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The bonds of family form a key part of Royal B.C. Museum exhibit

Personal items, from photos to jewelry, part of display in Victoria
Lorne Hammond, curator of history at the Royal B.C. Museum, shows off outfits donated from families across B.C. as part of the museum’s latest exhibit, “Family: Bonds and Belonging,” on at the museum until Oct. 31. Kendra Wong/Victoria News

Stepping into the Royal B.C. Museum’s newest exhibit is like entering a giant photo album into B.C.’s past.

Dozens of portraits of families from Vancouver Island hang on the gallery’s walls, some dating as far back as 1836. There are also more contemporary photos of families. Home videos of children playing line the walls.

The artifacts are part of the museum’s latest exhibit, called Family: Bonds & Belonging, which explores how family can contribute to the idea of belonging to a nation, province, place or identity.

“This is an opportunity to see history from the front row. It’s an opportunity to learn about our history in a different way, to look across the last 150 years and see history from a completely fresh perspective, from the perspective of families and the role that families have played in the shaping of our province, ” said Jack Lohman, RBCM CEO.

“It’s an opportunity for everyone to find their place in the story, too.”

As part of the exhibit, hundreds of items are on display, many of which were donated from more than 300 B.C. families that contribute to the notion of family. They include letters written by loved ones who were separated during wars, wedding rings, photos of prominent Islanders including the Dunsmuir and Crease families, as well as costumes.

According to Kathryn Bridge, curator of history and art at the museum, it was a challenge sorting through and narrowing down artifacts for the exhibit. The community had a hand in choosing what is currently on display through a series of meetings, in which they helped identify objects that resonated with them.

In the end, the museum put together a “potpourri” of themes of family, Bridge said.

“Everyone belongs to a family of some sort. This exhibit is very inclusive, all different types of families, different ways that people are bonded together. It’s an exhibit that’s filled with something for everyone,” she said, noting the wall of portraits was one of her favourite parts of the exhibit.

“By seeing some of the objects in the exhibit, people may think twice about that old photo album … There’s a lot of stories that belong to you in that photo album.”

Family: Bonds & Belonging opens Friday (June 2) and is on display until Oct. 31. For more information visit