Bowen Blankets —Spring Exhibit of the Bowen Island Museum & Archives
Updated April 7, 2021
Objects store memories and stories; these stories connect us to the past. The spring exhibit “Bowen Blankets” is available for viewing at the Bowen Island Museum and Archives and Bowen Library from April 15 – May 15.
This intimate and unique textile collection on display presents blankets from the 1860s-2000s. These blankets tell stories of our history; sometimes the stories are familiar and intimate, while others play a less personal utilitarian role.
Textiles with their embedded stories are everywhere in our lives. Each blanket is unique. Blankets reflect and express personal, community, and commercial values.
Can you imagine the time, place, and user of each blanket? In the collection, both handmade and pre-World War Two commercial manufacturing are represented. It’s interesting to see that only a narrow range of textiles were used to make these blankets: wool, cotton, satin, felt, and small portions of synthetic fibres.
The early commercial manufactured blankets include a Union Steamship blanket of wool and embroidery, as well as a Union Steamship blanket of cotton jacquard floral patterns in pink or green with white. These blankets were used at Bowen Inn and the Steamship cottages (1920-1956). The wool blanket was used at Strachan Lodge (1920 -1956).
Other blankets on view feature handmade examples. The quilt from the Bowen Island Community Church reflects the community and life on Bowen. It was made for a church fundraiser and donated to the Museum collections by the winner, Barbara Weismiller (1994). The Button Blanket was handmade by Rosa Helenius, Bowen’s revered Post Mistress, for her son Robert. Rosa was born in Masset, Haidi Gwaii. Her grandfather was one of the founding members of the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia. You can learn about Rosa at the Archives (1996). The hand-spun settler blanket from Ontario, of multiple patterns in red, blue, and white was brought to Bowen Island by an early family (1860).
On display at the Bowen Library is a quilt by Foxglove Fibre Arts, a Bowen-based organization, for a collaborative fundraising project. It is a community loan quilt courtesy of Mary Leigh, the raffle winner. The process and shared experience present a beautiful example of collective community culture.
“Bowen Blankets,” a Bowen Island Museum and Archives exhibit in partnership with the Bowen Library, runs from April 15 – May 15 at the Bowen Island Museum and Archive from Monday to Friday 10-4 and at the Bowen Library Wednesday to Saturday 12-4 pm (with Seniors’ Hours 10 am-12 pm).