag: Postcards

Letter Writing Week and Postcrossing Meet Up at the Royal BC Museum

What’s the best thing you’ve ever received through the mail?  A birthday card?  A postcard from a friend on vacation?  A Christmas present?  A love letter?  Phone bill?

Ok, so phone bills and flyers aren’t likely your favourite things about the postal system, but when something sent with love from across the globe or around the corner arrives in our mailbox we are filled with a great sense of joy and excitement!

Old Letter-1-004

An old postcard from…Germany? Can anyone read this?

In today’s digital age, we’ve turned to instant communication for every type of message.  Our quick hellos, heartfelt apologies, and even our tentative notes of affection have become cold, impersonal clicks and swipes, sent off without a second thought and denigrated to the same level as that phone bill payment, food pic or work email.  And worst of all, we’ve relegated hand-written communication to the realm of “snail mail.”  We’re at risk of losing handwriting skills and long-form letter writing all together!

Letter Writing Week

But never fear!  The Royal BC Museum is hosting a special Letter Writing Week from January 2-9, 2016 to encourage visitors to re-engage with the art of letter writing by sitting down and spending time composing a hand written letter.  Between 11am-2pm, venture up to the 3rd floor and find the letter writing station to join in.  Oh, and did I mention that the museum is open by donation that week as part of their Community Days?!

“The act of sitting down to write by hand is quite different from using a computer or smartphone. We want visitors to re-engage with this simpler activity, to promote literacy, communication and community.”

The Royal BC Museum is providing all the supplies you will need, including paper, pens, envelopes, dictionaries, tablets to look up addresses, and even postage!  You can bring your own materials if you want, the museum will send any letters or postcards written at the station (no late Christmas packages though!).

Send us your mail

Want to take part but can’t make it down to the museum in January?  Then send a letter or postcard to the museum and we’ll put it on display at the station!  Please don’t send anything after January 1 as it will arrive too late.  You can send mail to:

The Learning Department

c/o Royal BC Museum

675 Belleville St.

Victoria, BC

V8W 9W2


You can send anything you like (so long as it is appropriate for children to read).  What did you get for Christmas?  What are your New Years resolutions?  What’s the weather like outside?

Postcrossing Meet Up:

Are you a Postcrosser?  Do you want to be?  Postcrossers are members of the Postcrossing Project, an online community devoted to sending real postcards through the mail.  If you sign up, you can send (real) postcards to random people all around the world and then have other random people send you postcards back!  It’s like a pen pal network, except with different people each time.

Postcrossers host occasional meet ups where members get together and all sign postcards being sent out.  If you’re a member or are interested in learning more, stop by the Letter Writing Week station on Saturday, January 9 between 11-2 and we’ll have our very own Postcrossing Museum Meet Up!  I’m running the station that day, and I’ll bring some of my collection of postcards from around the world to show visitors as well as let people sign some cards to be sent out.

One of the coolest Postcrossing cards I’ve ever received: a scratch-to-play Minesweeper card sent to me by a stranger in Sweden! You can see where some of the top layer got scraped away during the journey.

BC Archives

The Royal BC Museum is also home to the BC Archives where many letters, diaries and notes from BC’s past are kept for future generations.  While you’re visiting the Letter Writing Week station, keep your eyes open for archival letters in the exhibits or on display.  Notice how handwriting has changed, how letters were composed, how people said hello.


We hope to see you down at the museum this January for Letter Writing Week!  You never know, maybe the letter you write will find its way into an archive someday!

Granville Island Escape (with extras)

Posted on March 24, 2011 at
With journalistic interludes featuring play-by-play for drop in football games.

There are some stores which I should not be allowed to visit.  These stores aren’t electronics stores, or car dealerships, or even flashy record stores, but rather are small, unique, and independent craft and gift stores.  Stores with odds and ends, nicks and knacks, these stores are where I spend the most money.  These stores are both my muse and my economic murderers.

Granville Island is a tourist destination near Vancouver’s downtown core, known for its artsy vibe and unique shopping, a market with craft studios, and the home of the Vancouver Aquabus, two theatre companies, and the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design.  Situated under a bridge in scenic False Creek, this spot is a must-see in Vancouver.

I’m writing this post while sitting at the BC Ferry terminal in Tsawassen, waiting to catch the evening boat back to the Island.  It’s one of the first nice days of Spring 2011.  I’m sitting outside in the sunshine and nice ocean breeze, listening to the pre-teen cheers of a pick-up game of football, and a flock of sea gulls is harassing a hawk above the vast parking lot.  Hardly a picturesque view, but the ocean atmosphere and patient anticipation of travel makes the setting perfect.

I had spent the morning in Vancouver in a frantic dash for documents allowing me to travel in Europe this summer, and although it made me feel like an international spy, both my mom and I needed a gentle reprieve from the city bustle.  Settling into the bar seating of one of Granville Island Public Market’s many superb food venues overlooking False Creek Rowing Club, we listened to street musicians perform rough cover tunes and watched small children play dangerously close to the ocean.  It was packed, maybe because of Spring Break, but also with professionals and young families.

After failing at working up the courage to chat up a lone traveller sitting next to me (I could tell she was a traveller from her Lonely Planet guide to Vancouver and her backpack from Edinburgh), we began our routine of exploring the many interesting shops.  After a quick stop at Roger’s Chocolates I began a search for two of my favourite stores on the island, ones I had discovered during my last visit.

These stores, Gigi B. and The Postcard Place, both located in the Net Loft, have influenced much of my life today.  Gigi B. carries a line of plastic cameras (toy cameras or “lomographic” cameras) made by the Lomographic Society International (along with many more unique gift ideas).  These old Russian and Chinese designed knock-off cameras with the famous names of Diana, Holga, LC-A, and the Sprocket Rocket are sold in a display at the front of the store, and as a camera enthusiast I was immediately drawn to them.  Since my first encounter with them at Gigi B. I have purchased three of these lomographic cameras and have enjoyed much experimentation with their true analogue nature.

The moms of these rowdy boys stand on one side of the field with arms crossed, quietly talking to each other and tensing as the kids run towards the concrete patio, while the dads lean against a railing at the other end of the small field, occasionally shouting loud encouragements and cheers for good tackles.

While I did not plan on purchasing anything during this visit (I have to plan for Europe after all…), I was brutally tempted with Diana Mini clones like “Love is in the Air” and “En Rose,” and by the highly desired (and highly priced) Lomo Lubitel 166+.  Smaller items like lens adapter kits, aged film, and key chains also caught my eye, but I held out and walked out empty-handed.

In Gigi B., I did have a very interesting discussion on the merits of film with one of the staff, and had a quick exchange with a former art and photography teacher visiting from Wisconsin who told a story about how she used to require students to shoot all film in one course on a used Holga.  With completely uncertain results and an organic creative process, the Holga used to be a staple of photography courses and was very popular in Europe in the 1990’s.  However, with the diminishing supply of film and the rise of the digital age, these items have become quirky collectors items used by artists and garage sale hunters.  This teacher was surprised but excited to see the wide variety of products and interest in Lomography, even though only one version of the original Holga is being manufactured today.

I then walked farther into the Net Loft and visited The Postcard Place, Granville Islands home for postcard related memorabilia.  This quaint, small store has shelves on every wall displaying a myriad of image-related product, from calendars and gift cards to collector art booklets and of course postcards.  Whether you are into collecting, sending, or browsing, this store will have something that tickles your fancy.  For me, this visit brought back memories of my childhood when I read the Tintin series of comics.

One boy leaves the field holding a hand under his bloody lip, bravely shouting back a response to a kid who asks if he is ok, who himself is quickly taken to the ground.

Tintin is required reading in the early lives of most boys (and girls) who enjoy mysteries, adventure, and exploration.  I read each of the Belgian comic stories in both French and English, most books at least ten times!  The Postcard Place hooked me with a line of unique Tintin products and I left with a notebook and pin, a very well-spent $14.  This is especially noteworthy because Hergé creations’ rights are rarely released for memorabilia.

While many of the items in Granville Island’s shops and galleries are either fashion accessories or high art, there is the occasional find of truly unique product makes the Granville Island experience an exciting one.  Whether you are into collecting, browsing, or tasting, the Island is a required visit for those travelling to Vancouver.  Other stores to note are Paper-Ya (“Ya” meaning “store” in Japanese) and the Silk Weaving Studio.

The game disbands as the announcement is made for people to return to their cars as the ferry draws near the terminal.  A quiet game of chess and a kid holding a bloody paper towel is all that remains of the once bustling scene.

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