The Reach Gallery Museum’s latest exhibit Voices of the Valley will be a trip down memory lane for many long-time local residents, as it features first-hand accounts and artifacts from the settlement and colonization of the Fraser Valley. The exhibit, located in the Reach’s rear, far towards the back of the gallery, is housed in a single hallway. Some truly astounding artifacts share space with run-of-the mill mundane items whose age lends them importance; items such as old milk cans and thermal underwear sit next to intricately illustrated old bibles and diaries from Fraser Valley settlers of long ago.
Voices of the Valley was designed around eight major themes: the First Nations who lived and thrived here in the Valley prior to colonization; the surveying and settlement of the Valley; the drainage of Sumas Lake; the agriculture, brick-making, and forestry industries; methods of transportation used here in the Valley; and finally, the economics that grew the development of the Fraser Valley as we know it today. The exhibit explores these themes through several avenues, such as a digital map that charts the changes to the area as time passed, and a visual representation of the many large-scale alterations to surrounding areas brought about by the increased development of the Fraser Valley.
Other pieces of the exhibit include signs from old stores and companies; items that were for sale as dehydrated milk, horse feed, and bricks; and more personal items from individuals such as clothing, boots, diaries, and personal effects such as compasses and watches.
But the one piece that perhaps most intrigued me was tucked away quietly in the furthest corner, just in front of an exit that led outside. It’s probably the obvious thing to say in this medium, but an enlarged copy of an old newspaper really caught my eye. The front page of the Abbotsford, Sumas & Matsqui Times belonging to the April 6, 1938 issue featured items like the price of meat, ideas for redecorating a house, wanted ads, personal paragraphs about businessmen going on journeys, the improvement of the BC telephone lines, and an ad for the Hotel Atangard, a building located in downtown Abbotsford. It was almost shocking having to reconcile the building I’ve walked past dozens of times with the one being talked about in this newspaper from before World War II.
Who knows, maybe something you see every day will end up on some wall somewhere in 80 years — but for now, if you’re interested in the history of our neighbourhood, I’d recommend taking a look at Voices of The Valley.