In the cold, high arctic, an entire ship’s crew vanished during an ill-fated search for the Northwest Passage in 1845. What happened to this ship and its crew?
Using artifacts, images, videos and art, a new exhibit at the Alberni Valley Museum will examine Arctic exploration past and present, profile the explorers involved in the search for the Northwest Passage and decode the mystery of the Franklin Expedition of 1845.
Echoes in the Ice: Finding Franklin’s Ship is a travelling exhibit from the Canada Science and Technology Museum that tells the story of the ill-fated Franklin expedition and the search for his missing ships. The Alberni Valley Museum will be one of only two museums in B.C. to host this exhibit in 2019.
“It’s already been to Prince George, and now it’s our turn,” said Shelley Harding, educational curator at the Alberni Valley Museum.
Harding explained that the museum has been looking at bringing back travelling exhibitions on a smaller scale, after hosting mostly in-house exhibits over the past few years. They applied to the Canada Science and Technology Museum to bring Echoes in the Ice to Port Alberni.
“We wanted to bring back these exhibits…to enable our community to access aspects of Canadian history,” said Harding. “The Franklin Expedition speaks to the whole history of discovering the Northwest Passage. There was a tragedy and they never returned.”
The exhibit opens to the public on Friday, March 15 and will run through June 8. In April, Port Alberni will also be hosting Dr. Robyn Woodward, professor of archeology at Simon Fraser University, who has visited the sites where the ships were discovered.
“All of our staff was excited about it,” said Harding. “We felt that this particular exhibit was a story that would resonate with Port Alberni and would also be an important story to bring to our community.”
The story of the Franklin expedition will be told using artifacts such as instruments and objects dating from the mid-1800s and reproductions of actual artifacts from the expedition, as well as contemporary scientific objects used by present-day scientists investigating the high Arctic.
The exhibit will also include photographs and video from the discovery of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, as well as a number of interactive elements.
“It uses archeological evidence to tell the story of the Franklin Expedition, as well as how the ships were found,” explained Harding.
While the museum received a grant to help bring the exhibit to Port Alberni from Ottawa, most of their funding has come from local sponsorships. One fundraiser included a showing of the documentary Passage at the Paramount Theatre, which Harding said was very well-attended.
“We have had incredible local support,” she said.
Echoes in the Ice: Finding Franklin’s Ship opens to the public on Friday, March 15. The Alberni Valley Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.