Legacy of Learning connects the Basin

May 2nd, 2022 3 Minutes

As seen in ARTiculate Magazine’s Spring/Summer 2022 edition.

By Erin Knutson

School District No. 5 Board Office in Cranbrook B.C.

Since its inception in 2013, the Legacy of Learning Project has
built bridges in the community. The Columbia Basin Institute of
Regional History (CBIRH) has partnered successfully with School
Districts #5 and #6 to preserve the unique educational history of
the communities in those areas.

Through the partnerships, the CBIRH has brought childhood
roots back to life. Its mission is to preserve and save precious school
memorabilia through multimedia presentations, yearbook displays
and the archiving and exhibition of artifacts.

As the project expands, the delivery methods continue to grow
as the CBIRH team embarks on a journey to tell the story of the
Columbia Basin’s history through its schools.

Derryll White – Founder of the Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History

“Our community needs to know from whence it came, what the
training ground was where we learned to proceed civilly,” says
CBIRH historian and founder, Derryll White.

White recognized a need to prevent further losses when he saw the
disposal of school items with the change of an administration or the
closing of a school.

People’s lives and childhood memories forever
lost to the abyss of a landfill or a basement sparked the movement
by the CBIRH to ensure that institutional memory remained a vital
part of local history.

“Right now, we are working on growing the network and letting
communities in these districts know that we are collecting the
educational legacy of the region,” says White.

According to White, unearthing the foundations on which society
is built through the education of young people while preserving and
presenting these collective educational memories through different
mediums is paramount to the area’s identity. “School memories are
things that build as one grows older, fostering a pleasing sense of

The impetus for the project resulted from a combination of
elements, including the work of SD#5 trustee and CBIRH board
chair Chris Johns. Johns was instrumental in developing and
constructing a relationship with the school districts.

A lifelong educator, Johns’ interest in preserving the legacy of his students
was part of the vision to create multimedia exhibits for several
locations, including the SD#5 and #6 board offices, the Kootenay
Learning Campus and First Perk Coffee House in Jaffray. “It’s part
of the mission to protect school legacy through the storage and
preservation of it,” he says.

Chris Johns (left), crew, and Anna Majkowski

Johns believes that learning about school history is vital to progress.
However, without an attempt to retain and showcase school history,
the story at the foundational level has missing pieces. “Learnings
about the past are lessons going forward,” he says.

With the help of SD#5 board chair Frank Lento, Johns transformed
the CBIRH office in Cranbrook to include an archives room for
artifact storage and to house a school trophy exhibit. The room
itself is a mark of progress for the project and the CBIRH. It
continues to evolve, representing a change for the Institute, which
has grown despite the pandemic and ever-changing funding streams
in the heritage, arts and culture sector.

Along with former CBIRH executive director and current business
manager Anna Majkowski, volunteers, donations and the help of
board members, the Legacy of Learning Project is beginning to find
traction with the goal to encompass the entire Columbia Basin.

“We want to look at how different the Kootenays are compared
with larger areas. Working on this project has helped us define
Basin culture, which is different from the Lower Mainland and
rooted in schools,” says Majkowski.

Majkowski emphasizes that grad boards (thumbnails of individual
grad class photos) and yearbooks are being siphoned off and
discarded, erasing valuable school landmarks. “If we don’t have
access to these visuals, childhood memories are lost, people’s roots
to their communities are lost.”

As the project proceeds, representing all the schools within the
region and showcasing their history is at the forefront of the
CBIRH’s agenda. “Legacy of Learning will help foster ideas for
the communities about where they’ve grown up and where they’ve
come from while documenting and providing an opportunity
to learn from the past. Community starts with the schools,” says

As the CBIRH moves forward with this project and others, school
history is one way the Institute will continue with its mandate to
protect and showcase local history.

For more information on the CBIRH, visit basininstitute.org.
To view the organization’s work in the South Country visit

Photos by Erin Knutson

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