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The Turnagain Nugget is the largest existing gold nugget ever found in British Columbia: it weighs 1,642 grams (52 troy onces) and is approximately 4.2 cm high, 18.1 cm wide and 9.2 cm deep. Image courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives

There’s gold in them Gatineau hills… at the Museum of History

By She Who Must Be Obeyed on June 23, 2016

As I locked my bike outside the Canadian Museum of History, I glanced over at the four school and two tour buses and my heart sank. Now let me see, what’s worse?   In corner number one we have hordes of “last-week-of-school” kids running around, shrieking and purposely getting too close to artifacts so that the warning alarm gets triggered. Please let them be going to the Children’s Museum… In corner number two, we find gangs of elderly tourists following a guide with a flag, pulling out narcis-sticks to snap yet more selfies and randomly stopping in the most inconvenient places (i.e. right in front of me). Please let them be visiting the lobby and gift shop…

Miraculously, my wishes were granted and the Special Exhibits Hall was cool, dark and quiet. “Gold Rush – El Dorado in British Colombia”  is entering its third month at the Canadian Museum of History. I love gold rush stories but wasn’t familiar with that history in B.C. so I was eager to see what was in store.

Haida box by Bill Reid, 1971. Image courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives

Haida box by Bill Reid, 1971. Image courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives

Gold rushes are by definition big, bold and brash. The exhibition, on the other hand, is demure, sophisticated and refined. Not that that’s a bad thing. It starts with a ginormous brick of solid gold and ends with a bunch of gold-coated stuff: records, guitars, Olympic medals. In between: lumps of gold, flakes of gold, and art made out of gold. But also so much more. Like a full-sized stage coach, tools, travel documents, and archival photographs. Plus you can weigh yourself and see how much you’d be in gold.

Miner using a rocker box, Barkerville, 1868. Image courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives

Miner using a rocker box, Barkerville, 1868. Image courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives

The exhibition explores the B.C. gold rush in the context of other famous gold rushes of the era. It pays particular attention to the stresses, racism and tragedies associated with large-scale human migration. People would come from all over the world in a matter of months and descend on what had previously been a small town or sleepy village. The way that the exhibit gives voice to so many groups and histories is its strength.

“Gold Rush! El Dorado in British Columbia” runs until January 17, 2017 at the Canadian Museum of History.  Entrance to the exhibit is included with museum admission.

She Who Must Be Obeyed loves history and exploring our common heritage.  She also loves travel and hits the road whenever possible.  You can find her and her stories at travellargefamily.  

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