A group of children operating the Chinese lion head and body, which is now part of the Vernon Museum’s collection, circa 1935.

Asian Heritage mONTH

The Chinese Lion Head in 1977.

With May being Asian Heritage Month, it is a perfect time to uncover one of the Vernon Museum’s most fascinating, but rarely seen, artifacts.

In 1985, a traditional Chinese lion head was donated to the museum by the Chinese Free Masons. Due to its fragile condition and rarity, the head is rarely put on display, but spends most of its time in a custom-made storage container.

It is made from a framework of bamboo and wire, with brightly-coloured paper fleshing out its shape. Levers and pull-strings on its underside allow the eyes and mouth to be manipulated, and a long swath of fabric forms its body.

aN iMPORTANT cULTURAL aRTIFACT

The Chinese Lion Head in 1983.

Although its exact age is unknown, the head is believed to be more than 120 years old, and was the first to be used in Vernon. This incredible artifact made appearances at many important city events, including festivities hosted in honour of B.C.’s 100th Anniversary in 1958.

The head was also used at local Chinese New Year celebrations. While the traditional dragon dance requires at least nine performances, lion dances only require two, with one managing the head and one the body. Vernon’s lion costume was usually operated by two members of the local Chinese community, Walter Joe (1916-2005) and John Wong (1921-2001).

Lion dancing is believed to have originated in either the Han (206 BC-220 AD) or Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), and has continued to evolve as form of cultural expression ever since.  

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

The post office clock on Barnard (30th) Avenue circa 1935.

A Post office clock

In 1912, Vernon opened a beautiful new post office complete with a British-made clock tower on 30th Avenue. The building and its clock graced the city for decades until the structure was partially torn down in 1959.

Luckily, the clock itself was rescued by the owners of the former Allison Hotel in Vernon, who recognized its historic value and stored it in their basement until 1971.

The Clock is restored

That year, the clock was acquired by the Vernon Centennial Committee with intentions to restore it to its former grandeur. While its inner workings were stored at the Historic O’Keefe Ranch, the clock faces were installed in a new centennial tower located outside the Vernon Museum.

The Vernon Museum’s role

Forty years later, in 2011, the clock faces were removed from the centennial tower, and alongside the inner mechanisms, were installed in the Vernon Museum.

Thanks largely to the efforts of local inventor Garry Garbutt, and dozens of generous supporters, the clock was restored to working condition. This former post office clock uses a pendulum to keep time, and has to be wound every few days (although the museum staff usually keep it unwound unless they wish to be startled by an impressively-loud chime once an hour).

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

Early Photoshop

Among the photo collection of the Vernon Museum are several manipulated images like this exaggerated postcard from 1946.  

Prior to the invention of Photoshop in 1987, photo manipulation was a much more complicated task. Several techniques were used, including film and negative manipulation, darkroom manipulation, and chemical manipulation. 

A canadian company with an American Connection

This postcard was produced by the Canadian Post Card Co., which was active from 1911 to 1969, but the original artist behind the image’s manipulation was likely American photographer William H. Martin. Martin operated a studio in Kansas between 1908 and 1915, and launched the genre of “tall-tale” postcards which were popular up until the mid-20th century. 

Martin’s technique involved creating a collage of different images to achieve a skewed sense of perspective. The resulting piece was then re-photographed and sold. Martin had a particular fascination with agriculture, and often created scenes with outlandish elements like boulder-sized onions or wheat fields as tall as old-growth forests. 

Why the Vernon Museum?

This particular photo-postcard is housed at the Vernon Museum because it was allegedly taken in Vernon, but rumour has it that the Canadian Post Card Co. simply swapped out the city name on the postcards as needed depending on where they were being sold. While the Okanagan is an agricultural haven, we can’t get away with saying we have corn quite that big.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

On September 30, the public is asked to wear orange to mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The above logo was created for non-profit use by Andy Everson of the K’ómoks First Nation.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

On June 3, 2021, the Canadian Government declared September 30 National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in commemoration of the lost children and survivors of residential schools. This announcement marked the most recent development in Canada’s efforts towards Reconciliation, which remains an ongoing process. The following timeline highlights some of the local and national developments in this fight for justice, but is by no means comprehensive.

 

A Timeline of Truth and Reconciliation in Canada

June 30, 1970: The St. Eugene’s Mission Residential School in Cranbrook closes after 80 years of operation. Most Syilx students were sent either to Cranbrook or Kamloops.

May 5, 1977: The North Okanagan Friendship Center Society (NOFCS) is established in Vernon to provide programs, services, and support to the community. 

July 31, 1978: The Kamloops Residential School closes after 88 years of operation.

1994: The Indian Residential School Survivors Society begins as a working committee of the First Nations Summit.

1996: Canada’s last federally-funded residential school, the Gordon’s Residential School in Punnichy, Saskatchewan, closes.

March 31, 1998: The Aboriginal Healing Foundation is established to fund projects that address the intergenerational impacts of Canada’s residential school system.

2001: The documentary “Survivors of the Red Brick Schoolhouse” is produced by a group of former Syilx students of the St. Eugene’s Mission Residential School, under the direction of Virginia Baptiste.

Nov. 23, 2005: The Canadian Government announces a $2-billion compensation package for Indigenous Peoples who were forced to attend residential schools.

2008: Prime Minister Stephen Harper offers an apology to residential school survivors.

2008: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) is officially launched. Over the course of 6 years, the TRC interviews more than 6,500 witnesses, and hosts 7 national events to engage and educate the Canadian public.

2015: The TRC releases its final report which includes 94 Calls to Action.

2015: The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) establishes the Syilx Indian Residential School Committee.

Nov. 28, 2017: The ONA unveils the Syilx Okanagan Indian Residential School Monument in Penticton.

June 18, 2020: OKIB Chief Byron Louis and Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming begin regular meetings to develop a stronger relationship between the Band and the City.

 

To learn more, please join us at the museum on September 30, 2021, to honour National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with a series of presentations and displays. Click here to learn more. 

 

Gwyn Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator