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An Interview with a Professional: Stephanie Halmhofer, Bioarchaeologist — August 13, 2018

An Interview with a Professional: Stephanie Halmhofer, Bioarchaeologist

One thing we love to do here at the Alumni Council is to interview professionals in the fields relating to history. You may have seen Jolie’s interview a few months back with Podcaster Daniel Clark, and here we have another one! Alumni Lucas interviewed Stephanie Halmhofer, bioarchaeologist, and writer at Bones, Stones, and Books. She is currently running a survey on Canadians, archaeology, and social media use so please help her out by doing the survey and spreading it widely – you can hear her talk more about the project on the Archaeological Fantasies podcast, episode 96. 

It’s something we definitely don’t get to do enough of, so if you’re a professional and you’re interested in either being interviewed by a student for a blog post, or joining us on a call next year, please leave us a comment. We’d love to talk to you! 


Hey everyone! Around a month ago, the Alumni Council had the wonderful opportunity to attend a conference call with Stephanie Halmhofer, a bioarchaeologist (someone who studies human skeletal remains) who has done notable work digging and exploring around the country. However, since I was unable to attend the call, I decided to email Stephanie a few questions I had about her profession. Being a complete novice to the “field,” I found Stephanie’s replies super cool and exciting to read. I have attached them below. Enjoy, and a huge thanks to Stephanie for being such a great interview subject!


How do archaeologists get paid, and who are they paid by?

We get paid a through a variety of ways. We get paid for doing surveys, excavations, writing reports, and conducting lab work. Sometimes we also get paid for outreach efforts like going to schools/events to give presentations, interviews for TV programs, doing consulting work for TV programs (whether a documentary or a fictional film looking to get the archaeology right), etc. Who pays us also really varies. If you work for a university, it’s the university that pays you.

You can apply for grants as well to help pay for your work supplies (like lab equipment, travel, etc.) and to help you pay the students or employees you hire. But important to note is that the grant does NOT pay you. If you don’t work for a university (I don’t work for a university), you can also apply for grants for the same purposes, but again we cannot use the grant money to pay ourselves. Like I mentioned, not all archaeologists work for universities.

Many of us work in what’s called Cultural (sometimes Heritage) Resource Management. This is the archaeological work that is done in conjunction with construction projects, city-planning projects (i.e. the city wants to build a new public park and include some of the heritage of the area in the planning), area studies, etc. Our pay comes from the people who hire us. Sometimes that’s an engineering firm, sometimes a construction company, sometimes it’s the local or provincial or federal government (I sometimes get hired by Parks Canada and their funding comes from the federal government). Sometimes it’s a home-owner. What a lot of home-owners don’t realize is that archaeological permitting is also part of their construction process (this is an on-going struggle archaeologists have, making this fact better understood). So just like you have to get the proper building permits in place to build a new balcony or addition to your house, you also have to have archaeological permits in place making sure that *if* there are archaeological resources on your property these resources are protected and managed properly. So just as a home-owner pays the construction companies, they would pay archaeologists.


What do you think the role of an archaeologist is in helping society improve (i.e. how archaeology helps society become more knowledgeable/well informed)?

I always say that archaeology is as much about the present and the future as it is about the past. Archaeology can offer some unique insights to help society better prepare itself for the future, especially with regards to matters involving the environment. Including climate change. We can look to the past and see how people managed their environments and how they dealt with climate change. We can see what worked and what didn’t work and use that information to help develop environmental sustainability policies today. For example, controlled burning is something that has been practiced for thousands of years. We can see archaeological evidence for controlled burning and the environmental results of it and how that benefited (or perhaps didn’t?) people in the past. Another cool example is the Clam Garden Network. First Nations peoples along the coast developed incredible clam gardens to help sustain an important food source, and today Parks Canada, Dana Lepofsky (at SFU), and several First Nations are working together to continue the use of clam gardens along the coast. Archaeologists are also rapidly becoming involved in climate change studies/policy-making as well.


How do you consider the moral ethics of archaeology/justify what you do? (ex. how do you make a difference between digging for historical purposes and “grave robbing”)?

This is an especially important question. The answer comes down to differences in the purposes/how/who/whats of the work. Grave-robbers/looters destroy sites and take objects for personal monetary gain. They don’t care about the site and its importance to descendant communities. They only care about how much money they can get for that mask or that projectile point. Archaeologists have an extraordinary amount of ethics they follow. Nothing is sold for money. Descendant communities are always involved in the work (some are more involved than others).

We also have very strict government guidelines, regulations, and requirements for conducting archaeological work – not everyone is legally allowed to be an archaeologist! We have to meet certain requirements before we’re given permission to conduct our work (like educational requirements, experience requirements). As a bioarchaeologist specifically, my work is considered highly culturally sensitive. So, EVERYTHING I do is done in collaboration with the descendant communities. I start off every conversation with “How can I help you, what would you like me to do.” My work is determined by what the descendant community decides. Grave-robbers/looters don’t do that.

Another form of ethical consideration is archaeologists standing up and speaking out against pseudoarchaeology. Pseudoarchaeology is when archaeology is used for alternative purposes and about 99% of the time it’s used to support very racist agendas. Myself and a small but growing number of colleagues spend a lot of time talking about when pseudoarchaeology is wrong/racist, and we use our voices to help support the communities being impacted by it.


Are there any accurate and non-fake news documentaries about archaeology (this question is partly inspired after I read your article about the racist TV show) that you would recommend to me?

There are many fantastic archaeology documentaries and shows out there. If you’re interested in seeing archaeology physically take place, there’s a show on APTN (all the episodes are available on the APTN website) called Wild Archaeology. Three First Nations hosts (including Dr. Rudy Reimer at SFU) travel around Canada visiting various archaeological sites. It’s very well produced and really informative. Right now all of season 1 is on the APTN website and they’re in the process of filming season 2 (the site I’ve worked on quite a bit in Sechelt is going to be featured in season 2). Another fantastic show is called Time Team. The British one is the original. I’m pretty sure you can find episodes on Youtube.

If you’re interested in learning about specific sites or specific topics, spend some time on Youtube looking for documentaries because there are a lot of good ones on there! Pseudoarchaeology (which is what I referred to in that blog post about the CBC documentary that you mentioned) is fairly easy to spot once you know what you’re looking for. This is a blog post I wrote about learning how to spot pseudoarchaeology. One word you’ll hear quite a bit in pseudoarch is “mainstream.” The “mainstream” archaeologists and historians are hiding the truth. The “mainstream” archaeologists and historians refuse to look at things this way. Etc. But often pseudoarch documentaries will claim that some sort of truth is being hidden or manipulated, so if you find yourself watching a show and they start talking about things like that you’ll know you need to watch it critically because it’s likely pseudoarchaeology! Avoid any documentary featuring Graham Hancock. He is a huge pseudoarchaeologist who presents himself very professionally (so many consider him an actual archaeologist).


How much time do you spend in the field digging compared to examining samples in a lab?

Lab versus field time varies with every project. But typically one week in the field = three weeks in the lab. This includes things like writing reports and cleaning/analyzing artifacts. If you have to do special additional testing on artifacts (i.e. carbon dating, XRF, etc.) that would add a lot of additional time. But if you didn’t uncover many artifacts on your site than you won’t have to spend much time in the lab. We typically have a “field season” which runs from mid-April to end of Oct/early Nov. That of course varies each year depending on temperatures and what the projects are (i.e. if a construction company is working in the winter and we need to be there then we work in the winter too). Our “lab season” will then pick up as soon as the field season is finished.

I’m in a bit of unique situation right now where I’m actually spending quite a bit of time in the lab instead of the field. We need to finish analyzing the artifacts from a large project we started last October. We spent 8 weeks excavating in Point Pelee National park and we have about 60,000 artifacts we need to go through. So, while my colleagues are all out in the field I’ve been spending time in the lab going through all of these artifacts because they need to be finished before the end of August (when I move back to BC) and before the next phase of our project starts, which would be another 6-8 weeks excavating. So far, I’ve spent about 3 months working with these artifacts and it’s probably going to take me at least another month to finish them.


What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever found on a dig?

Honestly, it’s all very cool. And to be even more honest, the artifacts themselves aren’t what’s important. An artifact on its own tells us almost nothing. What’s important is to look at the context surrounding the artifact. Where was it found? What position was it sitting in? What was it sitting near? Things like that. That being said, A few things stand out in mind. A few years ago, I found some glass beads in BC and it turns out they’re an extremely rare style! So rare, in fact, that this is the first time they have ever been found on an archaeological site in Canada. I ended up writing about them for my school work.

I also had the chance to work on a cool historic site in Kingston, ON, a couple of years ago. It was associated with Fort Frontenac (and almost right beside the fort). It had some fantastic stone foundation walls, stone sewer drains, and amazing historical artifacts going back to the mid-1700’s. And the project in Point Pelee that I mentioned above has also been super cool. It’s a huge site with parts of it being about 2000 years old! Beautiful pottery and projectile points, plus lots of post-holes that help us see where the longhouses would have stood.

Note: Below are some links to articles written by Stephanie that I would recommend to everyone as great reading!



You can also find Stephanie on Twitter: @Bones_Canada.

Looking Back to the Fur Trade — July 25, 2018

Looking Back to the Fur Trade

Today we have a post from Jaia about the history of the Fur Trade in Canada, and its effects on Canada’s earliest peoples. 

Last year, Canada celebrated its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Confederation and I believe that the years to come are opportunities to reflect on the significant events that made Canada the nation that it is. The fur trade was one of these events and it had positive and negative effects, especially on the Indigenous peoples in Canada at this time.

Long before the confederation of Canada, Indigenous peoples were an essential part of the fur trade. These people were in Canada first and the Europeans used them for their knowledge of trapping animals and collecting furs in the winter, as well as other skills. During this time, the Indigenous peoples contributed their time and efforts to the fur trade and worked hard to trade their furs with others. However, the fur trade affected their ways of life in a negative way due to business competition, violence and foreign diseases being spread.


In the fur trade, two main companies, The Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company, dominated business and used competition to motivate themselves during the cold winters. Due this competition, the high demand for furs made Indigenous people highly involved in the process, and decreased the populations of animals in the area. This was not an immediate problem, but eventually began to put many Indigenous men out of work due to the lack of trapping. This was very important as many Indigenous men had to move away with their families and become farmers, not continuing their jobs as trappers.

Although the fur trade had a mostly negative impact on Indigenous peoples, it created an economy based on profits from furs. This caused general hunting grounds to be divided, but created a new concept of territorialism, which could be thought of as negative. This territorialism brought up conflict between the Algonquians and Iroquois, as well as creating high tension over the St. Lawrence (the path for French fur traders). Therefore, violence was increased and brought up controversy in the lives of Indigenous peoples, beginning the demoralization of the Indigenous reputation.


Another reason that the fur trade negatively impacted Indigenous peoples was because many European diseases were introduced to Canada, leaving Indigenous peoples to cope with their lack of immunity. Smallpox, measles, and cholera were transmitted from Europeans to Indigenous peoples who were either not able to fight the symptoms or use their traditional medicines to heal. These diseases and epidemics seriously decreased the health of Indigenous peoples by causing infections leading to fatalities. Not only did this take lives, but also caused many Indigenous peoples to be in critical condition in which working during the harsh winters was not an option of any sort.

In conclusion, the fur trade in Early Canada impacted those from Europeans, to English and French traders to hunters themselves. Unfortunately, Indigenous peoples suffered from the long-term effects, making bargains that would cause the suffering of their people for many years to come. This is why it is important to understand the hardships and sacrifices of people who not only fought to make Canada a better place, but for those who were forced to give up what they knew to make way for others.

DAY 4: Showcase at the Britannia Mine — July 8, 2018

DAY 4: Showcase at the Britannia Mine

Today was the last full day of the 2018 BC provincial heritage fair and it was also the climax of our week. Today was the showcase at the Britannia Mine Museum; here students got the opportunity to share their projects with our dignitaries, parents, the larger community and each other. We started off our morning by heading to the museum and preparing for our showcase and the opening ceremony. Our alumni emceed the opening ceremony and welcomed many professionals and dignitaries to come and talk to the students. After the opening ceremony, the BC provincial heritage fair was officially open and the students began to share information that they have been researching for months. As people came in and talked to students, they left with more knowledge about our country and its stories.



Afterwards, we went on to explore the mines ourselves. We first went on a guided tour of the Britannia Mines and got to ride a train into a tunnel in the mine. We got to see what types of drills were used when miners were finding copper, and we also got to hear the machines that were used when the mine was active. On this tour we learnt a tonne about how the mine worked and we also got to understand how the rocks were broken down into copper. Afterwards, when the tour was over, we got to have some gift shop time and got to try out some gold panning in hopes to become millionaires (see photo above), unfortunately none of us did, but not for lack of trying.


To end our provincial fair we had a banquet. Here students, and volunteers were recognized for their hard work. At this year’s banquet, students, parents, volunteers and many others gathered to have dinner, this later transitioned into speeches and other recognition. This was a great way to end off our provincial fair: at the end friendships had bloomed, and memories were made which will last a lifetime.

Congratulations to all the students and thank you to all the volunteers. It has been a fun and successful Provincial Heritage Fair!

Author: Anisha


DAY 3: Forestry, Waterfront, Downtown and More! — July 7, 2018

DAY 3: Forestry, Waterfront, Downtown and More!

Today was the third day of the 2018 BC provincial heritage fair and it was a day full of learning and reflecting on our heritage. We started off the day by learning; we listened to a local historian named Eric Anderson on a tour around Squamish.  Eric talked to the students about the history of logging and how it has evolved over the past years. In this tour, we took time at important locations and learnt about how they played a vital role in creating what we know as Squamish today. In this tour, Eric explained the how the railway routes were used as the area’s layout, which I personally found very interesting.

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Next, we did a walking tour in downtown Squamish, hosted by the Historical Society. On the tour we followed a map to find historic locations around town. The map showed us to plaques around the downtown area, on these plaques we saw pictures of what the place around was and used to look like. There were 15 plaques in total each showcasing the significance of what used to be there. After we finished our tour we had lunch and then some much deserved free time where students got the opportunity to look at all the shops around downtown Squamish, and buy souvenirs for their friends and family.

After lunch, we headed on the bus for a drive up to Whistler. When we arrived we were welcomed by the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre by a song. In this song, we got to act like different animals (see a picture of “Bears” dancing below). The museum activities started off by watching an insightful video about the two Nations. Then, we headed to see the artifacts displayed in the museum. This facility is absolutely beautiful with big windows and meaningful carvings throughout the entire museum. One of the activities that we got to do at the museum was making rope out of thin strips of wet cedar. Each student got to make a piece of rope and many turned these into bracelets and anklets or bookmarks or zipper ties. Before we headed back to the university we got to walk and shop at Whistler Village.

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After having dinner and ice cream at Quest University, we got to have Paul Gravett from Heritage BC run a workshop with us. The workshop split the group up in to 6 smaller groups, and each group tackled the same questions. All the questions had to do with heritage and made us think about the purpose of heritage and what it means in our province today. This was a very important workshop, because the answers and ideas that students came up with are going to be written into a report and shown to the BC government to in effort to help get heritage more support.

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All in all we had an amazing and educational third day! Tomorrow is showcase!

Author: Anisha

DAY 2: Rails and Gondolas! — July 6, 2018

DAY 2: Rails and Gondolas!

We started the day by heading to The West Coast Railway Park. There, we were given tours of old, decommissioned steam engines and train cars by the Park’s lovely volunteers. One of these cars, The BC Car (Number 16), was bought by a top business man at the turn of the century. The wealthy man converted the car from a passenger car, capable of carrying up to one hundred people, into a private space where he could carry out his business all the while traveling across Canada. We also rode a miniature train around the park which took us by more of the park’s beautiful pieces.

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Our second stop was the Sea to Sky gondola and hiking trails. As we rode the gondola to the top of the mountain, we were amazed by Squamish’s stunning mountainous sights. One of which was The Chief, a popular spot for rock climbing and an important place for the First Nations people of the Squamish region. Once at the top, we ate a sandwich lunch amongst the gorgeous mountain ranges. With our energy restored, we set off to the park’s extensive trails. We were led by some of the most knowledgeable mountain tour guides to date who shared with us valuable survival tips! In groups, we learned how to make stretchers out of jackets and branches, and how to make a shelter from nothing more than a tarp, a rope, and our surroundings.



After riding the gondola back down the mountain, to the Whistle Punk Hollow campsite for dinner. We took a quick walk down to a nearby stream to work up out appetites before enjoying a barbeque dinner and watermelon dessert. We spent our spare time making friends and trading pins. As our slowest eaters finished their last bites, every group came together to participate in some fun games lead by our alumni team. We headed back to the Quest University Campus just as the sun began to set. Our final activities were perfect for settling down after a long day of adventuring. We played human bingo and watched a twenty-minute video about the Britannia Mines, where we will be having our project showcase on Saturday.

Author: Rhiannon

DAY 1: The BC Provincial Fair arrives in Squamish! — July 5, 2018

DAY 1: The BC Provincial Fair arrives in Squamish!

Today marked our first day of the 2018 Provincial Heritage Fair. It was a beautiful sunny day with high temperatures of 28 degrees, scattered clouds, and plenty of blue skies. Students all over the province arrived throughout the day at Quest University in Squamish. Whether by plane from Kamloops, by ferry from Victoria, or bus from Vancouver, we all arrived safely.

Fair 2018 tour photo

Our activities began with a tour of the Quest University campus, led by university alumni. We were fortunate to meet the president of Quest, who inspired students to live life to the fullest. It was fascinating to learn about the university’s unique approach on education, where the emphasis is on learning, rather than grades and competition. The small population of 700 students means that the community is tight-knit. Quest is located on a mountain, meaning lots of uphill walking for us over the next 4 days.

Fair 2018 president speech

After our tour of the campus, we were rewarded with an outdoor pizza dinner, complete with juice boxes, water, and vegetables. After the dinner, we finally got our roommates and room assignments. The dorms exceeded any of our expectations – not only does each room have a spectacular view of the mountains and university campus, they have a common room, 2 bedrooms, and a private washroom. This spacious layout allows us to socialize with our roommates comfortably.

Next, alumni students and coordinator Britney led the delegates in a series of icebreaker games. Fun games such as Atoms, Freeze Tag, and the Human Knot successfully integrated students and people were able to learn new names and faces. This was one of the most exciting and rewarding parts of the day, and a perfect way to get to know everybody. Forty-seven students arrived today, mostly strangers, but today was the first step to creating new friendships.

Fair 2018 Ice cream

Finally, to cap off our first day at the fair, everyone had a chance to create their own unique ice cream sundaes. Whether it was covered in jelly beans or finished with caramel drizzle, delegates left with huge satisfied smiles on their faces. Finally, delegates drifted off to their rooms for quiet time and a chance to write their reflective journals. It was a successful first day for the Provincial Fair, as students were welcomed to Quest University and began making new friendships.

Author: Samantha

Regional Heritage Fair Wrap-Up — July 3, 2018

Regional Heritage Fair Wrap-Up

With our Provincial Heritage Fair just days away, we thought it would be a great time to do a wrap-up of some of our regional fairs! Heritage Fairs, from school fairs to the provincial fair, are a time when all the hard work is done and students have the opportunity to show off what they’ve spent so long creating. I was able to attend the Richmond Regional Fair as a judge, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all of the projects the local students had created.

Are you interested in getting involved in your local fair, but don’t know where to start? Leave us a comment and we’ll get you in touch with the right person. Maybe you’re a student or teacher looking for information on how to do a heritage fair project – we’ve got a resource for that, and the Richmond Regional Heritage Fair has a website with resources dedicated to teachers, students, and judges! Or maybe, just maybe, you’re going to the provincial fair this year and you’re already thinking about how to stay involved next year – if so, check out our Alumni Program page, or chat with one of our alumni at the fair. – Rachel, Alumni Coordinator


Thanks to several of the alumni who have sent these summaries of their individual fairs. First up, here’s a summary of the Rivers to Sea Fair from Lucas:

There were around 60 projects entered this year, from a handful of elementary and secondary schools. The weather held up for the opening ceremony, and students eagerly crowded around the bandstand to hear the fair being opened. Judges then went around and interviewed students for a few hours, and some of my favourite projects included ones about Japanese-Canadian Interment in the Second World War, Tommy Douglas, and Billy Bishop. The whole Burnaby Village Museum was also open after the judging finished, and students were able to enjoy rides on an original Ford Model T vehicle and the iconic C.W. Parker Carousel. The closing ceremonies were held the next day. All in all, it was an extremely well-run fair, and I was again amazed at the time and care that students invested in their project!



Here’s a photo of Vedanshi with another judge and a student participant at the Richmond Regional Heritage Fair:



And last but certainly not least, a roundup of the Kamloops-Thompson Fair from Julia:

This year, Kamloops students arrived to an exciting itinerary for the day. One group was sent to the museum and City Hall for the morning, and the other got to go to the Kamloops Art Gallery.


At the gallery, students were given a guided tour and had the opportunity to draw – inspired by a few pieces in the gallery. They were then taken to a classroom where they worked together to create paintings, which they then cut to create a collage.


Both groups met up downtown to eat lunch and the afternoon proved to be the highlight of the day. Everyone embarked on the 2141 – the historic Kamloops steam train, for an exciting trip. Students were running to the dining car, where they could sit at a table and order water. Others were in the caboose, where you could climb up a ladder to peek over the train. The 2141 took the group all the way across the river to the junction, where the train stopped so the captain could move a very important bag of letters. The train then headed back to the starting point when students were met with a surprise.



Robbers! Three women on horseback surrounded the train, and the leader climbed aboard. The “important bag of letters” actually contained gold, and the robbers were out to get it! With their guns held out, all the passengers had their arms up, and the robbers even stole the captain for a bit.

The 2141 train trip recreates the famous Billy Miner robbery that happened near Kamloops, and the kids had the most fun time. For the history of the 2141 and Billy Miner, see this post.

Thanks to the museum, city hall, art gallery, and especially the staff at the Kamloops Historic Railway. Many thanks to the committee who worked tirelessly to make sure this day was a success. The students enjoyed the day’s activities as well as the project scavenger hunt and the opportunity to present their projects to the public. It was another unforgettable Heritage Fair here in Kamloops!


Tranquille Sanatorium — June 14, 2018

Tranquille Sanatorium

In today’s post, Julia is here to tell us about the Tranquille Sanatorium and its fascinating history. 



The Tranquille Sanatorium is a piece of land and cluster of buildings located on the outskirts of Kamloops. Originally opened November 1907, it was called the King Edward VII Sanatorium and served to treat tuberculosis.

The disease was quickly spreading during this time, and Kamloops was the ideal place to host these patients. Anyone suffering from tuberculosis was advised to stay away from polluted or damp areas – and it being 1907, Kamloops had far fewer inhabitants than today. It was even said that Kamloops was the best spot in all of Canada, if not North America.

The inhabitants of Kamloops at the time were not pleased with the prospect of so many tuberculosis patients living near them. By creating an Anti-Sanatorium League, they began their protests. The solution to appease everyone was to purchase land over ten kilometers outside of town. This way, there would be less of a risk of outsiders contracting the illness.

They purchased the land in Tranquille – named after a First Nations Chief who was executed for his betrayal of the fur traders, and it was 191 acres. The sanatorium was established, eventually growing to forty buildings (four of which were hospitals). They were able to make these expansions due to various donations. Other buildings consisted of housing for doctors, a fire hall, kitchen, laundry area, farm buildings, nurses’ buildings, and more. It was practically its own city.

Another interesting addition to the Sanatorium were the tunnels. These tunnels were created to transport food and laundry, but also served as a barber shop and morgue. Needless to say, there are countless ghost stories about these tunnels.

Throughout the years, the Tranquille Sanatorium brought many curious tourists (the beautiful gardens were widely recognized), but the need for a sanatorium soon decreased. By 1957, a cure for tuberculosis had been discovered and the sanatorium met its end. The remaining patients were shipped off to Vancouver and the sanatorium was closed.

At the time of closure, the sanatorium had hosted over six hundred patients and staff. Many of the young men fell in love with their nurses and ended up married.

The old sanatorium briefly re-opened as a school, but the school didn’t last long. It was soon decided that the sanatorium would act as an extra facility for Essondale and Woodlands – to house patients with mental illness. The first patients would arrive in 1959.

The old sanatorium was then referred to as the Woodlands School until 1984, when it closed. Aside from the patients, they also found themselves with various abandoned children.

Though the care and food provided at Tranquille was good, the patients had little to no freedom; their days were planned out for them. There were limited activities provided and a few staff members were not polite – a few former employees had said there was room for improvement.

After the closure of 1984, the sanatorium had a few other purposes, including hosting a union for a few days. However, nothing was permanent, and the sanatorium was soon forgotten.

The Tranquille Sanatorium is somewhat of an interesting story due to the fact that it served many purposes over its years and the possibility that there are many things people don’t know about the sanatorium. Even the fact that they had underground tunnels is somewhat of a strange concept.

Long gone are the days of tuberculosis, but the story of the sanatorium lives on through the owners of the property, who try their best to preserve the history behind the buildings.

The land is now Tranquille Farm Fresh, and the buildings remained closed off. Being so old, the buildings are worse for wear, only adding to the theories that the property is haunted. Though it is private property, people have definitely gone to test the theories by sneaking into windows to give themselves their own tour of the sanatorium.

At Halloween, the tunnels open for a haunted tour – where actors hide to make the experience as terrifying as possible.

The sanatorium surrounding area has served as the site for a few movies and there are many ghost stories. There does not seem to be one prevalent ghost story, but rather, the acceptance of the building being haunted. One story tells of a nurse who caught tuberculosis after she fell in love with one of the patients.


For more photos, see:





Vancouver’s Chinatown – The Jack Chow Building — May 1, 2018

Vancouver’s Chinatown – The Jack Chow Building

Ever wanted to know more about that strangely shaped building in Chinatown? This week, Abrielle has you covered! 

One of the most iconic buildings in Vancouver’s Chinatown is the Jack Chow Building (previously known as the Sam Kee Building) located at 8 West Pender Street. The building is recognized for being the thinnest building in the world as featured in The Guinness Book of World Records and Believe It Or Not. The Jack Chow Building is not only a popular attraction, it is a part of the rich historical legacy of the first Chinese immigrants who settled in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

In the late 1800s Vancouver was a main point of entry for many Chinese immigrants who sought out jobs in the lumber industries and on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Chinese immigrants also found jobs as mining labourers, farmers, cannery workers, cooks, and servants in homes and hotels. To meet the growing demand of services like housing, food, laundry, and goods, Chinese immigrants began to establish businesses in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

In 1903, Chang Toy, who began as a labourer and eventually became a wealthy businessman, purchased the land at the corner of Carrall and Pender Streets. In 1912, the municipal government decided to widen Pender Street and as a result, expropriated 24 feet of Chang Toy’s land, leaving Toy with only a 6 foot wide plot of land. No one believed Toy would have any use for such a thin property and many assumed he would sell the remaining land to the neighbouring business. But in order to spite the city, and to win a $10,000 bet with a business associate, Toy decided to hire architects Bryan and Gillam to design a free-standing 6 feet wide building.


The building was known at the time as the Sam Kee Building, named after Chang Toy’s business, The Sam Kee Company. The building housed up to 13 businesses. On the main level, each window was a storefront for various businesses such as a general store, food vendors, a barber shop, a silk shop, and an architects office. The upper level provided housing and the underground level housed public baths.

The current owner, Jack Chow, operates an insurance business inside the building, and has restored the building several times over the years. Rod Chow, son of Jack Chow, explained the transformation the building has undergone. The outside of the building has been restored to maintain its historical past, while the inside was renovated to take advantage of its unique size.  A glass staircase and the entire building has been designed and programmed to exhibit a symphonic light show.

The Jack Chow Building is recognized in the City of Vancouver Heritage Register and the Canadian Historic Places Registry thereby ensuring its rich history will be shared with future generations.


Podcasting, Context, and Why You Actually Don’t Know the Great War: an interview with Daniel Clark — April 24, 2018

Podcasting, Context, and Why You Actually Don’t Know the Great War: an interview with Daniel Clark

In this week’s post, Jolie interviews podcaster Daniel Clark, of The Great War Podcast. Podcasts are a great way to learn about history while you’re out and about, or while doing housework. Do you have a favourite podcast? Tell us in the comments!


As a boy, Daniel Clark would spend his time watching airshows and playing flight simulators with his friends. Still an aviation enthusiast, he attributes his love of history to those early years admiring the history of flight. Now, he’s the creator of The Great War Podcast, an ongoing show about the First World War that will delight history newcomers and weathered professors alike.

What makes someone jump into the world of podcasting? “I had no idea how to start,” Daniel admits. “I realized that it was a fast market and it didn’t seem that you needed a lot of experience in terms of technology or audio recording.” He had also been inspired by Mike Duncan’s History of Rome podcast, a now-complete behemoth of 179 episodes spanning thousands of years of history. Undoubtedly, his brief undergraduate experience in producing videos also helped him with technical work.

But what about the decidedly non-technical history analysis? “I had an honours diploma in history, so I used some of my training there to go through the archives and find really good sources.” He told me about how during his studies at McMaster University, he had discovered different ways of seeing WWI. Now, perspective is the name of the game for him – he describes the teaching of WWI as, “almost like a quick, dismissed event before going on to the Second World War.”

“I knew bits and pieces of the war beforehand, but what I know now about the war completely dwarfs what I knew before.” Daniel attributed most of his new knowledge to his better understanding of historical context. For many students, the context they receive is between the dusty covers of a textbook. “How did people think at the time? What was influencing their day-to-day lives? What were the governments like? Social life of the people?” Our conversation saw no shortage of Daniel’s advocacy for historical understanding. “The issues I have always seen with history, or poorly-written history, is that they tend to put modern perspectives on past events.” He raised the point that before 1914, the world was still ruled by empires and kingdoms, and that the idea of the nation is relatively modern. “Many studies pretend that it was not so different from, say, the 1950’s or 60’s…things change and they can change very quickly.”

One particular aspect of the war that surprised Daniel was the public’s opinion throughout the war. “The public supported the war one hundred percent. The soldiers that fought it didn’t view it the way we view it today.” After the Second World War, the Cold War, and numerous other conflicts around the world, modern society is much more jaded than the people of 1914 would have been. With our 21st-century eyes, we tend to view the actions of many historic military leaders as nearsighted, or even senseless at times. Daniel has an apt rebuttal: “They were grappling with developing technologies and they didn’t have twenty years of hindsight about what should or should not have happened. They were acting on the spot. That shattered the views that I had always been taught—that unless you’re Arthur Currie, you’re a stupid general.”

The exhaustive research required for The Great War Podcast also forced Daniel to explore non-Canadian perspectives to the war. “I saw the German perspective, the Austrian perspective…you realize that for any event, you need to give a well-rounded view.” Exploring other perspectives isn’t to diminish the Halifax Explosion or the Battle of Vimy Ridge, two notable Canadian examples Daniel raised, but rather to help students understand the other belligerents in the conflict.

Nearing the end of our interview, I asked Daniel how youth could get into history podcasting. “Cover the big events,” he said immediately, but changed his mind in moments: “More importantly, cover some of the big misconceptions.” As a prime example, he brought up popular conception of the war. “The main misconception is that [people] think the war was pointless, waste[ful], and ultimately futile, and that nothing bad has come out of the post-war belief that the Treaty of Versailles was unfair against Germany, leading to Hitler.” He himself had been a subscriber to the common belief, but after entering university, his research helped him overcome century-old pent-up myths. “It overlooks the twenty years in between the wars. What happened? The economics, populism…it glances over that.” He describes it as a convenient, but inaccurate, story to tell.

As a final question, I asked him for advice that he would give to young podcasters and historians. He implored rising historians to be unafraid of two things: writing something different, and using secondary sources. For podcasters? “Uh, I would ask them for their advice, actually.” It seems the secret to podcast success is to keep learning, even with four years and over 60 episodes under your belt.