Cowichan Valley Museum now open four days a week

New display features Prince of Wales Fairbridge Farm School

A display panel at the Cowichan Valley Museum’s new Prince of Wales Fairbridge Farm School exhibit. The school attempted to convey an idyllic image to those back in Britain. (Courtesy of Cowichan Valley Museum)

A display panel at the Cowichan Valley Museum’s new Prince of Wales Fairbridge Farm School exhibit. The school attempted to convey an idyllic image to those back in Britain. (Courtesy of Cowichan Valley Museum)

The Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives is now open four days a week, Tuesday to Friday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The museum, located in Duncan’s heritage railway station, was closed for much of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and was only open one day a week in recent months.

Curator Kathryn Gagnon said since switching to being opening four days a week, she is delighted by the number of local people that are visiting the museum.

“We were anticipating a quiet summer, but since the COVID-19 restriction began being lifted, it has become a whole new ball game for the museum,” she said.

“We’re so pleased by the fact so many of our visitors are from the Cowichan Valley.”

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As part of its mission, the museum explores the diverse history of the Cowichan region and presents stories from the many communities with which it collaborates.

The museum and archives are owned and operated by the non-profit Cowichan Historical Society.

Gagnon said a new display at the museum features a history of the 329 British migrant children who attended the Prince of Wales Fairbridge Farm School, located in Cowichan Station, from 1935 to the 1950s.

The children who attended the school were as young as four years old, with more than 95 per cent of them having family in Britain.

Gagnon said Kingsley Fairbridge, founder of the school, and the Child Emigration Society (which changed names to the Fairbridge Society) intended to give underprivileged children an opportunity to have “a better life” in schools established in the colonies.

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“While there are former students who attest to the positive experiences they had, other troubling stories have emerged,” she said.

“The display was created in collaboration with author Patricia Skidmore, who wrote about the experiences of her mother at the Fairbridge Farm School in Marjorie: Too Afraid to Cry. The Fairbridge Society relied on donations and used the media effectively to depict an idyllic life in the schools. The reality, however, was often very different.”

Gagnon said the museum gratefully acknowledges the BC Arts Council for funding the Prince of Wales Fairbridge Farm School display.

The archives is open by appointment only, and Gagnon asks that people email cvma@shaw.ca for an appointment.

You can also visit the website www.cowichanvalleymuseum.bc.ca for information about visiting the museum and archives, or contact Gagnon at 250-746-6612, or email cvmuseum.archives@shaw.ca.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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