Although our doors are currently closed to the public, the staff of the Bulkley Valley Museum are still hard at work preserving our community’s heritage. Recently, we rediscovered a collection of over 125 newspapers from Smithers and the Bulkley Valley area. Many of these were supplements to the Interior News, while others were independent papers such as the Pictorial and the Houston News. With a broad range in focus, from local education to hunting to winter sports, this unique collection provides a glimpse into what was newsworthy in the Bulkley Valley from the 1960s to the 1990s.
The first step in processing the newspapers was removing them from the volumes they were bound in. These big books had cardboard covers, duct tape binding, and metal staples, which worked well for keeping the papers together, but not so well for preserving them. Cardboard is acidic, duct tape makes the spines of the papers sticky, and metal causes rust. Once the papers were removed, we could begin to group them by publication rather than the solely chronological order they were originally placed in.
What resulted was an interesting peek into late 20th-century Smithers – a world which many Valley residents still recall. Interior News supplements enlivened the weekly paper with focus on seasonal events and special topics. Examples of subjects covered by our new acquisitions include anniversaries (such as Smithers’ 75th in 1996, or the Curling Club’s 60th in 1988), summer tourism (1982, 1984-87, 1989, 1990), the winter season and skiing (1982, 1985-89), Scout/Guide week (1988, 1990), the 4-H Club (1987), home and garden (1982), and, of course, the annual Fall Fair. Environmentalism was a popular topic, with supplements devoted to National Forest Week and the 3 Rs (1989-90), as was industry, represented by publications about mining (1990) and the Skeena Cellulose pulp mill in Prince Rupert (1989). Advertisement pages featured past and present businesses such as Wall’s Home Furnishings, the Ice Burg restaurant, Mackenzie Furniture, and the Smithers Lumber Yard. Northcountry Insurance spread the holiday cheer in the late 1980s with its annual Christmas carol booklets.
Smithers’ rugged outdoor spirit was demonstrated in publications such as Western Guidelines, the bimonthly paper for the Western Guides and Outfitters Association (now the Guide-Outfitters Association of BC). This paper, of which we have eleven copies dated from 1980 to 1982, kept hunting guides up-to-date on the latest developments and techniques. In addition to the Ski Smithers supplements published by the Interior News each winter, we discovered two programmes from the B.C. and Canadian Juvenile Skiing Championships (1987 and 1989 respectively). Three different rodeos were featured as well – the ongoing Kispiox Valley Rodeo (1984-85, 1989-90), and the defunct Smithers Kinsmen Club Rodeo (1984, 1986-87) and Bulkley Valley Rodeo (1990).
Education in the Valley was represented by Quarterly 54, which gave seasonal reports from the School District. Three copies of this paper, all dating from 1982, were found in our latest accession. Publications such as the Mental Health Network Northwest’s Well-being Connector (1984) and a newsletter produced by the environment-focused Telkwa Foundation (1982) show that the issues of 30 or 40 years ago are still quite relevant today. Our discovery of the latter item led to the recent donation of more documents related to the Telkwa Foundation, such as meeting minutes, annual reports, and a Certificate of Incorporation. This local non-profit was in existence from 1976 until the late 1980s.
Finally, our new collection of newspapers is rounded out by publications not only separate from, but in competition with, the Interior News. These include the Pictorial (of which we found twenty-one editions that we did not already have, all dated 1968) and the Houston News (sixteen editions, all from 1969). Both papers were short-lived, with the Pictorial running from 1966 to 1968, and the Houston News only from April 10th to August 29th 1969. The Pictorial aimed to provide a more Smithers-specific perspective to counter the Interior News’ coverage of the entire Valley. The two papers eventually amalgamated, with the Interior News retaining its name but the Pictorial staff taking over publishing.
The Houston News was an unsuccessful attempt at an independent paper for Houston, which had previously had its own section of the Interior News. However, the publishers were unable to drum up enough local support, and after a very brief rebranding as the Weekend Journal, the paper folded. The Interior News would continue to provide Houston’s news until the founding of the Houston Today in 1980. The limited run of the Houston News means that our copies were a particularly worthwhile find.
Most of the newspapers already in our collection – such as the Interior News, the Omineca Herald, and the Houston Today – are available as microfilm. We usually don’t keep the newspapers themselves because they are difficult to preserve – the paper is highly acidic and becomes brittle and yellow over time. They also take up a lot of storage space, which is a precious resource in a museum. However, very few of the papers in the recent acquisition appear in our microfilm, so we are keeping the physical copies. We’re also working on scanning some to make them viewable online.
Remember, even though we’re closed, the Bulkley Valley Museum still has access to the Interior News (1910-2007) through Newspapers.com. If there are any articles, photographs, or information you would like to find, you can send us a request by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 250-847-5322. You can also check out previously digitized newspapers, including the Pictorial, on our website at www.search.bvmuseum.org.