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Exploring Fernie's history & war story with the Fernie Museum

The Fernie Museum and Visitor Information Centre is an integral part of any visit to Fernie. Drop in and explore tales of Fernie's unique heritage, industry and legends in the beautiful first floor permanent exhibition.

The Fernie Historical Society was founded in 1964 and opened the first Fernie Museum in 1979 at the Catholic Church Rectory. Following a period of transience, the Museum found a permanent home in 2010 when the City of Fernie purchased the historic 1910 building on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 5th Street. Formerly the Home Bank, the original bank vault door is now on display as part of the ground floor exhibit and in use as the entrance to the elevator. The Museum was able to become a year-round attraction when it became the Visitor Information Service provider.

The Museum's permanent collection, 'This is our Fernie', is a fascinating display of stories from Fernie's past plus local artifacts and information on the area's geology and rich natural landscape. Visitors enter through a vestibule and choose a virtual tour guide from a selection of real historical figures. Each guide has their own story to share through digital information booths located around the main floor and each one provides their own insights into what has shaped the town we see today.

A giant timeline covers one wall, detailing Fernie's chronology from first explorations in the late 1800's through the tragedy triumphs of the early 20th century including the 2 fires in 1904 & 1908, and on to the age of technology, tourism and diversity that has helped form our vibrant and inviting city. Following the natural flow of the exhibits, explore information about Fernie's rivers, mining, tourism and more. Children will love the interactive stations including a real mining cave to explore, snow & ice game and guessing boxes. While only a small section of the original tile floor has survived, it has been beautifully recreated in the foyer and is complemented by warm repurposed timbers from an old aircraft hanger and glass signage created from the original light fixtures. The space is both warm and inviting and the perfect place to begin your Fernie visit.

Of course, the permanent exhibition only shows a small piece of Fernie's history. Director-Curator Ron Ulrich and his team have put together a calendar of events and exhibitions to delve even deeper into the past and discover secrets and stories that everyone will love. The upcoming exhibit on The Morrissey Internment Camp will shed light on a painful period in Canada's history, and explores how WWI affected even those who were far from the frontlines and the battlefields. This summer the Museum will introduce a new historical walking tour series to explore beautiful downtown Fernie in more depth. In the Fall, the gallery exhibit will be relaunched with the story of Emilio Picariello- an enigmatic character and an integral part of the fabric of Fernie's past.

Fernie at War:  The Morrissey Internment Camp

The Dominion of Canada entered the Great War with Great Britain on August 4, 1914. From then to the end of the war on November 11, 1918, over 1,100 men from the East Kootenay served King and Country in the 107th East Kootenay Regiment. The Elk Valley also played a much darker role in Canada’s war effort.
 
During Canada's first national internment operations of 1914 to 1920 thousands of men, women and children were branded as "enemy aliens." Many were imprisoned at one of twenty-four internment camps located from Nanaimo to Halifax. Stripped of what little wealth they had, forced to do heavy labour in Canada's hinterlands, they were also disenfranchised and subjected to other state sanctioned censures not because of anything they had done but only because of where they had come from, who they were.
 
Morrissey, an abandoned coal mining town just thirteen kilometers south-west of Fernie, became the site of an internment camp in late September 1915. Here, over 800 “enemy aliens” were detained in total until the Morrissey internment operations ceased in October 1918. The 290 men initially detained at Morrissey were local Elk Valley residents, many of whom had immigrated to Canada to escape the oppressive rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
 
This exhibit explores a painful period in Canada’s history, illustrating how a war fought on the front lines of Europe, Asia and Africa would have a profound impact on the lives of people thousands of miles away in the coal mining communities of the Elk Valley and the Crowsnest Pass.

  • The exhibit will be on display June 5 to September 7, 2015  in the Museum's upstairs gallery.
  • Free to all, open 7 days 10am-5pm.

Read more about the Internment Camp on Michael Laycock's blog

Guided Walking Tours in Historical Downtown Fernie

On summer Saturdays, join the Fernie Museum for an informative and fascinating tour of our beautiful downtown. Learn about the attractive architechture and how it relates to Fernie's story of commerce and community.

An Immigrant Story - Emilio Picariello

Ron Ulrich
Director Curator - Fernie Museum and Visitor Information Centre

 

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