The Royal BC Museum was founded in 1886.
And a large reason for it’s creation was the growing concern about the cultural belongings of First Nation communities leaving the province for the United States and Europe.
In the 1870’s and 80’s, collectors were travelling to the West Coast of Canada, in search of First Nations cultural objects
“They were purchasing the material in very large numbers” explains the Royal BC Museum’s Curator of Ethnology, Martha Black.
And they were sending those pieces “back to Europe, to the States…
“Chicago, to Berlin, all of these places have very good collections from British Columbia.” says Black.
One of the most prolific collectors was a Norwegian man, Fillip Jacobson, who had moved to Bella Coola on BC’s central coast.
“He was selling them, or he was working on consignment for museums…” explains Black.
“…tons of artifacts, and amounts of dollar value around $10,000 dollars, which was an amazing amount in the 1880’s.”
Some prominent residents of Victoria became very concerned.
“And they petitioned to have a museum, because the said there’s so much of this ‘indian material’ as they called it then, leaving the province…
” ‘It will never be replaced, it should be here’…and their petition was favoured, and it led to the creation of this museum.”
Named the Provincial Museum of Natural History and Anthropology, one of the first collections to come into the museum was Fillip Jacobsen’s.
“In 1893, the Museum purchased, and it was a very large purchase at the time, about 220 objects from Jacobsen…
“It is one of the great Central Coast collections, from Bella Bella and Bella Coola.”
But, explains Black, “we don’t know much else about it, and that’s one of the ironies, again, of Philip Jacobsen.”
Because although he lived in Bella Coola, the documentation on each piece from his huge collection was usually just a few words.
“The intangible part of the tangible objects, that are so important to us…that’s the kind of information that we would like today…”
You can see some of the pieces in the First People’s Gallery at the Royal BC Museum.