Grade 11 and 12 students from Alberni District Secondary School are helping to highlight Port Alberni men and women who made the call to service in the First World War. Their research and findings are on display at the Alberni Valley Museum as part of the current exhibit: British Columbia’s War, 1914-1918.
The Royal BC Museum has created a travelling exhibition that reveals information and material from the First World War, aiming to educate British Columbians about the contributions of their ancestors. The exhibit has set up shop at the Alberni Valley Museum until January 2017.
Six students from Anne Ostwald’s Comparative Civilizations class have been researching select men and women from Port Alberni who were involved in the war. The students’ work will be featured amongst the exhibit.
“This exhibit is on men and women who enlisted in the First World War from B.C. and it talks somewhat about what was taking place in B.C. in the different communities while the war was going on,” said Shelley Harding, educational curator at the Alberni Valley Museum. “[The students] spend time here in the museum once or twice a week as they prepare an exhibit. So they learn how to handle artifacts... and they develop an exhibit.”
Each student selected a man or woman from Port Alberni from the museum’s archives.
“We’re working with two archive collections; one in Ottawa and one here,” Harding said.
During their research, students found military records, historic photographs of the soldiers and complete service records that will become part of their displays.
“We were able to go online and we found John Clark’s complete service records so we now have those here in the museum,” Harding said. “These students will give those to our archives and they will give their information to the archives.”
The students will prepare a writeup about their chosen person, provide documents and any photographs they’ve found and add it all to a final panel to hang with the rest of the museum’s exhibit.
“I’m doing John Clark and Keith Gill.
“So I just basically looked up as much information as I could based on their life here in Port Alberni and in the war,” said Grade 12 student Aneesha Narang.
Narang said she found most of her information on the soldiers from the museum’s archives but also from the Internet and an old book: The Albernis: 1866-1922.
“We’re trying to find as much information about their time in the war, their time before the war and their time after the war which involved their family background in Port Alberni and what they did before,” Narang said.
During her research, Narang discovered that Keith Gill’s father was a pioneer who helped build the roof of Beaver Creek School and Alberni School. She also learnt that both her chosen soldiers came back from the war alive with only minor injuries.
“It was kind of surprising because when you go from Social Studies 11 to this class, in Social Studies you’re meant to memorize everything basically for your test and then you kind of forget,” Narang said.
“Then here you’re doing more hands-on research and you learn about people from where we live, in Port Alberni... it’s very different.”
Grade 11 student Nathan Van Dyk has been researching the Redford brothers for his contribution to the exhibit.
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“There’s three brothers, William, James Douglas and Edward, and they all signed up in Victoria on the same day to go to the war.
“Only two came back,” Van Dyk said.
Van Dyk said prior to working on this project he only knew a small amount about the First World War.
“I didn’t know any stories of any soldiers, these are the first stories I’ve learned,” Van Dyk said.
“It’s pretty fun we get to go back into the archives and go through old newspapers and actually read about them.”
The RBCM exhibit officially opened on Nov. 9 at the Alberni Valley Museum and will run until mid-January.