Over the last 6 months, I have worked with MONOVA: Archives of North Vancouver to help to engage audiences with our archival collections. The most recent online exhibit, Between Science and the Sublime: Neal Carter’s 1920s Photography Albums has brought one of the treasures of the Archives of North Vancouver out of storage and onto the internet.
Dr. Neal Carter (1902 – 1978) was a legendary British Columbia mountaineer who often took photographs on his alpine trips throughout Western Canada. He later arranged these photographs into three illustrated and meticulously labelled photo albums.
Turning the Pages of History
The first album is now online and through the use of flipbook software, the album is presented in a way that is as close to viewing the actual object as possible. This is beneficial in two ways: it brings the album to wider audiences who can’t visit and see the physical object; and it allows the archives to share this 100-year-old album without increasing the physical wear and tear or potentially damaging it.
I have a personal interest in alpine subjects as I spent some time working at the Banff Centre Archives with collections such as the Banff International Mountain Film Festival. During my time in Banff, I had the chance to do a lot of hiking and ice climbing. When I arrived at MONOVA as the Young Canada Works Building Careers in Heritage Intern in Fall 2020, and was given the opportunity to work on the Neal Carter exhibit, I was excited to delve into mountain topics once more.
Mountain enthusiast or not, I think everyone can find something intriguing in these photography albums. Less obvious themes of climbing fashion, cameras, food, and candid images provide insight into a slice of life from the 1920s. I was surprised to see many women in the albums climbing alongside their male contemporaries. Women such as Peggie Carter and Phyllis Munday can be found throughout the albums on the edge of cliffs in similar-type dress to the men.
Keep Learning and Exploring
As part of the exhibit, MONOVA also hosted a virtual conversation with Glenn Woodsworth and Karl Ricker, two mountaineers and geologists who knew Neal Carter personally. This conversation provided more context to who Neal Carter was as a person and the importance of his work in cartography and toponomy (the study of place names). It was also a great chance to connect Neal Carter’s era with the present and learn about how things have changed in terms of gear, mapmaking techniques, and the size of glaciers.
The experience of working on this project has reinforced the fact that archival collections are interesting and important to people from all walks of life. As many of us have been stuck at home for the better part of a year, online exhibits enable us to learn about and explore history from our home.
Neal Carter’s photography albums remind me to appreciate the spectacular mountain scenery on the West Coast of Canada and his images inspire me to keep exploring, whether it is in the archives or in the mountains!
– Nina Patterson, 6 April 2021
We rely on contributions, monthly or one-time gifts, to help MONOVA safeguard and expand our community’s archival and museum collections, build learning experiences and inspire future generations.
Donations are accepted through the Friends of the North Vancouver Museum & Archives Society, Registered Charity No. 89031 1772 RR0001.
We respectfully acknowledge that MONOVA: Museum and Archives of North Vancouver is located on the traditional lands of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations, whose ancestors have lived here for countless generations. We are grateful for the opportunity to live, work and learn with them on unceded Coast Salish Territory.