Bonnie Josephson shows off dozens of large, hand-made binders.
One is dedicated to Arthur Philip Luxton, another for Captain Edward Edwards Langford, and others to historically relevant people and places from the area. Here, Josephson said, is the history of Happy Valley, tracked down and documented by a small group of friends.
“It’s just for the fun, the thrill of the chase, like being a detective,” she said of tracking the roots of the region in which she grew up. “(It is about) putting people in their rightful place in history. Sometimes stories get a little muddy and blend together.”
Josephson and a group of friends in the Metchosin Farmer’s Institute gather regularly and have done so for years, collecting information and items for their little-known museum. Following any leads they come across, from old newspaper articles to interviewing people who grew up in the area, the fact-finding mission never ends, she said.
“I like stories; I love them, and sometimes they are good for spinning a yarn – but not all fact,” Josephson said. “We want it factual, and with everything online now … we want to get it to the public.”
The Belmont graduate has become the de facto encyclopedia for people looking for information from days gone by, including from her alma mater. She has consulted on numerous historical projects over the years.
The museum’s collection, housed at the Luxton Fairgrounds, boasts thousands of items, some of which are close to 150 years old. Most are owned by Josephson herself and they’re available for viewing free to anyone who wants to see them. Schoolchildren are among the more regular guests.
“History, it’s hard to visualize, so we try to make it visual. It’s hands-on and it’s fun,” she said. “Kids come through here sometimes and have a blast.”
Josephson admits the challenge with such projects at times is that they are largely self-funded. Volunteer time, energy and money go into upkeep for a cause the group believes in so heartily, they set aside their own free time to keep the information alive.
Unlike the museum’s display items, ranging from a 1930s-era sheep shearer to an old washing machine from the early 1900s, facts can fade with memories and be lost forever.
Colwood Women’s Institute member Christina Willing, 90, is another area resident hoping to keep history alive, partially through her personal memories.
“There is so much heritage; going back I can remember when the Bilston Creek was so high they were taking people out to Happy Valley road in a boat from their house, because there was so much water coming through,” she said. “I remember my brother-in-law was walking along the track because there was so much water through the valley. So I lived through all that.”
Willing said volunteers such as Josephson and others who work so hard to preserve heritage should be commended. She wished there was a way to keep the museum open for the public.
“It is a very changed scene here and I have seen tremendous changes (in my life),” she said. “I just think this should be more available to see. To know I could come down and bring a friend here to see the history of this community, it’s all right here.”
To set up a time to visit the collection or find more information, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.