Our visit to the Quesnel & District Museum and Archives requires a bit of context. In the lead up to our Okanagan adventure, my partner and I plotted and planned various stops of interest along the way beginning in Prince Rupert and heading south. One of these stops was the Quesnel & District Museum. Mandy the haunted doll caught our interest. The only problem was the museum had been closed for renovations. About a week before setting off on our road trip adventure, I sent the museum a message on social media asking when they might be open . . . no response. When we arrived in Quesnel on 22 June, my partner called to see if the museum was open, explaining that we’d love to visit Mandy. Unfortunately, the museum was not yet open – they were aiming for the first week of July. Drat! No worries, though, because the lady we spoke with – I believe her name was Brandi – said she’d be more than happy to greet us at the museum and introduce us to Mandy. How awesome is that? Thus, we arrived at the museum just before 3PM in anticipation of seeing Mandy and then going on our merry way. Only . . . it wasn’t just a quick “in and out.” Brandi went above and beyond and gave us a fairly comprehensive tour of the museum (noting that things were still being set up in anticipation of the grand re-opening!).
We spent approximately 45 minutes touring the museum and learning about Quesnel’s early history. Besides Mandy the doll, highlights for us included:
The CS Wing and CD Hoy Photo Collections: I’ve always found black & white photos to be far more impressive than their coloured counterparts, but the Wing and Hoy collections – taken in the first decade of the 20th century – are truly remarkable in that they paint fairly vivid portraits of life in the Cariboo during its infancy. The portraits really do give an honest feel for what life was like back then.
Chinese Artifact Collection: While small, the artifacts and historic trinkets collected here help to paint a picture of early immigrant life in Quesnel and Barkerville. From the gold prospector to business owner, the Asian community has done much to shape this Province and I’m happy to see their efforts acknowledged in the current day. This collection in Quesnel is now doubly important given that the Chinese History Museum in Lytton was destroyed – along with an entire community – by fire.
First Nations Exhibit: Detailing the traditional territory of the Lhtako Dene, I felt this exhibit, while small, did a good job in outlining the importance of Indigenous culture to the Cariboo region. It would’ve been fun to hear the elders speak to us in video clips, but I don’t believe these were set up yet.
Indo-Canadian Exhibit: I think this display grabbed my attention because it highlights a modern, positive trend. In old history books, any description of the Cariboo would be dominated by the 1860s Gold Rush period, with maybe some brief descriptions about challenges in transportation. Now, though, history is being refreshed to include other prominent voices. This exhibit is one such example, as it highlights Quesnel’s desire to carve out its own identity.
Titanic Artifacts: This one caught me by surprise! Who would’ve thought you’d find a connection to the Titanic in Quesnel? Having previously attended the Titanic exhibits in Las Vegas (still ongoing) and Richmond (ran from June 2018 to January 2019), this small display adds an extra layer to Titanic’s story via its surprise connection to the Cariboo!
Overall, the Quesnel & District Museum proved to be a worthwhile stop on our adventure. Mandy the doll may have been the impetus for our visit, but we ended up finding so much more. A special thank you to Brandi for going above and beyond! We thoroughly enjoyed our tour!