New display of Chinese artifacts at North Thompson Museum

Summer students at the North Thompson Museum and Archives in Barriere, B.C., say they are excited to announce a new exhibit in ‘The Store’ building.

“We have turned the meat case into a display case for a set of Chinese pottery that has been generously donated by Barbara MacManus,” tell Museum summer students Flora Copley and Mackenzie Ransome, “The display consists of some dishes, vases, a statue, a jade pendent, a large ginger jar, and an opium pillow.”

The students tell that large ginger jars like the one in the display and pictured here, were once used in Ancient China to store spices for transportation and trading. Over time, as the spice trade evolved, the jars became more popularly used for decoration.

Opium pillows, like this one on display at the Museum, were used in several countries including China, England and France. They are made out of ceramic and were found in opium dens. The large hole in the center was used to keep personal belongings safe. The side with the hole was pushed up against the wall so the personal items couldn’t be touched while the person was using the opium. Despite looking rather uncomfortable, the person, now under the influence of opium, would use the ceramic slab just like we would use a soft downy pillow. The use of opium would make the ceramic feel soft and comfortable. Opium also increases the body’s temperature, so the cold ceramic felt good against the persons head.

The Chinese pottery display is located with the Museum’s CN display, which is also a new addition to ‘The Store’ building.

The importance of putting the two displays together acknowledges the impact the Chinese railway workers had on the completion of the Canadian National Railway, and to help educate Museum visitors about the discrimination and inhumane conditions that these workers faced while paving the way for such a substantial landmark in Canada.

“This summer take the time to stop in at the North Thompson Museum and Archives and take a look at this awesome new display and the rest of the fantastic exhibits that can be found at your local museum,” say Copley and Ransome.

A little background on the North Thompson Museum and Archives:

The Barriere and District Heritage Society was founded on Feb. 8, 1984, and in 1985 the Society was instrumental in developing Barriere Forks Park. The society then applied for and received a grant from the Expo Legacy, using the money to purchase the former Forest Service building (built in 1948) at 424 Lilley Road in Barriere. This building became the North Thompson Museum and Archives. During 1987 the building was renovated through a make-work grant, and the garage and other buildings on the property were built or renovated as B.C. Gaming monies were secured. Summer students are hired to staff the museum each summer, and for a few years it also served as the community’s tourist information centre. Today the museum reflects the life of native people and pioneering settlers with displays of photos and artifacts, including a general store, a one-room school, and a heritage garden. The mandate of the society is to collect archival materials and artifacts pertaining to the history of the area from McLure to Little Fort and all outlying valleys.

~ Information submitted by Flora Copley and Mackenzie Ransome

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