I don’t know that much about the “Living Landscapes” program, which includes a series of small web exhibits. While related to the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria, and covered by their insane legal language (see below), they seem to have outsourced the actual expertise to non-RBCM people. Not that surprising, really, since they have hardly any in-house expertise left after decades of cuts! But all credit to them for their role in the informative series, even if the program is now (2006) finished with nothing for Vancouver Island.
I’ll probably review a few of these pages, but for now the exhibit which caught my eye, mainly because of its cool illustrations, is the one of Aboriginal Bridges of Northwestern B.C. The author, Brenda Guernsey, has put together a great set of images from various public archives to illustrate these amazing features.
The best known is the bridge over the Bulkley River at Hagwilget Canyon, near Hazelton. This bridge exemplifies a design common to many of the others: larger trunks extended from each side of the shore as far as possible, and then a gangway is tied on to join the two halves. By the time many of these pictures were taken, steel cable from the Western Union Telegraph line had been added to strengthen this bridge, and perhaps others as well. Other descriptions describe methods of spanning large creeks and rivers using only wood and withes. Nonethless, the crossing is still vividly expressed in various choice quotes from Guernsey’s text.
An archaeological note and picture is also included, regarding the 1981 discovery of remnants of the bridge.
The two support posts are carved to represent stylized ancestor figures which tradition said would cry out a warning if a crossing were attempted by anyone not a ‘trading partner’ of the bridge engineers. Two rings around each ‘head’ are, he [George McDonald] said, heritage lines, and of great significance to the owners. [Northern Sentinel 1981]
But as I say, Hagwilget Bridge is quite well known. Guernsey documents a number of other intricate, delicate, and frightening bridges, such as this one over the Suskwa River near Hazelton.
My favourite is this 1900 picture, below, of a bridge over Beatty Creek (a.k.a., Beady Creek?), in Tahltan territory.
Your certainly get a sense of trusting your life to a linear basket! Note how far down the river is, it helps with the horizontal scale as well. Guernsey gives some detail:
Beatty Creek is a tributary of the Tahltan River, which flows into the Stikine River. The Beatty Creek bridge is one of three identified bridges in Tahltan territory, the others located at the mouths of the Tuya and Tanzanilla Rivers. O’Dwyer took this picture in 1900 and engineer, A.F. Buckham (1950:179), describes the bridge at Beatty Creek as ‘A light, hastily constructed Indian bridge made from saplings’; a style which ‘was sometimes used by the Indians over the narrower streams’.
So, overall, this is a small, but informative and well-illustrated, site. The only problem I have with it is actually with the Living Landscapes web site as a whole. Without exception, the following is the most absurd disclaimer I have ever read on the internet, and gives insight into the mind set that prevails in certain quarters of the B.C. “Heritage Industry” and the RBCM:
This information is provided as a public service by the Royal British Columbia Museum, 675 Belleville Street, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada V8W 9W2.
This Web site and all of the information it contains are provided “as is” without warranty of any kind, whether express or implied. All implied warranties, including, without limitation, implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, and non-infringement, are hereby expressly disclaimed.
Limitation of Liabilities
Under no circumstances will the Royal British Columbia Museum be liable to any person or business entity for any direct, indirect, special, incidental, consequential, or other damages based on any use of this Web site or any other Web site to which this site is linked, including, without limitation, any lost profits, business interruption, or loss of programs or information, even if the Royal British Columbia Museum has been specifically advised of the possibility of such damages.
Oh dear. I sprained my finger while surfing your site and now you won’t pay for the band-aid.
They also have a bunch of other threatening language about ownership which is frankly, offensive, considering they are a public institution using public money to display elements from the public archives, to the public, which under the Museums Act is their principle social and legal reason for existence. Educate me, don’t harangue me.
So RBCM, just so we are on the same page here: this post is a review of your website and it is covered by both fair use principles of Canadian copyright law; by the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling regarding “citizen journalism” and its protections as speech; and, indeed, by Academic Freedom. Also, this blog is hosted in a foreign country. Your call who to call.