Recreation of a Tseshaht village at the time of first contact and restoration of a 1920s millwright shop were among contributions that earned 2017 heritage awards from the city.
About 50 people attended a ceremony Wednesday night at Alberni Valley Museum where nine awards were handed out for various endeavours.
Councillor Dan Washington, appearing on behalf of the mayor, spoke of the importance of heritage values to the city and the commission’s role in ensuring those values remain strong.
Darrell Ross Sr., research and planning associate with Tseshaht First Nation, received the Ike Patterson Award, recognizing his many years as a strong voice for preservation of Nuu-chah-nulth heritage. He’s worked on several well-known public exhibits, including the Hisheenqu’as Living Together exhibit and book. His vision was also credited with the 2014 Hishok—Tseshaht Whaling, at One With the Whale exhibit hosted in cooperation with the Port Alberni Marine Heritage Society.
“I guess the big one was the Tseshaht village at Harbour Quay,” he recalled of the 2011 project. “We worked with the museum to produce what it may have looked like on first contact.”
Ross continues to serve as a cultural mediator between the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples and the non-indigenous population.
Several awards focused on work behind the scenes at McLean Mill Historic Park. Neil Malbon was honoured for his long service as manager of the heritage site and the Alberni Pacific Railway on behalf of the Western Vancouver Island Industrial Heritage Society. He is also a former member of the city heritage commission and has actively promoted heritage tourism in the valley.
Reconstructing the steam-operated mill, which opened to the public 17 years ago, was a partnership of a lot of players, Malbon noted. Recognized in 1989 as a national historic site, the achievement is not to be underestimated.
“We had a historically intact industrial site, unique in all of Canada,” he said with pride.
One of the most enjoyable experiences of his 13 years as curator of the site was working with museum staff.
“Like everything else, museums are chronically underfunded,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to do a lot with very little. That’s why volunteers are critical to success.”
Two of those volunteers are Les Stevens and Mike Hobson, who were presented with awards for putting the millwright’s shop back into operation as a functioning artifact of early 20th-century milling.
In addition, Hobson prepared a McLaughlin Buick for display at the museum.
“Les Stevens and I, at times, we’re very passionate about steam engines,” Dobson explained.
Gerald Labute, Nancy Wilmot and Darren Evans received awards for their work on the popular TV series Time Traveller, broadcast on Shaw and dedicated to community heritage. Maxine Munsil was honoured for her contribution to the community archives, particularly for digitization of historic newspapers.
A well-known Port Alberni writer was posthumously recognized for her outstanding dedication and contribution to raising awareness of community heritage. Kristi Dobson, who passed away in July, was described as “a true friend of the Alberni Valley Museum as well as a tireless advocate for local heritage.” Her mother, Diane, accepted the award.
Gareth Flostrand, heritage commission chairwoman, also drew attention to two former commission members, David Taberner and the late Paul McDougall, for their work over the years. McDougall died earlier this year.