While our events and exhibitions garner most of the attention, there is a third, equally important component of the Museum’s activities: managing our archives. This might not sound that exciting, but an archive is essentially a community’s collective memory, at least on paper. If you considers the sharpness of some people’s memories around here you begin to realize how crucial our archives are.
Anyone interested in the history of our local mountains will be excited by one of Sarah and Brad‘s latest projects: accessioning the Cliff Fenner fonds. (“Fond” is archive-speak for a distinct collection of documents, usually an organization’s documents or someone’s personal files.)
Cliff Fenner was born in 1909 in England where he built a solid career in the timber industry. After helping manage and maintain the crucial flow of commodities for the Allied war effort, in 1947 he moved to Vancouver. Here he bounced around a few more logging camps, then helped run Mount Seymour Park for a few years, before accepting the position of Park Supervisor for Garibaldi Provincial Park in 1953.
For the next few decades Fenner’s job mainly consisted of hiking around Garibaldi’s vast mountainscapes observing wildlife, leading trail crews, and advising on the park’s development. Dream job, anyone?
A year into his warden career Fenner described this twist in his life’s path in a way that’s easy to relate to today:
“I have always loved the outdoors. I’ve had city jobs, of course. Even thought about building up my own business, but I’d been exposed to too much good, fresh air.”
Lucky for us, Fenner was more than capable behind the lens; after retiring from the park service he made his living as a travel photographer and writer. Today our archives hold an extensive collection of his photos taken over more than two decades amongst the Coast Mountains.
Other interesting documents in the Fenner Fonds also include:
- Fenner’s March 1960 report to BC Parks about a helicopter survey of Garibaldi Park to locate potential Winter Olympics sites. His preferred location for the Olympics base area was the west end of Cheakamus Lake, with ski runs on Whistler’s south-western slopes (Khyber’s, Cakehole, etc).
- Several old magazines (Reader’s Digest, B.C. Motorist, etc.) in which Fenner’s photos and articles were published.
- Personal files like his official certificate of Canadian citizenship, correspondence related to his photography, writing and travel, even a tourist visa for Columbia from 1980.
We’ve just started to browse the documents and photos, so surely there’s still some goodies yet to be found in there.