Revisiting the Salt Spring Island Archives

Part of the Charles Sampson collection from Salt Spring Island. Source:

Salt Spring Island is a large island in the Salish Sea, close to Vancouver Island’s southeast corner (map).  Quite a while ago I highlighted the photographs of the “Bob Akerman” museum, which comes via the comprehensive Salt Spring Island archives.  There are a few other photo records of archaeological collections there which I thought were worth a quick look.  For example, the picture above from the Charles Sampson Collection shows some fairly spectacular ground slate points to the left, and what may be a Charles phase (ca. 4,000 year old)  contracting stem point to the bottom right.  It’s not just archaeological collections that the archives has going for it, though.

Bone artifact identified as "Chinese" in Cusheon Cove Museum. Source:

The Cusheon Cove museum has several pages of pictures of historic era Chinese and Japanese artifacts.  One of them, above, looks like it might be Coast Salish rather than Chinese. The Salt Spring Island Museum also has 10 pages of pictures of historic artifacts online.

Sandstone Bowl found at Walter Bay. Source:

At some point, someone made a trip to Victoria to photograph artifacts from Salt Spring held in the Royal BC Museum.  Not all the pictures are as good as the one above, which is of a stunning bowl. It’s not just archaeology at the Salt Spring archives.  They have done a good job of putting hundreds, or probably thousands of historic photos online.  There are multiple ways of exploring the archives, you can go through collection by collection on the left of this page, or thematically via the central column on the same page, such as six pages of historic logging pictures.

Tuwa’H Wiye Gosselem, Mary Anne Gyves, born Burgoyne Bay, 1854 Click for short bio. Source:

More rewarding for me was the Multicultural portal, which assembles resources on the surprisingly ethnically diverse early history of Salt Spring, which in addition to the Coast Salish nations, included Black, Kanaka (“Hawaiian”), Japanese and Chinese settlers in large numbers.  It also includes essays by Eric McLay on the Coast Salish cultural landscape, a basic map of aboriginal place names (presumably Hul’qumi’num; it doesn’t say; cf. non-aboriginal place names) and an impressive series of sound files and a short essay by Tom Koppel on Kanaka settlement. And of course, don’t forget to revisit the Akerman Collection itself. All told the various people behind these archives are doing a great job.  It could be more standardized in presentation and the photos could have more metadata added to them, but first and foremost a community is spending time and effort in documenting its own history and putting it on the internet for easy access.  I particularly respect the fact that, unlike so many small historical societies in British Columbia, there is acknowledgment and appreciation of the continuing legacy of First Nations culture, whose territory these settler museums now occupy.  From this, all else will follow.

Undated photo of the "Cowichan Bay regatta" from the Pat Crofton fonds. Source:

4 responses to “Revisiting the Salt Spring Island Archives

  1. That is a great site, perhaps will inspire something similar on Pender Island and could even solve one small problem currently in my sights – there are several people on the island with extensive personal collections from the island (from eroding sites) and recognize the value (not monetary) but want to have a place where they can see these items still, like a museum on Pender, but there is no repository here, possibly a website with photos of their collections may suffice… thanks


  2. Jim,
    I bet you could get some good ideas from Dana Lepofsky who has been doing similar things on Lasqueti Island. qmackie blogged about her Lasqueti website a while back:


  3. Maybe this kind of Sunday afternoon documentation project could be a way that archaeologists province-wide could address some of the visibility and public education aspects brought up in the Glenrose and Mossback threads earlier this week. It wouldn’t take much time, would be interesting, the photos need not be sensational, and it would link to the local historical societies.

    Hell, send the pics to me and I’ll start a page here on pics of private collections from the Northwest. Everything not for sale, of course 😉


  4. I’m aware of Dana’s efforts on Lasqueti, which worked well. A few of us here had the great idea (one day) of having a table at the farmers market/hall where people and their artifacts could be processed, so to speak, with each artifact actually receiving some sort of temp catalogue number and a form matching a digital database, one person id’ing, one photographing, kinda like the antiques roadshow… we’d have to get some big time arch personalities out for that. I’m actually not sure how well that would work (would they come?, the islanders are pretty fickle as Q found out this summer) but that would provide some exposure and then could do some follow up in local paper, homes. The connection with the historical society and linking online in virtual museum kinda thing is something for me to work on…


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