English to Chinese: Nanaimo Museum guide General field: Social Sciences Detailed field: History
Source text - English Nanaimo Museum Guide
To some individuals Nanaimo may seem small in population; however, it remains the second largest city on Vancouver Island after the city of Victoria. This fact alone indicates the important role that the city has played in the development of Vancouver Island and British Columbia.
Walk through the doors of the Nanaimo Museum to discover Nanaimo’s rich history of growth and change through the times. This history is reflected even in the nicknames for which Nanaimo has been known, that is, Hub City, and Harbour City.
The museum has nine permanent galleries, and two displays at Piper Park (Miner’s Cottage and No. 19 Steam Locomotive) and one at Bastion Square Park (The Bastion). [inset of gallery layout?]
The Welcome Area
Nanaimo takes its name from the Snunéymuxw, a Coast Salish people, who are the original inhabitants of the land; it is a derivation of Snunéymuxw (Snoo-NAI-muk / Snuh-NAY-mow). In 1874, Nanaimo was incorporated as a city.
In its early days, Nanaimo served as a distribution centre or ‘hub’ for the industries it became known for, namely, coal and lumber. These extractive industries required a sizable work force. Labourers and settlers came from a variety of nations besides England and Scotland, that is, China, Croatia, Finland, Italy, Japan, and Norway. [photo of early Chinese community, e.g., NAN_R5-17: Celebration in Nanaimo’s Chinatown]
In addition to industry, Nanaimo is perhaps uniquely known for a sweet taste-treat and a sporting activity: the Nanaimo Bar, and the World Championship Bathtub Race. Due to the fame of the latter, Nanaimo is known as the Bathtub Racing Capital of the World!
[photo of Nanaimo Bar ‘stools’ or ‘Nanaimo’s Just Desserts’ display. Caption: Nanaimo Bar – a chocolatey three-layer no bake bar dessert.] [photo of NAN_2014.067.001, Dragon Figurehead. Caption: Figurehead on the Diner’s Rendezvous restaurant bathtub entry, the Rendezvous Cruiser.]
The Bastion Era
During its earliest period of European settlement, Nanaimo served as a trading post for the Hudson’s Bay Company, HBC, which was founded in 1670 by Royal Charter. A fort was built to protect the harbour and area. Completed in 1854, the three-storey octagonal landmark known as the bastion (a defensive structure) is the oldest remaining edifice in Nanaimo, as well as being the last wooden free-standing HBC bastion in North America. The HBC, known for its trade in furs, traded in the high quality coal available locally which made this bastion unique. [photo of bastion, e.g., perhaps the one used online - http://nanaimomuseum.ca/exhibits-collections/the-bastion/]
The visitor will learn more about the Bastion in this gallery as well as the arrival of the earliest immigrants from England: miners and their families aboard the Princess Royal. The settlement that developed was known as Colviletown until 1860, then renamed Nanaimo. Colviletown was named after Arthur Colvile, the Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
The Snunéymuxw are the first peoples of this land and territory. One of their winter village locations is Nanaimo Harbour. As a coastal people, they are knowledgeable in the numerous resources available that provide appropriate materials for their every needs, whether for food, clothing, or housing. This is reflected in their material culture, that is, the tools and items used to process fish, shellfish, berries, cedar (type of tree), etc. Examples of these are to be found in the gallery—on display and in visible storage drawers. [photo from exhibit; possibly of welcome pole?]
Also notable in the exhibit is the petroglyph (rock engraving/carving) workstation that allows a visitor to create rubbings (impressions of the images). [photo of petroglyph?]
Worth mentioning is Harry Manson, also known as, Xulsimalt, of the Snunéymuxw, who was inducted in 2015 in the “Pioneer” category of the Nanaimo Sports Hall of Fame (adjacent to the museum gift shop). He was also honoured in 2014 by being welcomed into Canada’s Soccer Hall of Fame, and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in the “Legends” category. A notable soccer player, Xulsimalt was a leader who bridged indigenous and non-indigenous communities by exhibiting the values of diversity and inclusivity.
The Coal Mine
In 1849 Snunéymuxw Chief Che-wich-i-kan (or Ki-et-sa-kun) had commented about the ‘black burning stones’ to a HBC blacksmith. Coal Tyee, as he became known, returned the following year to Victoria in a canoe filled with these stones. This began a lengthy period when ‘Coal was King’ in Nanaimo.
The HBC mines were sold to the Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company, a British firm. The mining of coal provided steady employment to a growing population for close to a century.
The award-winning coal mine exhibit is one of the more popular, especially among young people. It replicates and allows the visitor to experience the closed dark confines of a coal mine shaft while also engaging in interactive displays. Guests can listen to the stories of real miners, e.g., tag #15 – Kin Jung!
Mining was hard work, as well as, dangerous. Walk through the Bowen Road Cemetery and an observer will note the number of grave markers indicating the cause of death as the result of a particular mine explosion. On exhibit, as documented in the Minister of Mines Annual Reports, is a list of mine deaths from 1877-1952. The worse mining disaster in British Columbia occurred in 1887 at the #1 Esplanade mine in Nanaimo, where 150 miners were killed. Of those, 53 were Chinese, known only by their employee payroll tag number. [perhaps photo of the memorial, see: http://www.coalwatch.ca/sites/default/files/Memorial-for-miners-killed-in-EsplanadeNo1Explosion-03May1887_0.jpg]
[photo of NAN_R5-31. Caption: Kin Jung hauling coal in wheelbarrow.] or [NAN_R5-1: Marquis of Lorne Trellis Arch. Caption: Marquis of Lorne Trellis Arch, 1882, proclaiming "Coal is King" and "Unity is Strength."]
As coal mining declined (poorer quality, higher extraction costs, as well as decreasing usage), the use of lumber rose. There was initially great need for cut wood as homes and businesses had to be built! Logging timber led to the appearance of numerous sawmills on the landscape.
Nanaimo Sawmill (on the waterfront) was permanently closed in 2014. It was notable because it originated with Mayo Singh, from Paldi, who employed workers of Chinese, Japanese, and South Asian descent. At its close, it was owned by Western Forest Products.
Today, the Duke Point Sawmill, owned by Western Forest Products, is the largest in the area, with Harmac Pacific, a pulp mill, as another significant employer in the region.
The gallery has, for the visitor, interpretive panels and models to explain the role of the forest industry in the region.
Not surprising, as the population grew and included families, schools were opened. In 1873 the first public school building was constructed on Crace Street, with a high school opening as one room in the Middle Ward School building in 1886.
In this gallery a visitor can experience being in a mid-1920s school room. Check the desks out for size; look at some of the texts used during this time. Students learned penmanship with the help of the MacLean Method of Writing.
As a reflection of the times, the early 1920s, school boards advocated to segregate Chinese students. This was true of Nanaimo and remembered by Jean Lumb, one of the more notable ‘daughters of Nanaimo.’ [Can this photo from this website be obtained? http://jeanlumbfoundation.ca/wp-content/gallery/photoessay2013/photoessay6.jpg Or a photo of Jean Lumb, in general. She’s a notable ‘daughter of Nanaimo’!] [Inset: photo, http://jeanlumbfoundation.ca/wp-content/gallery/photoessay2013/photoessay15.jpg, Jean Lumb (1919-2002) – born in Nanaimo, left school at age 12 to help her family, then moved to Toronto in 1935. As an activist, she was the lone woman in a delegation of 40 who met with Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in 1957. The purpose of this meeting was to lobby for family reunification following the appeal of the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act.]
Hub City was one of Nanaimo’s informal names. Not only was it a hub for commerce and service, the city’s street pattern radiated from the harbour and central business district as if a ‘wheel hub.’
Some of today’s neighbourhood names recall those from the past: Harewood, Extension, Wellington, Old City, Nob Hill. Nanaimo even had a Chinatown—not one but four locations over the years!
Learn more about the people who helped in the civic and economic development of Nanaimo; visit displays of items found in various businesses, including Chinatown; and view archival photographs of some of Nanaimo’s prominent homes.
One of the most prominent Chinese individuals of the city was Mah Bing Kee. He was an entrepreneur—notable for his extensive landholdings and businesses, but also for seeking the mineral rights to the Ganner Estate. He took his case all the way to the Supreme Court in Ottawa, and then to London, England! [photo NAN_R5-26. Caption: Mah Bing Kee family portrait.]
For the inquisitive visitor who wishes to know more about the various Chinese objects held by the museum, visit: https://ccap.uvic.ca/index.php/nanaimo-museum. Nanaimo Museum helped to pilot the Chinese Canadian Artifacts Project; 465 items are represented in this database.
Today as the Harbour City, Nanaimo is known as a transportation port with ferries to and from the BC mainland, and Gabriola Island. At one time, it was also home to a sizable commercial fishing fleet and associated processing plants. Since the early 1990s, there has been a noticeable decline in the salmon fishery; for many fishers salmon had been their main source of income. Today St. Jean’s Cannery remains as the one fish processing plant in Nanaimo.
As well, this decline in salmon has impacted the Snunéymuxw as this is a primary source for food and for spiritual well-being. In the gallery visitors can view a dugout canoe used by Snunéymuxw for transportation and fishing.
Prior to the salmon collapse, something similar occurred with the herring fishery. A number of herring salteries were operated on Newcastle Island by Japanese, Chinese, and non-Asian proprietors. Exported mainly to Japan and China, some companies favoured selling solely to the Chinese market. During this period, Nanaimo was known as Herring Town.
Visit the gallery to learn more about the harbour’s role in industry and recreation.
For its size, visitors might be surprised to learn that Nanaimo had an opera house. It did and was known simply as the Opera House! It was on the main floor of a three-storey building, which was also a hotel and brewing company. The site is now the Best Western Dorchester Hotel.
In addition to a downtown opera house, there was one in Chinatown. A 400-seat theatre was built on Pine Street, known as the Lun Yick Chinese Opera House. Travelling troupes of Cantonese opera performers made their way on a regular basis to the Chinatowns of Vancouver Island, including Nanaimo’s.
Learn more about Nanaimo’s recreational pastimes in this gallery.
In 2008, Nanaimo was named Cultural Capital of Canada (in the 50,000 to 125,000 population category).
[photo NAN_1967.122.001. Caption: Theatre chair used as stage prop, Lun Yick Chinese Opera House, Chinatown.]
Bellaart, Darrell. 2012. Worst mining disaster in B.C. history took place 125 years ago today in Nanaimo. Nanaimo Daily News May 3. http://www.coalwatch.ca/worst-mining-disaster-bc-history-took-place-125-years-ago-today-nanaimo
Canada, Government. 2007. Archived - Nanaimo Designated a Cultural Capital of Canada for 2008. http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?crtr.sj1D=&mthd=advSrch&crtr.mnthndVl=&nid=326239&crtr.dpt1D=&crtr.tp1D=&crtr.lc1D=&crtr.yrStrtVl=2008&crtr.kw=&crtr.dyStrtVl=26&crtr.aud1D=&crtr.mnthStrtVl=2&crtr.yrndVl=&crtr.dyndVl=
Farvrholdt, Ken and Alan F.J. Artibise. 2015. Nanaimo. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/nanaimo/
First-Nations.info. 2016. Pronunciation Guide to First Nations in British Columbia. http://www.first-nations.info/pronunciation-guide-nations-british-columbia.html
Gorman, Toby. 2012HERITAGE BUILDINGS: If these walls could talk. Nanaimo News Bulletin Jun 10. http://www.nanaimobulletin.com/news/154120935.html
Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). 2016. The Nanaimo Bastion. http://www.hbcheritage.ca/hbcheritage/history/places/forts/nanaimo
Leduc, Marie. N.d. Nanaimo’s Historical Development. http://www.nanaimo.ca/assets/Departments/Community~Planning/Heritage~Planning/Local~History~and~Historic~Resources/historicaldev.pdf
Lumb, Jean (Foundation). 2016. The Story of Jean Lumb. http://jeanlumbfoundation.ca/?page_id=205
Merilees, Bill. 1998. Newcastle Island: A Place of Discovery. Surrey, BC: Heritage House Publishing.
Methot, Suzanne. 2016. Canada 24/150: Harry Manson. http://www.crrf-fcrr.ca/en/our-canada/150-stories/search-150-stories/item/25646-canada-24-150-harry-manson
Nanaimo, City. N.d. A Historic Timeline for Nanaimo. https://www.nanaimo.ca/assets/Departments/Community~Planning/Heritage~Planning/Publications~Forms~Links/Timeline.pdf
Peterson, Jan. 2015. Our History: Nanaimo an early melting pot. Times Colonist May 17. http://www.timescolonist.com/life/islander/our-history-nanaimo-an-early-melting-pot-1.1938290
Peterson, Jan. 2015. Coal fuelled Nanaimo’s early days. Times Colonist May 10. http://www.timescolonist.com/life/islander/coal-fuelled-nanaimo-s-early-days-1.1930247
Peterson, Jan. 2003. Hub City: Nanaimo 1886-1920. Surrey, BC: Heritage House Publishing.
St. Jean’s Cannery. 2016. About Us: Our history. http://www.stjeans.com/about-us/
Stanley, Timothy J. 2011. Contesting White Supremacy: School Segregation, Anti-Racism, and the Making of Chinese Canadians. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press. ProQuest ebrary.
Taylor, K.J. (Jim). 2006. Nanaimo History. http://nanaimo-info.com/gpage2.html
United Steelworkers. 2014. Log Exports Claim Another Victim. Press Release. http://steelworkers1-1937.ca/WFP%20Nanaimo%20Sawmill%20Closure%20effective%20Dec%204%202014.PRESS%20RELEASE.pdf
Wainwright, Kaitlin. 2016. Jean Lumb. Heritage Toronto. http://heritagetoronto.org/jean-lumb/
Yee, Paul. 2011. Jade in the Coal. http://www.paulyee.ca/storiesPastDetail.php?Jade-in-the-Coal-2011-1