Reviews / Comptes rendus

Reviews / Comptes rendus

Bibliography for the Study of British Columbia's Domestic Material History

Jim Wardrop
British Columbia Provincial Museum
Bibliography for the Study of British Columbia's Domestic Material History. Virginia Careless. Ottawa: National Museums of Canada, 1976. 73 p., illus. (Canada. National Museum of Man. History Division, Mercury Series Paper 20) ISSN 0316-1900 Free

1 This bibliography, comprising some 800 sources, is a valuable addition to any library pertaining to the social history of Canada, though its focus is British Columbia. As the author points out in her introduction, this source compilation stemmed directly from a research project to upgrade three period rooms in the Modern History Galleries of the British Columbia Provincial Museum. These period rooms are unlike those normally created by agencies such as National Historic Parks and Sites which usually aim to recreate settings for specific historical personages. Instead, the B.C.P.M.'s rooms depict fictional but representative people of a chosen time period.

2 It appears that many museums across the country are not creating a scene tied to a specific personage, but have chosen rather to illuminate a period in a particular town or region. Thus Careless' contribution is very important. Her introduction includes vital questions which the museologist must ask before embarking on a period room project: what was the socioeconomic status of the owners, their ethnic group, their self-image, their age and experiences? Numerous other questions could be added, for example, what services and supplies were available to the house/room owner at the time of construction, furnishing or decoration?

3 Careless also emphasizes what we have all discovered: the sources prior to 1895 are scant (for example, interior photographs were rare), and their significance is difficult to evaluate ("Store catalogues say nothing about the class of people who were their customers"). This reviewer hopes that the study underway by Robert Watt of the Vancouver Centennial Museum on the distribution and use of Woodward's and Spencer's catalogues in British Columbia will help to resolve some of these problems.

4 The bibliography has been divided into forty-six categories, ranging from general architecture through clocks to wallpaper and walls. Because the sources have been chosen from institutions in Vancouver and Victoria the list has had to be incomplete. Even so, many of the sources included may appear trivial at first glance, but will be of value once the process of selection of criteria for the room has been completed. The chief shortcoming of this vast bibliography is that the author did not give any indication if there were some sources, amongst the hundreds, that she found particularly useful. Despite this limitation the bibliography fills a real gap and provides a dependable base for further research by serious scholars.

Jim Wardrop
Associate Curator of History
British Columbia Provincial Museum
Victoria, B.C.