By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
Deep within the confines of the Dawson Creek Public Library can be found a small room filled with binders and books that provide an invaluable look into the history of the Peace River area. Known as the Calverley Collection, it’s not easy to get at. None of the items can be taken out of the library and a librarian must be on hand when someone is using the material.
But thanks to modern technology, that’s slowly changing. A good portion of the Calverley Collection can now be found on the Internet (www.calverley.ca). With help from students in the Northern Lights College office administration class, who were hired on a contract basis thanks to a provincial government grant, some 600 articles have been typed in.
Most of those come from the History Is Where You Stand portion of the collection. The hard copy consists of 28 binders full of manuscripts, letters, clippings and other material on such subjects as the Peace River First Nations, the fur trade, and agriculture.
The Calverley Collection is named after Dorthea Calverley who spent some 50 years collecting the material. Retired history teacher and librarian Gerry Clare oversaw the web page project.
“It really has its origins here in 1936 when the Calverleys moved here, and very quickly she started to collect everything about the region she could get her hands on,” said Clare.
There are also nearly 250 books and there are also audio-tapes and typed manuscripts for some 125 interviews with old-timers, most of which were conducted in the 1970s.
As well as getting at least part of the information onto the Internet (the web pages also include plenty of photos) Clare is also working at restoring some of the material which has deteriorated over the years.
Being a former librarian and history teacher, Clare said working on the collection is something he’s wanted to do for a long time, in part because he knew Mrs. Calverley.
“One of the first people I met up here was Dorthea Calverley,” he said. “I was having dinner in a hotel by myself and she and her husband invited me to join them and we started talking about the area, so I knew her for a long time.”
While the web site is currently accessible, Clare plans to have an official launching in mid-March.
A related project is also taking place in the former Library Development Commission building, also known as the old library, near the swimming pool. In a room there, one can find cardboard boxes full of archival material. Strictly speaking, archives consist of the written records depicting the day-to-day activities of people and organizations, such as diaries and minutes. “One of the simplistic things they say is it’s flat and old”,” Clare said. “It’s old papers, diaries, and letters, and the minutes from organizations.”
Once some renovations to the building are completed, members of the South Peace Historical Society will go in and organize the material so that it’s readily accessible to researchers. “I think stuff in cardboard boxes is not much help,” Clare said. Clare expects that it will take until early-fall before the public can make use of it. But they’ll find the visit worthwhile.
“It’s a lot of stuff that’s really valuable. You can’t replace it,” he said. “You can’t find, say, a copy of the program for the 1928 rodeo or the Christmas dinner menu for 1943 on one of the highway work camps just anywhere.”