ASBC Nanaimo: In Trouble?

ASBC Nanaimo Members in the Field, 2011: Photo: Colleen Parsley, Source: ASBC Nanaimo.

I posted this as a comment a few days ago, but decided it was worth a post on its own: there is a worrisome news snippet in the Nanaimo paper concerning the Archaeological Society of BC, Nanaimo Chapter. (At least, I infer this is the society in question!).

The full text indicates there will be a public meeting on Monday November 7th at Vancouver Island University which suggests the Nanaimo organization is in tough times:

7 p.m. The Archaeological Society is on the brink of collapse. If you feel the archaeology of Nanaimo and area has significant value, please come share your ideas at Bldg 356 Room 109 on the VIU campus.

This is one of three branches of the ASBC, and until fairly recently one of the most active, with good public speaking and field programs. As recently as last summer there was a newsletter issued and fieldwork undertaken, as the picture above from their website shows.

If you’re an ASBC member and live near Nanaimo, or if you just care about archaeology in BC, then it’d be a good idea to go.  The meeting need not be a wake, maybe it could be a rebirth.

There’s nothing on the ASBC-N website, which is why I thought it worthwhile posting here.  There is an unfortunate Balkanization of the ASBC – ideally, there would be a community email Listserv for important news province-wide.  If you know what’s going on, then by all means post something in the comments here.  The Victoria Chapter  of the ASBC is probably the most active one right now and it would be good to lend moral support from a distance.  The Vancouver Branch is, as far as I understand, actually the “Real ASBC” and so maybe they have an interest or even obligation to support the Nanaimo Branch, if the news report is not overly alarmist.

9 responses to “ASBC Nanaimo: In Trouble?

  1. I really don’t know anything about the ASBC Nanaimo, but it would seem a shame to lose it. I can’t say that I’ve participated in ASBC Victoria though, so maybe this could be a wakeup for those like me who take an interest but never really get around to participating in their local ASBC chapter.
    On a side note – did anyone else find the banner for the ASBC-Nanaimo website a bit odd? Why is it a picture of Half Dome in Yosemite? It’s a nice picture, but I would have thought it would be something to do with the Nanaimo area or archaeology. It’s not even a stock photo of generic mountains; Half Dome so iconic that it’s like having a photo of Antelope Canyon on the banner for the Northwest Coast Archaeology blog.


  2. Hi AC, agreed the selection of Half Dome is a bit odd – the ASBC is mostly about BC archaeology as the name suggests but here in Victoria probably 80% of the talks, for instance, related to BC or NW Archaeology. I wondered if it is a default header image on a WordPress or other software theme/template, which someone never got changed.

    As for the Nanaimo ASBC itself, well, the whole point of having local chapters or branches is to give an organizational head start to avocational interest. If it is not being sustained in Nanaimo, that is a shame but really up to Nanaimoians to make a go of it. The Victoria Chapter was very fallow about 10 years back and then it came shooting back to be very active, or at least, lots of great, regular, local talks with attendance in the 20 to 50 range, I would say. Part of the resurgence was energy and work from UVIC students who took an interest after the first fieldschool in some time had been held. Maybe that’s a direction VIU and ASBC-N should look into – get students onto the executive. Like I said it was surprising for me to read the news snippet because they had recently been quite active, so it may be just a bit of panicky reporting or something.

    Anyway, obviously any local person is welcome to go to both the meeting on Monday, and anyone in Victoria or environs is welcome to come to the monthly meetings here – you don’t need to be a member to come to the talk, which is also free! Happy to see you may be interested in doing just that.


  3. Hello Quentin,

    The ASBC-Nanaimo Branch is in trouble. Not panicky reporting. Lack of support is the main issue facing our group. The society can not be sustained in isolation from descent communities, students or the broader heritage community. We are still very committed to archaeology and passionate about heritage but we need more support. The banner on the front page of the website is evidence enough.
    Unfortunately, the ASBC is not as cohesive as we could potentially be, this is something that has been an issue for way too long. Hopefully at our forum tonight we can rally more folks to help and possibly chart a future course for the organization.
    Thanks for featuring this issue Quentin!



  4. Hi Colleen,

    Thanks for your information. When you say “support” do you primarily mean members, active members, or something else?

    The challenges you describe must partly be a result of the higher ambition and success of the Nanaimo Chapter, which has done so many field projects, has a newsletter, field trips and so forth. The Victoria Chapter has a very active and well attended speaker series but there hasn’t been much else in recent years. So, it’s easier to run into challenges when setting a high bar of activity, including interaction of some kind with descendent communities.

    Anyway, I hope people do attend the meeting tonight or perhaps even express support through email, or post here Nanaimo folks! If you want to send a message to ASBC Nanaimo, go to their website or send it to me at qmackie@gmail and I will bounce it on.

    I think you note an important point which I also commented on: the ASBC as a whole needs to pull together and have a cohesive presence. These days a big part of that could be an email discussion group. It’s old school, low tech, but could push information into people’s inboxes, which in some ways is better than a web site or a blog. (And push a MIdden.PDF into their inbox as well, someday!!). I have several hundred subscribers to this Blog, but I don’t think I have all the ASBC membership at all – lots of my subscribers are not even in BC – which is how I like it, Archaeology is not helped by modern political boundaries. But each ASBC Chapter seems to be an Island unto itself, and surely that is odd for this organization.


  5. Hi Quentin,
    By support, I mean both active and non-active members and systemic support. We have had trouble finding keeners to fill positions on the Board like Secretary, Program/Lecture Coordinator. We have had lectures where hardly any people show up.
    Our membership is really needing a boost. Field trips have been really popular but we are having a hard time finding appropriate places to take people.
    Yes, the ASBC really could be a fantastic organization. Take the Archaeological Society of Alberta for example, they are engaged in research, publications, field trips, lectures and fun stuff. This results in a large membership. The reasons for their success are mainly that there is more cohesion in the heritage community, research and communicating that research to the public is a high priority. There also isn’t as much protectionism as we unfortunately have on the coast.
    As Mary Rossi put it when she spoke to us last year, we are not doing a great job in telling the story of archaeology. The whole point of archaeology is to learn more of the human story yet we are not very good storytellers.
    In terms of systemic support, there is the separate island thing you mentioned but also it’s bigger in terms of political support and the broader heritage community. We do not find a lot of cross-community support from other heritage-minded organizations.
    I hope we can find some solutions to overcome our challenges. Thanks very much for featuring this on your blog, it’s a great way to help us rally support and encourage participation!



  6. These things can certainly work in cycles, Colleen. Sometimes it is a question of a certain cohort of students get involved, or perhaps someone grasps the bull by the horns. Sometimes in small groups everyone gets along great and sometimes there are personality issues. It goes with the territory. But building strong “offices” within the organization helps such that everyone has an equal stake in success (generically speaking).

    Yes – connection to other heritage groups is important. The success of groups like Hallmark in rallying sentiment around cute cottages is admirable, what can be learned from that? And the historic near-complete lack of relationship to the Underwater Archaeology Society of BC is remarkable. At least, having a way to cross-publicize their meetings and events would be great. So over to the ASBC to make a modern dissemination mode possible and user-friendly.

    Anyway, that’s all preamble to my question: how did the meeting go?


    • The meeting went well Quentin, thanks for asking.
      Still a small turn out (10 peeps) but fresh faces, ideas and discussion. The main thing is people care enough about what the society does in that all attending envision a future functioning and viable society.
      We heard from the city in that they value our work, and certainly worry that if we no longer exist then sites will be lost. We had a good dialogue about cross-fertilization between heritage organizations including the underwater society interestingly enough. We heard good points about promotion, social media, and info-tainment aspect of lectures. We all agreed to further explore the catch-22 of building capacity when you don’t have the capacity. We also discussed the double barrier we face as a group in that we are a community organization challenged to educate the public about heritage yet we must keep information confidential as the public pose a threat to that same heritage. The problem of membership fees and the increased fees for The Midden was a recurring point.
      We received some suggestions and offers to volunteer and will follow-up and focus on some of the key issues identified in a future meeting to be held at the Nanaimo Museum scheduled for Monday, November 14th @7pm.

      People are hearing our call (including the media who have a bit of a morbid fascination in the possible death of a society). This in itself is potentially a good thing as I have been offered the unusual opportunity to talk about the work the society has accomplished. Re-framing the media’s focus from only controversialial stories about archaeology (i.e. ) to discuss community values about heritage and showcase the service of the ASBC is also positive.
      Will keep you posted,


  7. Thanks for the update and the news article. In case people missed it in your comment, there is a meeting on Monday 14th at 7.00 pm to further discussion of this important issue – and from the news bulletin you linked:
    A second meeting on Monday (Nov. 14) at Nanaimo Museum is planned for anyone interested to further expand on ideas on how to salvage the group.


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