Ladysmith and District Historical Society is keeping history alive

Volunteers working hard to record and share town’s story

Gerry Beltgens Special to the Chronicle

Is a community a better place when it values its history? What is of historical value? How does our shared history help build our community?

These are questions that the keepers of Ladysmith’s history seek to answer.

The Ladysmith and District Historical Society (LDHS) is much more than just the archives located under the Tim Hortons on 1st Avenue. It includes the Industrial Heritage Revitalisation Group, the Ladysmith Museum on 1st Avenue, the Lives and Legends videos now on Youtube, the local Schools and Education outreach program, an evolving partnership with Stz’uminus First Nation and a favourite of President Ed Nicholson’s, the recording and telling of stories at the Lodge on 4th seniors residence.

“It has been shown by studies that seniors who tell stories, share memories and interact with interviewers and listeners can mitigate or slow some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease,” said Nicholson. “We need volunteers that would like to work with the seniors and record their stories before they are gone.”

The recording of oral history is also an area where Nicholson and LDHS volunteer Bonnie Weisz would like to see a partnership with the Stz’uminus First Nation across the harbour.

“Many of the Elders have historical and traditional stories that would be of genuine interest to people in Ladysmith. It would be so valuable if we could get residents on both sides of the harbour working together on that,” said Weisz.

The common theme through all of these activities and project is the volunteers that keep the history alive. They do the work of collecting, analysing and sorting the stories, photographs, documents and artifacts.

As anybody who lives in Ladysmith knows, the town runs on its volunteers and the LDHS is no different. With 200 paid members the society should be able to draw enough volunteers but the percentage of volunteers to members is not very high.

Like many of LDHS’s volunteers, Weisz is retired. She has a background in newspapers which she finds helpful for stories and promotion.

“Ladysmith punches far above it weight when it comes to volunteers. But that is a good news/bad news story.” she said. “Those volunteers do so much work they often can’t take on more projects, and we have so many.”

An important part of the society’s outreach in the community is through its education programs, many of them in partnership with the Ladysmith Maritime Society (LMS). These programs are targeted at all levels of schools and also to the general public. Topics include from local history and heritage, Sea Life of the Harbour and Stz’uminus First Nations Culture. There are even informative guided Harbour Tours. Volunteers are needed both through LDHS and LMS. The contact person is Shirley Blackstaff.

The museum is another area that has grown in the past several years. It opened in its current location at 721 1st Avenue in 2013 and has a regular flow of visitors. The museum could use more help with displays and greeting visitors. Interested people can contact the society or Leslie Moore the museum manager.

The growth and transition to a more formal organisation has not always been easy. For many years the archive had been managed by a small group of committed residents. At times it was a challenge to find the focus for an organisation that had more people and now included a museum and a variety of new projects. LDHS has worked hard to include different points of view and to grow more diverse in its perspective.

Nicholson, who has been president since early 2015 reiterated the need for not just members but active volunteers, people with skills in research, cataloguing, photography and photo scanning, database entry, audio and video recording stories, grant writing, promotion and communication and so much more.

“If people are interested and have some time, we are happy to train them. Interest and attitude counts for even more than experience.” He said. “We have so many opportunities for volunteers.”

More information is available at the LDHS website.

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