Maxine Munsil helps preserve the past for future generations through the work she does with the Alberni District Historical Society. (ORLANDO DELANO/ Special to the News)

Maxine Munsil helps preserve the past for future generations through the work she does with the Alberni District Historical Society. (ORLANDO DELANO/ Special to the News)

VALLEY SENIORS: Volunteer preserves history of the Alberni Valley for future generations

Maxine Munsil uses skills she honed as a school teacher to work in the historical archives

BY ORLANDO DELANO

Special to the AV News

Former schoolteacher, Maxine Munsil, retired since 1999, has done a lot of volunteering in the Alberni Valley. Presently, her focus has been to concentrate on collecting and preserving the history of our Valley. “In a few decades our history is lost unless we take care to find the place it will be kept forever,” she said.

Born in Port Alberni, Maxine lived and taught elsewhere in B.C. before marrying Bud Munsil. They had two children, like their father, born in the United States. She returned to Port Alberni with the family in 1976.

Maxine Munsil followed her grandmother, Ivy McKenzie, the family historian, and her mother, Lila Mackenzie, a charter member of the Alberni Valley Museum and Historical Society by joining the Alberni District Historical Society after her retirement.

In 2012, Munsil embarked in a project to track the descendants of Port Alberni pioneer families still living in the Valley for the centennial. Later, looking to upgrade the microfilm reader, she learned of a digital scanner which would change the way newspapers were stored by bringing the old microfilm to the digital world. These machines were rare at the time, but she found one at the Ladysmith archives. A crew of volunteers took a trip there to learn more about it and in 2014 the Alberni District Historical Society decided to purchase this digital scanner. The acquisition was made through donations and a grant from the Alberni Valley Community Foundation.

The new process allowed the volunteers to scan hundreds of local newspapers on microfilm dating back to 1907. Items are added individually to the database which is searchable, making it easier to find historical events. She added that, “In the Valley our archives are the repository for our history. Residents can leave their history for future generations by filling out a ‘Family history sheet’ available at the Archives in the Museum, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.”

Throughout the years, Munsil has been involved as a volunteer in organizations, such as, the Port Alberni Backpack Program which provides nutritious food on weekends for families living on or below the poverty line. This program operates from the Alberni Valley United Church (3747 United Church). She also gives her time to West Coast General Hospital, working with other volunteers in the maintenance and beautification of the indoor garden area.

“It’s a great place to volunteer if you love gardening,” she said.

Along with her husband, a volunteer with the Alberni Ambassador Program, Munsil has traveled in many places around the world, including most of the states in the United States and nine provinces in Canada.

Alberni ValleyPort AlberniSeniors

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