EDITORIAL: Put the brakes on heritage loss

We all need to take action to access family stories and other aspects of our community history

Time, as they say, is fleeting and history never stops being created.

In families, when elders pass on, the ability to glean information about the past or stories from the family’s history is lost.

A similar problem presents itself within the architectural and museum world. Without photos of what once stood or how a building looked inside, and in the absence of original drawings or plans, it’s tough to accurately restore a structure or portray an original setting.

Since 1979, when former building lessee the Victoria Conservatory of Music found another location, the Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum Society has done its best to offer visitors a taste of life at the turn of the 20th century, when the wealthy Dunsmuir family resided at the grand sandstone mansion high atop Victoria’s Rockland neighbourhood.

Unable to track down the building’s original plans and hamstrung by a scarcity of photos from the Dunsmuir era at the castle, the staff and society volunteers are left to essentially guess how the family might have furnished, decorated and used the multitude of rooms.

Similarly, Parks Canada has information on the first and last keepers of the Fisgard Lighthouse beside Fort Rodd Hill. The names of the 10 keepers in between are known, but no photos of them have been found and little information is known about their lives.

On its web page for the fort and lighthouse, Parks Canada (bit.ly/11McqJc) asks the public to contribute any information it might have about the lighthouse keepers.

The folks at Craigdarroch are making a similar plea to the public (thecastle.ca/building-plans) for any information that might lead to finding the architectural plans for the castle.

These are just a few examples of how details of our personal, community and built histories can be lost if action is not taken to protect it.

Our heritage can be perpetuated by recording the stories of our elders, donating old photos or heirlooms to museums or groups committed to preserving them, and by supporting those institutions that are committed to the task.