The Heart of the Museum

By Vernice Shostal


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“I just can’t leave museums alone,” says Bill Blore, who spearheaded the recovery and display of artifacts and history of the Victoria Police Department, the oldest police force west of Ontario.

Born in the middle of winter in the middle of the Depression in Red Deer, Alberta, Bill decided from the day he started school that teaching was the job for him. An award winning thespian in high school, an Air Cadet, Trail Ranger, UC youth group member and editor of the school newspaper, yearbook and local radio station students’ program, Bill says he had so much fun in high school, he hardly had time to study. Bill attended universities in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, earned a teaching degree and launched his career in an army and air force school in Calgary, and moved up to administration and other schools in the city. In 1967, he married Clare, a fellow educator.

Aside from teaching and administration, Bill coached one-act plays and sports. His main goal as a teacher and principal was to have fun with the kids. “I enjoyed their wonderful adventuresome attitudes to learning,” he says. “I loved to see the light of knowledge come on when they discovered a new learning.”

Bill and Clare like to travel. In addition to their annual visits to Clare’s family in Saskatchewan, Elderhostel trips through the U.S. and escaping to warmer climates at Christmas and Easter, they have visited Europe and Britain over a dozen times. On one of these occasions, Bill, who has twice had the honour of meeting the Queen face-to-face in Canada, met Prince Charles when they attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace, part of a holiday designed by Bill’s great-uncle.

Bill and Clare retired to Vancouver Island in 1991 to “live the life of Riley, but that didn’t happen,” says Bill. In 1992, he joined the staff at Craigdarroch Castle as the Volunteer and Educational Co-ordinator and became fascinated with museum creation, management, artifact collection, preservation and display. In the libraries at Craigdarroch, UVic and UBC, Bill read everything he could find on museums. “So, it’s been the joy of my life because I always was a historian,” he says.

Bill left Craigdarroch in 1996 and became a volunteer at Hatley Park with the Friends of Hatley Park. In 1998, he suggested to the university that a museum would be appropriate, and they asked him to create one in the basement of the castle. Paid staff later took over the operation of the museum, and Bill left to pursue other interests. While looking after the maintenance of St. Andrews Cathedral, a Canada Heritage Site, Bill continued to attend seminars on the preservation of historical sites and the display of artifacts.

In June 2008, a friend encouraged Bill to go to a meeting of volunteers interested in working at the Victoria Police Museum. Bill willingly took on the entire task of reorganizing the museum and gift shop to meet the Canadian standards for museum operation.

Bill and his volunteers have inventoried pictures, newspaper clippings and pamphlets that can now be used for research purposes. The museum outlines the history of the force, the first in Western Canada to use mug shots and fingerprints to identify criminals. It holds historical Victoria Police artifacts, such as the original radar cameras, the original breathalyzers and handcuffs that date back to the 1850s.

Historically, the Victoria police department, which is older than the original RCMP, “was created by James Douglas who was sort of the father of British Columbia,” says Bill as he guides the visitor through the museum. “As the first governor of the Mainland and the second governor of the Island, he ran the Island like he was king. Everybody was scared to death of him.”

“Here, you’ll notice in the museum (Bill points to an effigy of a black policeman in uniform) his mother was black. His father was Scottish.” Bill goes on to explain that when the American Civil War broke out, many California black people migrated to Canada. Douglas welcomed them to Victoria and formed the first only black police force in Canada. “There is so much colourful history represented here in these four little walls,” says Bill.

Besides artifacts displayed in the museum, Bill shows the visitor how a forensic artist puts together a composite of an offender. If the picture doesn’t look like the person who robbed the victim, they change the slides until they get the figure that looks like the wrongdoer. Once accomplished, they draw the picture and release it to the public.

Currently, Bill also volunteers at the Royal British Columbia Museum as a tour guide and at Government House as a volunteer museum co-ordinator.

The Victoria Police Museum, located in the Victoria Police Headquarters building at 850 Caledonia Avenue, is open Monday to Thursday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is FREE. Souvenirs are available for purchase.

 

OCTOBER 2009 SENIOR LIVING VANCOUVER ISLAND

 

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