Brick by Brick: Uncovering the Past at Point Ellice House

Dr. Kelly Black, Executive Director It seems like each week at Point Ellice House we uncover a mystery that needs solving or a new artifact to identify. This past October was no exception! As part of our ongoing rehabilitation of the South Garden, Fallingwater Property Services began a small project to clear and level an area around our new garden shed. What began as a simple three day project became something much bigger when workers uncovered a significant but forgotten feature of the South Garden – a long and winding brick pathway about 20 centimeters below the soil. Although we…...Continue reading

Volunteering from Home: Transcription & Description of the Collection

Christeah Dupont, Curatorial Assistant  & Jeannine Worthing, Visitor Services Coordinator  Volunteers are a central part of the Point Ellice House Museum and Gardens team; they help maintain the gardens, act as interpreters for visitors, and assist with conservation of the house and its collection. With our temporary closure this past spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, staff had to get creative with remote volunteer projects. There are currently two interesting projects that Point Ellice House volunteers are working on from home. The first is a transcription project which has been ongoing since April 2020. Volunteers are reading select letters written…...Continue reading

The Other Side of a Medal

Kelly Black, PhD, Executive Director With a collection of over 12,000 artifacts, we frequently come across items that spark our curiosity. Sometimes details about artifacts in the collection are readily available, other times we reach out to experts who can help us understand what the object was used for or how it came to be at Point Ellice House. While conducting an inventory earlier this year, we came across a set of military medals that grabbed our attention. Although the medals were given an accession number a few decades ago (PEH 975.1.4940) they were not described in the database; there…...Continue reading

Artifact Spotlight: Straw Hats for Summer Comfort

Christeah Dupont, Point Ellice House Museum & Gardens For this week’s artifact spotlight we are highlighting a straw hat known as a “Boater” or “Panama Hat” (PEH1975.001.4294; “Boater” with black grosgrain ribbon). This particular hat dates from the early twentieth century and belonged to either Frank or Jack O’Reilly. Being woven from straw, the Boater is a hat for the springtime, when temperatures warm and wool caps become too hot to wear. When these hats appeared in town it was a sign of summer’s arrival – the wearing of these hats even led to the celebration of “Straw Hat Day”…...Continue reading

Wash Your Hands: Interpreting a Bar of Soap

Christeah Dupont, Curatorial Assistant Content Warning – Racism In our new exhibit, Springs and Scavengers: Waste and Water in Victoria, 1842-1915, the politics of cleanliness is on display. One artifact visitors might recognize is a bar of Pears soap.  This particular bar of soap probably became part of the Point Ellice House collection in the 1960s when Inez O’Reilly, likely aware of the prevalence of the Pears brand in the Victorian period, put it on display in the house. Despite the simplicity of this object, a closer look at Pears soap tells us a surprising amount about social status, imperialism,…...Continue reading

What in the World is a Celery Vase?

Jeannine Worthing, Visitor Services Coordinator Among the many projects we have on the go at Point Ellice House, we are working on developing educational programming based on the BC Social Studies curriculum. One program we are excited about aims to teach classes about the history of food production and preparation by the O’Reilly family at Point Ellice House. This program will tie in with the work being done on the property’s South Garden, a multi-year project which aims to rehabilitate the kitchen garden and the orchard, as well as several other historical characteristics of the site. While searching the collection…...Continue reading

Chamber Pots and Slop Buckets

Christeah Dupont, Point Ellice House Museum & Gardens In the earliest days at Point Ellice House there were no flushing toilets or showers. Before the 1880s, a set of jugs, basins, bowls, and pots were an essential part of personal hygiene. These toilet sets, of which there are several at Point Ellice House, included a chamber pot, a washbasin, a water jug, a slop bucket, as well as a soap dish, sponge bowl and a toothbrush holder. Each piece had its own role to play in the daily routine; people did not often fully submerge themselves in water when they…...Continue reading

Artifact Spotlight: Peter Coddle’s Trip to New York

Christeah Dupont, Point Ellice House Museum & Gardens Peter Coddle’s Trip to New York (PEH 975.1.7768a-b) is a game from the 1880s; it was one of the first mass produced games, resulting in its spread to Canada. The game is a structured narrative in which Peter Coddle (a ‘country bumpkin’) makes his way to New York. There are various blank spaces in the narrative that allows players to insert amusing words or phrases to fill out the story. It is very similar to modern games such as Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity in that cards are intended to…...Continue reading

Artifact Spotlight: Violets! (Perfume, Soap, Toilet Powder)

Christeah Dupont, Point Ellice House Museum & Gardens Violets were fashionable during the Victorian era for their delicate aroma, further popularized by Queen Victoria whose journals frequently repeat her adoration of the tiny blossoms. At the time, different meanings became associated with different flowers; violets signified faithfulness and modesty. Due to its popularity, the violet was frequently used in perfumes and toiletries – fresh cut flowers were also tucked into hat brims or openly worn in button holes. There are numerous bottles of violet perfumes in the Point Ellice House collection; these were often imported from France where the blossoms…...Continue reading

Artifact Spotlight: Top Hat and Travelling Case

Christeah Dupont, Point Ellice House Museum & Gardens   This fine hat (PEH 975.1.9654) is made from felted black beaver fur and, according to the milliner stamp on the inside, came all the way from Wright and Oxley hatters on Sackville street in Dublin. This hat likely came with Peter O’Reilly to British Columbia in 1859 (you can see his name engraved on a small brass plate attached to the lid strap of the case). Beaver fur top hats faded out of style not long after this particular one was manufactured. Beaver fur was a popular material as it was…...Continue reading

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