Interpretative Panels: Making History Public
The Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History has a very simple mission. We want to make history interesting and available to the public. To that end we have developed our heritage interpretation panel project.
Our interpretation panels are designed to speak directly to the present about what happened in our past and how it might enlighten our tomorrows. The panels celebrate our residency in the Columbia Basin and how the inter-relationships extend through time. In many instances the panels feature buildings and places that still exist, but in some instances they recreate notable activities or structures that are no longer with us.
The panels are in full colour, very durable and designed to be placed outdoors in all weather. They have a replaceable clear protective covering and, when installed properly, the panels are quite indestructible. We recommend that they be placed directly on the building or flush on a concrete base.
The panels are individually small storybooks. As such, they demand a lot of research and graphic searching in order to reduce the text and imagery to the constraints of a single panel. This is part of the delight, and the agony, of creating these panels.
Our partners are everything in these undertakings. The panels are expensive to assemble, produce and place in a public context. So we require partners to share in the cost and work. With the three panels featured here, our partners were Service Canada, the City of Cranbrook and the Columbia Basin Trust.
The 2006 Panels
In celebration of the City of Cranbrook's centennial, we were asked to create three panels celebrating aspects of Cranbrook's past. The Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History chose subjects that recognized the City's past, embodied the strengths that allowed the City to prosper, and looked to our future as a community.
The first panel to be installed was "Building for Growth" on May 5th, 2006. Placed on the wall of City Hall immediately beside the old front entrance to the police offices, the panel presents the original structure and documents some of the changes. It points to the locally produced brick construction materials and suggests that City Hall had a lasting impact in how the downtown core developed structurally.
"A Summer Obsession" documenting the largest outdoor pool in Western Canada will be unveiled with the coming summer. This panel looks at what the Gyro Pool meant to Cranbrook and the partnership between the Gyro Club and City which created this marvel.
"A Lasting Legacy" investigates the transformation of one of Cranbrook's truly elegant early buildings into a very important community arts centre. Built by the Masonic order as their lodge building, the interpretation panel points to the former importance and strength of fraternal orders.
The Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History is developing plans to take the interpretive panel project throughout the Columbia Basin. Our history is inter-dependent throughout the Basin and our residents and visitors circulate widely within the river basins of the Columbia and Kootenay.
Immediate plans would see more development within the downtown core of Cranbrook. We see this as an integral part of renewing the downtown and building the image of Cranbrook as a great place of business and residency. But we recognize that all of the downtowns within the Basin are related, and that the stories wind through the communities and time. To that end we are looking to partner with other communities to develop and mount panels that will take residents and visitors throughout the Basin, discovering our commonalities, our shared strengths and our wonderful differences. Eventually we hope to partner with the Provincial government to develop panels for the highway rest stops in the Columbia Basin.
We see the future as a large web of inter-connected stories that recognize all of our residents, from first peoples to emerging new ethnic communities. We believe that all of these elements make our region unique, fascinating and a place that the world will increasingly visit. The recognition that we value our history and present it publicly will aid this process.