Smithers Art Gallery manager Kristin Charleton and Bulkley Valley Museum curator Kira Westby.                                 Roy Corbett photo

Smithers Art Gallery manager Kristin Charleton and Bulkley Valley Museum curator Kira Westby. Roy Corbett photo

A thousand words

Project by art gallery and museum on centennial of the Fall Fair in Smithers could use public help.

2019 is around the corner and, with that, the centennial of the Fall Fair. In preparation for this event, both the Bulkley Valley Museum and Smithers Art Gallery are planning a joint photo-exhibit celebrating the past 100 years of the fair. A project they want the community to be involved in.

“We’re not 100 per cent sure what it’s going to look like in the end yet, but I think we sort have talked about and envisioned some sort of photo-collage or, in some way, incorporating all these photos that we know are probably out there. Everybody takes pictures of their family doing things like enjoying the Fall Fair. So these photos are out there and we want to incorporate those into the exhibit,” says Kira Westby, curator of the Bulkley Valley Museum.

“Basically, the idea behind this is in this exhibition that is going to be both the museum and the art gallery, we want the community to see themselves and their memories of the fair in that. “

The project is being headed by both Westby and Kristin Charleton, manager of Smithers Art Gallery, who are requesting that people whose families have enjoyed and participated in the festivities throughout the years share those memories with the local community by donating to the museum their old photos of the Fall Fair, rodeo, and parade.

“We’ll take prints; we can scan negatives; we can scan old slides. We’re hoping to use this as an opportunity to take in donations of photos, but if there’s people who don’t want to give up the copy we can scan them and give them back, have them digitally donate them as well. In museums we always want to take hard copy when we can,” said Westby. “Our preference would be for us to do the scanning because then we can control the quality of the scan and we have a really good scanner for doing this sort of thing.”

According to Charleton, donators would have their old photos returned to them if they so desire. They may also receive a digital copy if requested.

“You can get a scan of your photos to send to friends and relatives,” said Charleton.

“We are also hoping to possibly source some interviews and people’s recollections of the fair too. So if people have stories from if they used to be involved in the Fall Fair, as a vendor, as a participant, as a board member, and they want to come in and share those oral histories, then the museum would collect those as well,” said Westby. “We’re just really trying to use this as an opportunity to do some collecting about the Fall Fair, to preserve that and to celebrate it through the exhibit.”

The museum and gallery have worked together on a similar project celebrating the 150th anniversary of Canada back in 2016: A joint-exhibit titled ‘What’s Your Story.’

“In that case it was more art submissions, but we were looking to get people’s thoughts and ideas and memories through art of what it meant to them to be Canadian: The good, the bad, their experience as Canadians … We had art on both sides: the museum and the art gallery, and we had historical objects from the museum’s collection here [in the museum] and in the art gallery. Those objects were picked to talk about different aspects of Canadian history and being Canadian. Things like a copy of the Globe and Mail from July 1, 1867,” said Westby.

“So this one’s going to be a little bit different but same idea in that we want to see the art gallery and the museum working together so that people visit both organizations and hopefully see the photos on both sides too.”

However, the museum has been experiencing difficulties in obtaining certain pieces of historical memorabilia.

“We have a harder time bringing in material to collect that’s from sort of the ‘60s onward,” says Westby, “because people think ‘Oh well the ‘70s and ‘80s were not that long ago, it’s not historic it’s not an interest,’ and that’s one thing that we want to make clear … that we want that broader picture, not just really old photos. And that’s something we want people thinking about in terms of other things, especially archival materials: photos and documents from businesses, all that sort of stuff.”

“One thing people think when they hear ‘museum’ is ‘antique,’ ” Charleton tells me.

“We want your 1980s photo with the shoulderpads and the big glasses and stuff. We want that material,” says Westby. “These things are rapidly aging, and we want to collect some of them now when they are still available before they get tossed in the trash or deleted, in the case of digital photos.”

Unrelated to the Fall Fair centennial photo-exhibit, Kira Westby and Kristin Charleston also want the public to know that the museum is also interested in obtaining photos from the set of The Grey, the 2011 survival-thriller movie starring Liam Neeson that was filmed in Smithers.