(Left) Mayor Frank Becker wearing the ceremonial outfit and Chain of Officer in 1959 while greeting Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip; (Right) Victor Cumming wearing the outfit in March of 2024. After this photo opportunity, the outfit was meticulously placed back into its acid-free storage box, while the Chain of Office was returned to the City of Vernon.

A Ceremonial attire

The Vernon Museum houses an ensemble steeped in ceremonial significance within its artifact collection. The outfit, consisting of a black grosgrain robe adorned with spacious open sleeves, complemented by a matching hat and lace jabot, was purchased from The Toggery Shop in Victoria, likely during the 1950s.

Over the years, it was worn by several mayors at important civic functions. Its earliest recorded appearance dates to 1959 when Mayor Frank Becker welcomed Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip during their first visit to Vernon. Over the years, successive mayors, including E. B. Cousins, Elwood Rice, and Lionel Mercier, also donned the regalia. Eventually, in 2011, the outfit was donated by the City to the Vernon Museum.

The mayoral Chain of Office.

Mayoral chain of office

In tandem with the first documented appearance of the mayoral robe, Frank Becker also introduced a Chain of Office in 1959. The name of each of Vernon’s mayors has been inscribed on its gold sections, dating back to W. F. Cameron in 1893 and up to Victor Cumming in 2018. The practice of mayor’s chains in the

Documents related to former mayor Elwood Rice donated to the Vernon Archives.

Thompson-Okanagan region traces its origins to the late 14th century, and the traditions of nobility during the Tudor era. While not mandated by legislation, various communities in the Thompson-Okanagan region uphold this tradition

Fast forward to 2024, the ceremonial robe resurfaced once more. With precision and patience, collections volunteer and textile expert Janet Armstrong draped it over a living mannequin in the form of Mayor Victor Cumming, who proudly showcased it alongside his Chain of Office (which continues to be used at investiture ceremonies by the City of Vernon).

Serendipitously, a set of records from former Mayor Elwood Rice had just been donated to the archives moments earlier, adding another layer to the historical tapestry of Vernon.

Thank you to Mayor Cumming for his graciousness and willingness to participate!  

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

A black and white image of a man in a light-coloured shirt conducting a choir.
AURA Chamber Choir and conductor Imant Raminsh at All Saint’s Anglican Church in 1992.

A historic performance

On April 6 and 7, 2024, the AURA Chamber Choir will present Johann Sebastian Bach’s Passion According to St. John in Salmon Arm and Vernon, respectively. The occasion commemorates both the choir’s 45th Anniversary, and exactly 300 years since the Passion was first performed.

Between 1723 and 1724, German composed Bach, in his first year as director of church music in Leipzig, completed the piece. On April 7, 1724, it was performed for the first time at a Good Friday Vespers service at St. Nicholas Church. At the age of 39, Bach composed the four-part piece featuring soloists and an instrumental ensemble comprising strings, bass instruments, flutes, and oboes. Notably, he added color to the music by incorporating the lute, viola, and viol, instruments that were considered antiquated even in Bach’s time.

In the years following, Bach revised the piece multiple times, alongside creating new compositions, including the Passion According to St. Michael in 1929. Bach passed away in 1750 at the age of 65. Nevertheless, his reputation as one of the greatest composers remains well-founded, especially considering his works continues to be performed three centuries later.

45 years of aura

Composer J. S. Back in 1746. Public Domain image.

Established in 1979 by Imant Raminsh and Valerie Witham, with accompanist Marjorie Close, the AURA Chamber Choir brings together singers from the Okanagan and Shuswap regions. Their diverse repertoire spans from the Renaissance to contemporary compositions of the twenty-first century, encompassing motets, choral art songs, folk melodies, and spiritual pieces.

Additionally, the choir has showcased compositions by Raminsh, who held the position of the choir’s director for many years. Raminsh, of Latvian descent, is a globally acclaimed composer based in Vernon. In recognition of his significant contributions to the Canadian music scene, he was honored with the appointment to the Order of Canada in 2018.

Now in its 45th year, AURA is one of several choral ensembles in the Okanagan Valley, with other groups including the Okanagan Festival Singers, the Musaic Vocal Ensemble, and the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra Chorus. For further information about AURA, please click here

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

A black and white image showing two men in hard hats next to a pile of bricks outside a concrete building. Beside them is a piece of heavy machinery.
A photo of the Vernon Archives Expansion Project between 1999 and 2000.
A white building with domed windows and a door under a sign that reads "museum." In front sits a watering through and a large bell.
Exterior view of the Vernon Museum at its second location on 3005 30 Street. GVMA #1272.

The MUseum & Archives is formed

How does the growth of an archival collection progress with time? While the specifics vary by institution, in the instance of the Vernon Archives, its collection has evolved organically since the organization’s inception in 1950.

That year marked the inception of the museum, initiated by the City of Vernon around a collection of mounted specimens bequeathed by W. C. Pound, a taxidermist. Spearheaded by former Mayor David Howrie and cabinetmaker Charles Haines, initial museum displays were housed in a back room of W. L. Seaton School.

In 1954, the City formed a board of directors to oversee the museum’s operations, with George H. Melvin as chairman and Guy P. Bagnall as secretary-treasurer. Concurrently, a committee was established to manage the archival aspect of the organization, and the first board meeting convened on January 12, 1955.

The Archival collection grows

The first photo donated to the Vernon Archives shows taxidermist W. C. Pound next to a mounted moose head. GVMA #1.

Later that year, the burgeoning archival collection received its first batch of records from the Vernon & District Women’s Institute, established in 1916 to support wartime endeavors. These records, comprising minutes, financial documents, and logbooks, were followed by contributions documenting the life of Alexander L. Fortune, an early pioneer who arrived in the region in 1862 with the Overlanders. This subsequent donation included correspondence and a manuscript containing Fortune’s personal reflections.

Between 1955 and 1987, 5000 photographs were donated to the archival collection, and another 5000 arrived between 1897 and 1991. One of the earliest ones that arrived into the collection shows taxidermist Pound next to the mounted head of a moose. In 2024, the photograph collection encompasses over 31,000 items.

A much-needed expansion

One of the first sets of records included these items documenting the life of Alexander L. Fortune. Images courtesy of Gwyneth Evans.

The collection’s growth necessitated relocation over the years, first to the former police station and magistrate’s court in 1956, and then to its present location in 1966. By 1992, space constraints became apparent as the archival collection outgrew its allocated 200 square feet, with stacks of boxes filling the area. Donations from local artist Sveva Caetani, the Vernon Daily News, and historian Margaret Ormsby exacerbated the issue.

But these important historical materials could not be turned away, and so, the Vernon Archives Expansion Project commenced in 1999, resulting in the addition of a dedicated archival office space and vault, and expanding the area by over 700 square feet. The vault now safeguards Vernon’s historical records in a fire-proof and climate-controlled environment.

The Vernon Archives remains committed to actively gathering the narratives of Vernon’s residents, with a particular focus on collecting the records of underrepresented communities. This dedication ensures that the archives will continue to expand and evolve over time.

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives