Vic High Archives & Museum A Popular Destination

Vic High Archives & Museum A Popular Destination

by Linda Baker, VHS 1969

We alumni may embrace our Vic High past, but it’s a wonderful revelation to have so many current Vic High students visit the new Archives and Museum at Vic High. Some alumni credit the school’s administration and staff for keeping the Vic High spirit and culture alive during a 3 1/2 year absence from home. Principal Aaron Parker, for example, never hesitated to don the original teaching robes of Samuel J. Willis on loan from the Vic High Archives, helping create a strong visual link to Vic High’s past.  The temporary Vic High digs were the old S.J. Willis school, named after the man who was the first Vic High principal at the 1914 Grant Street campus, now newly upgraded and finally home to some very happy staff and students.

The new Archives and Museum is located in Room 123 on the Main floor (formerly known as the 1st floor) of the original 1914 building. The office area is as much a museum display space as working area, and leads to the Faith Reimer Collections Room where precious items are stored in acid-free boxes or displayed on shelves. Architects left original exterior walls in this room intact, walls that were originally enclosed by the 1950s addition of the Andrews Gym and Arts wing above it. In addition, storage space in the basement houses larger items, surplus items, and records stored by the Vic High Alumni Association.

Volunteers from the Association look after the Archives, overseen by Annie Boldt, VHS 1967 and Linda Baker, VHS 1969. All archival supplies and some furnishings are funded by donations from caring Vic High alumni who are keen to see the school’s history preserved. But since Vic High re-opened, it’s the daily visits by various Vic High students that’s making the donations and volunteer hours so worthwhile.

“We have an archives?” is a common response to the open 1914 replica entry door and sign on the adjacent wall. “Cool. Can we come in?”  And of course, they are welcomed, introductions are made, and a volunteer shows them around. Many are in awe of the 1892 Visitor Logs with their beautiful cursive writing, and 1924 hand-written records of Staff Meetings. Others are keen to find their parents, grandparents, neighbours in one of the Research Camosuns available on the shelves, or to search for a hand-completed Registration Card in the old boxes taking up one complete section of shelving. Remember those? From 1917 to the mid 1980s students each completed a card with family contact information on one side and their class schedule on the back. In some ways, it may have been faster to find a student by going to their Registration Card than to click through computer records nowadays.


Aldous will soon start to research Vic High students killed during World War 1 for his francophone Night of Notables presentation in late June, with Archives volunteers pointing out collections to check and loaning him Barry Gough’s From Classroom To Battlefield as a good place to start. Tallulah and Aya have begun examining the Archives’ Textiles Collections, hastily accessioned and packed away in large acid-free boxes between layers of acid-free tissue before the big pack-up and move to storage in 2020. Already items are identified for repairs, some for disposal as faint traces of mold have turned up. Tallulah, a Grade 11 student, is something of a textiles expert already. She created all the costumes for the musical theater’s current production of RENT, works weekends at a bridal shop, and has direct connections to textile experts at the Royal BC Museum. Volunteers are learning a lot from her!  And Frida began volunteering recently and is helping create the Archives’ first in-school display, a Grad Flashback featuring a designed-and-made-at-Vic High 1969 grad dress, a 1966 grad dress made of fine silk brocade brought back from China, and various photos and memorabilia.

Rosemarie Felsing, VHS 1972, helps out regularly in the Archives. Janice Mercer, VHS 1962, Adele Fraser, VHS 1978, Edeana Malcolm, VHS 1969, are all helping, Tony Poniedzielnik, VHS 1978, Rod Edwards, VHS 1974 , and Christy Bowen, VHS 2000, helped get the Archives unpacked and set up and we hope will continue as their time permits.

The Vic High Archives and Museum is open schooldays, 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM, plus Tuesdays and Thursdays till 4:00 PM, or by appointment. It’s best to phone us first. Vic High, 250-388-5456. (We have been known to make grandkids a priority, or make spontaneous get-away trips just because we can!)