Thursday, November 25, 2010


“I have seen the David
I’ve seen the Mona Lisa too
I have heard Doc Watson
Play Columbus Stockade Blues”

Music takes one back to many places from their past. Add tunes to an exhibit and the era and tone is set. Does anyone here today recall a CBC story on the music of contact? Colonial settlers and First Nations songs together as they were from about the time of that early history. Can you hear the fiddle and the drum together? Or have you ever attended a veterans' dance and watched that elder generation move across the floor, regardless of their age, their sails filled with the wind as they glide upon a hardwood sea?

All of us travel back with music. Good or bad tunes transport our innermost memories to an event, a place, time or to someone. I have played music for most of my life, recorder or “pre-clarinet” training, clarinet and then the guitar. The best way for myself to learn how to play guitar was to write my own tunes, some of them dreadful and maybe even a few that, with enough coaxing and the right "tone", you just might get them out of me again. After so many years, all these tunes reflect upon times and memories of my past.

All the music I listened to, whether my parent’s old records, or my own, runs the spectrum of genres, folk, classical, musicals, soundtracks, big band, rock, heavy metal, punk and country. Even the instruments remind us of memories, the Silvertone guitar bought second hand, the old Epiphone with the broken but repaired neck and the hollow body imitation of an ES-335 because your guitar god played one. Objects equally transport the listener or viewer, but the two together, the item with its familiar – sound and experience- is powerfully reflective.

For museums, the lack of a soundtrack in its galleries is a missed opportunity. Making use of any of the senses provides us with a holistic experience as exhibits are more than panels, things and cases. Can you hear in your museum the sound of the hammer upon the anvil or recall the smell of apple and cinnamon in the kitchen? Where does it take you? Who do you want to share your story with? If part of our work, in museums, allows the visitor to reminisce upon their own experiences, then we have succeeded in reconnecting them to an event, a place, time or to someone - their history.

The lines at the beginning, from the Guy Clark tune Dublin Blues, is a record of one man’s experience. What does he think of when he sings these lines? The song is a record of emotion unhealed by beauty or legend. Mixing experiences, choosing themes that link objects directly to human feelings, will always create connections to audiences, teaching us that memory is influenced, and associated with opportunities to respond, whether these experiences reflect upon happy or sad aspects of life.

Remember the LP record? Here Frosty the Snowman, a tradition at Christmas, takes many people back to familiar places of memory.

Guy Clark's Dublin Blues

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How Will You Remember?

Dennis Peter Hepburn

Every day people walk past and drive by the Chilliwack War Memorial.

Covered with the names of soldiers from both the First and Second World Wars the memorial is a silent beacon of remembrance. These are not just lines of horizontal, lead lettering; they are Chilliwack, its people, recalling days when the world’s shadows hung over the landscape, all the while in anticipation of a peace that finally came on a November 11th day in 1918.

Each one of us remembers in our own way. For the Chilliwack Museum and Archives, we are fortunate to be the keepers of photographs, letters, telegrams, diaries, newspaper clippings and even some artefacts that family have chosen us, as permanent custodians. The context, in which these documents and artefacts rest, at the Museum and Archives, ensures that for many future generations these items will be preserved with the utmost care and respect.

For one Chilliwack soldier, Lieutenant Dennis Peter Hepburn, his pocket watch with protective covering is held by the museum. What does this object represent to us or to you? Does it remind us of officers in anticipation of going over the top, waiting for the minute and the resultant whistle that signals the troops to cross over the parapet and venture into no man’s land?

Dennis Hepburn, aged 21 years, lost his life while serving with the 47th Canadian Infantry Battalion on November 3, 1918. He is buried at Etaples Military Cemetery in France, located 27 kilometres south of Boulogne. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website tells us that the cemetery at Etaples was in an area where “eleven general, one stationary, four Red Cross hospitals and a convalescent depot” operated and with the capacity to “deal with 22,000 wounded or sick.” Lieutenant Hepburn died of his wounds at the 20th General Hospital, Dames Camiers, France having been wounded on September 28, 1918.

How will you remember on this November 11th?

Pocket watch and cover carried by Lieutenant Dennis Peter Hepburn.
Portrait of Lieutenant Hepburn, Chilliwack Progress, November 21, 1918, page 1.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission Website