When he was a young man

‘Diverse and rollicking’ — 60 Years/60 Objects at Touchstones

Touchstones’ 60th anniversary exhibit features an array of Nelson artifacts that are sometimes fun, sometimes sobering.

60 Years/60 Objects, at the Touchstones gallery, is a (mostly) whimsical conglomeration of local objects ranging from a heritage racing scull and a player piano to a Crimean War medal and an old Pepsi sign from Wait’s news. From the first color TV in Nelson to a billy club from 1900 made of bull tendon and lead used by the bartender at the Silver King Hotel. From a pickle jar to a bike license, both with a surprising local significance. Tiny shoes that were worn by a woman from China with bound feet. Hand carved Doukhobor tableware. A silent film projector.

“It is not a linear narrative,” says the exhibit’s curator, Rod Taylor.

Rather, it is a collection of 60 objects from Touchstones’ permanent museum collection, with a one-paragraph story to accompany each, marking the 60th anniversary of the museum. Taylor calls the exhibit “diverse and rollicking.”

He went through the permanent collection looking for things that struck him, either because they were well known or because they weren’t, or because they were strange, surprising, sobering, funny, or educational.

Then he took the objects to Touchstones’ archivist Laura Fortier to discover the story behind them. If the story was a good one, the object made it into the exhibit.

For Taylor, building the exhibit was “a journey of surprises.”

“Putting historic exhibits together is like writing a term paper in some ways,” he says, “but this one was different because it is so diverse. I was learning these little pieces of information about the community.”

Taylor says some of the objects came from people talking to other people about the exhibit and contributing an object that the museum had been unaware of. He says this is the best-case scenario: a museum exhibit attracts more historical material from the public.

“The only way we get objects for the collection is if people bring them to us,” he says, and he stresses that objects don’t have to be ancient. “The best sort of information is from people who lived through it, and it does not have to be from many decades ago to be relevant.”

In conjunction with the 60 objects, Taylor has developed a walking tour of the downtown with a map of historic photographs of buildings that have disappeared or been significantly altered. On the walking tour, you can compare the photo with what’s at that address now.

For example, the walk takes you to the corner of Baker and Hall where Sidewinder’s is now. The photo on your map shows what used to be there: a very substantial two storey brick building that housed the Kootenay Cigar Company that employed 17 people around 1900. The tour has a total of 15 stops and the map is available at Touchstones.

60 Years/60 Objects runs until September 6.

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