Laila Axén is the inaugural winner of the BCHF Cultural Resource Accessibility Award, presented at the federation’s annual gala on June 4. This award honours excellence in cultural resource management work which aims to help connect British Columbians with their history and comes with a $500 prize.
Axén founded the Swedish Heritage in British Columbia Museum and Archives with “nothing but two empty hands” in 2017. Noticing a lack of archival and museological organizations dedicated specifically to Swedish heritage, she took it upon herself to prevent photographs, objects and cultural materials from being tossed into the landfill.
She started from scratch, recruiting volunteers and board members while locating space for the new organization while purchasing digital cataloguing software, scanners and more to make the holdings publicly available. Today, Axén, now in her 80s, is returning to school to learn about archival practices to ensure ongoing preservation and improved access to British Columbia’s Swedish-related materials into the future.
She prepared a short acceptance video, seen below.
The BCHF also presented two honourable mentions in this category.
As more and more initiatives were taken online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vancouver Island Local History Society who operate Point Ellice House Museum, did not shy away from the opportunity to try something new to keep their visitors connected with cultural resources. The society undertook many new projects, including a series of YouTube videos and the transcription of documents related to the O’Reilly family to allow for improved legibility and remote access.
Partnering with graduate students from the Public History program at the University of Victoria, museum staff undertook the digitization and online exhibition of Point Ellice’s calling card collection, providing new resources and biographies for researchers to delve into the social life of the O’Reilly family. The society provided the acceptance video below.
The British Columbia Regional Digitized History project of the University of BC Okanagan and many partner organizations supports digital public access to unique and under-utilized holdings found in collections throughout British Columbian communities.
Originally started five years ago as the Digitized Okanagan History, the project helps “tackle the challenges of digitization on a regional basis across many different repositories” and includes over 43,000 photographs, 22,000 newspaper issues and hundreds of oral histories. Today, 44 partnering organizations across the Okanagan and Kootenay-Columbia areas have joined with plans to expand into the Thompson Nicola region.
Christopher Hives of UBC Okanagan provided the video seen below.