The Reach Gallery Museum: 2016 Governor General’s History Awards

The Voices of the Valley takes a visitor through the history of Abbotsford, from our Indigenous peoples right through early industry and settlement to the agricultural centre that Abbotsford is today and we do that using the very stories and different perspectives that go along with a history in development. We haven’t told it as a beginning and an end point, in strictly a timeline format. We’ve told it through the stories of people who lived here that have a contemporary perspective on the issues of history as well as how people today look back on those histories and the ways they have affected them. There are events and stories and feelings and conflicting opinions about aspects of history and we try to explore all of those. We’d like people to not just learn history but to be compassionate historians themselves and want to learn more and just find out more on each of these topics that are important to them. The Reach and the MSA Museum Society decided to collaborate, because we share a mandate to deliver heritage services in the city of Abbotsford. We each maintain an artifact collection. We each maintain an archival collection. Each staff member has done work within the community, reaching out to stakeholders and collecting that history. And so, each of us has expertise in various topics, and so by bringing it together and working as a team, it brought a maximum understanding of history and increased the capacity to tell the story as comprehensively and as completely as possible. The exhibition has been really well received by the community. All through the development of the exhibition, we were very focused on providing the best possible project in support of the new curriculum and so historical thinking strategies and visual thinking strategies that allow students to explore the exhibitions in their own way but also give them the skills not only to look at the artifacts we’ve presented but any artifact, any object, how to understand the story a photograph can tell, not only the photographs we’ve used but any photograph. And so, having the teachers visit and use our online resources has been very rewarding. I am most often struck by coming through the galleries, as I often have to do, to see families here or grandparents and grandchildren and it may be a grandfather that’s explaining to a grandchild how a crosscut saw works, or how a PV works, or a mother explaining how a butter churn worked and her experience with churning butter with her grandmother and so that’s adding stories to the stories that we’ve already told here in a really personal way for those families. So seeing it benefit the community as a resource, a starting point to begin to share their own personal stories is very exciting.

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