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Like many readers of Al-Ameen, I immigrated to Canada. Every July 1st I’m reminded of my limited knowledge of this country’s history. Museums and heritage sites offer one of the best ways to understand the past. Scattered throughout the lower mainland there are dozens of family friendly historical places to explore. Take some time this summer to travel into Canada’s past. It will make you proud to be Canadian.
Located in beautiful Vanier Park, the Museum of Vancouver has wonderfully quirky exhibits featuring life in Vancouver from the sober 1900’s to the psychedelic 1960’s. This museum also showcases unusual collections such as the current showing of one hundred fifty shoes documenting footwear trends over the past forty years. Children love playing dress-up with the eclectic selection of vintage clothing—be sure to bring your camera. http://www.museumofvancouver.ca/
Next door is the Vancouver Maritime Museum. Relive the experiences of the crew of the schooner, ST. ROCH as they hunt seals in the Arctic and search for the elusive Northwest Passage. Children can spend hours in the hands-on Discovery Centre where they can steer a tugboat, stare in awe at the intricate model boats and open drawer after drawer filled with hidden treasures. http://www.vancouvermaritimemuseum.com/
For immersion in First Nation’s lore, there is no better place than the Museum of Anthropology at UBC. Towering totem poles, two outdoor Haida houses and over six thousand artefacts from indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest offer a rare glimpse of life in BC before the arrival of Europeans. http://www.moa.ubc.ca/
A unique historical experience can be had at the intriguing Vancouver Police Museum. Located in the old city morgue visitors can examine everything from counterfeit money to confiscated weapons and even take a walking tour highlighting the seedier side of Vancouver’s history. Forensic workshops are held for children in late July to August. http://www.vancouverpolicemuseum.ca/index.htm
Plan to spend the whole day walking around Burnaby Village Museum. Be sure to stop at the blacksmith, the print shop, the old schoolhouse, the tiny log cabin, and of course the general store with its pot belly stove and penny candy. The day wouldn’t be complete without a whirl on the historic carousel and a treat from the old fashioned ice cream parlour. http://www.city.burnaby.bc.ca/cityhall/departments/departments_parks/prksrc_artsan/prksrc_fclts_brnbyv.html
Amble along the dike trails and investigate the massive Gulf of Georgia Cannery. It’s easy to imagine the factory in full steam processing millions of cans of salmon. Thankfully, the expected fishy smell is noticeably absent. http://gulfofgeorgiacannery.com/
London Heritage Farm is another must see site. The lovingly restored 1880 farmhouse sits stately in a park-like setting. After a tour of the house and farm, take time to enjoy the charming afternoon tea with homemade scones, jam and tea served on bone china. http://www.londonheritagefarm.ca/index.html
The city of New Westminster takes preserving its heritage seriously; after all it was BC’s first capital. In addition to entire neighbourhoods of scenic turn of the century homes there are many small museums. The famous Quay is a good starting point. Here you can tour the Samson V Maritime Museum. This paddle-wheeler carried people and supplies up and down the Fraser River for nearly one hundred years. http://www.nwheritage.org/heritagesite/orgs/samson/index.htm While you are at the Quay be sure to stop at the Fraser River Discovery Centre which has several exhibits describing how this mighty river influenced our history. http://www.fraserriverdiscovery.org/about.htm
Visits to the 1865 Irving House and New Westminster Museum are also time well spent. Irving House shows the luxury available to more prosperous pioneers and the museum in filled with reminders of everyday life in BC’s oldest city. http://www.nwpr.bc.ca/heritage%20services.htm
BC Farm Machinery and Agricultural Museum has a stuffy name but the museum is jam packed with the largest collection of artefacts about pioneer life in BC. Seeing how much work went into running a small farm in the early 1900’s makes you thankful for the conveniences of modern life. http://www.bcfma.com/index.htm
Anyone who hasn’t visited the actual Fort Langley National Historic Site is missing the chance to see the true birthplace of BC. See what life was like over 150 years ago as you explore this Hudson’s Bay Company outpost. Children love trying to lift a voyageur’s pack, touching the pelts, helping out in making a barrel, and even attending a fur trader’s wedding. http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/bc/langley/index.aspx
Robert Penn said, “History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.” As Canadians, we owe it to our country to understand its past.
Footnotes: Zainab Dhanani loves teaching Social Studies at Az-Zahraa Islamic Academy and immersing herself along with the students into Canada’s fascinating history. Next time historical sites farther away will be explored. If you have any suggestions of places to visit, please email firstname.lastname@example.org