Bulkley Valley Museum

The Bulkley Valley Museum houses a number of permanent exhibits, including a Witsuwit’en exhibit and “Wings Over the North,” a history of aviation in the Bulkley Valley.

Additionally, we curate feature exhibits on a variety of historical topics. Some of our current and upcoming exhibits are listed below.

Life Cycle of an Obsidian Point

#1 is an obsidian projectile point
#2 is an obsidian flake.
#3 is an obsidian core.
#4 is piece of raw obsidian

Artifact of the Month Ground Slate Adze

Archaeologists refer to this tool technology as ground stone, to differentiate from flaked or chipped stone tools. Ground stone tools are made by repeatedly pecking and grinding the selected stone with a harder stone, followed by polishing with sand, using water as a lubricant.  Making ground stone tools can be very time consuming and labour-intensive process. Several types of “heavy duty” tools including axes, celts, bannerstones, hammerstones and gouges were made using this technology. This particular tool is an adze, used around the world for thousands of years to shape and carve wood.



Mining the Northwest: Fortunes Won and Lost in the Bulkley Valley

Mining the Northwest: Fortunes Won and Lost in the Bulkley Valley
Mining history runs deep in the Bulkley Valley.

In the early 1900s, placer miners came by sternwheeler and pack horse, seeking gold and other resources like those found in the Cariboo and the Yukon. The influx of Euro-Canadian miners brought both opportunity and conflict to the First Nations peoples who have lived here since time immemorial.

The building of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad through the Bulkley Valley in 1913 provided an improved means to transport people, equipment, and ore. Hardworking mining men and women helped form the fabric of communities like Smithers. Though independent and self-reliant, these miners also worked together for common causes, forming groups like the Smithers Miners and Prospector’s Association to promote their interests in the broader political landscape of the province.

Mining has been a part of the Bulkley Valley’s cultural fabric for over 100 years. This exhibit focuses on the early twentieth century: a time when fortunes were won and lost.

Pre-Emption in 1915

This map now on display in the Bulkley Valley Museum is a replica of the 1915 British Columbia Department of Lands Pre-Emptors Map. It refers to lands under the Skeena, Hazelton, Peace River, and Fort Fraser divisions.

Pre-emption was a method of acquiring Crown land. Although it was possible to pre-empt land and not live on it, the intended use of pre-empted land was settlement and cultivation. In British Columbia, acquisition of land via pre-emption began after an 1858 proclamation that all lands in the colony were vested in the Crown. Individuals, as well as companies and partnerships, could apply to settle and work the land. Pre-emptors were required to “improve” the land by clearing, or building. The BC Lands and Works Depart-ment, created in 1871, was tasked with surveying, mapping and administering land. Land acquisition by pre-emption continued until 1970.

Sir Alfred Smithers

Kerry Guenter, a volunteer at the Bulkley Valley Museum, has located a picture of Sir Alfred Smithers.  He contacted Elizabeth Webster, Sir Alfred’s, great granddaughter, who replied by email saying she had pictures and that she would scan and send them.  To Kerry’s surprise she sent the original photo, the negative and a family picture.  The portrait is now on display at the Bulkley Valley Museum.  The portrait is of Canadian origins, thought to have been taken by the famous Montreal photographers Notman & Son.


Smithers Gift to Civilization

The Story of Joseph Coyle – Publisher/Inventor

Smithers Gift to Civilization is our self-deprecation appellation for describing Joseph Coyle’s invention of a machine for producing egg cartons which he patented in 1918.  He was also the publisher of the popular Bulkley Valley paper, The Interior News.

The life of Joseph Coyle is the bittersweet story of an inveterate inventor.  Coyle had vision, dedication and the drive to pursue his dreams across a continent only to end up in reduced circumstances despite living to over 100 years of age.

Visit the Bulkley Valley Museum to learn the full story of Joseph Coyle and his story of invention, hope and dismay.


Wings Over the North: Aviation in Northern British Columbia

Wings Over the North: Aviation in Northern British Columbia looks at flying history in our area. Filled with stories of everything from American bravado to magnificent float planes to Lopey who built his own plane; this exhibit will be sure to enlighten you. 

Included in this exhibition is the story of the B-36 bomber that crashed just a bit north of Smithers. With this part of the exhibit, on display is a gun that was pulled from the wreckage of the plane. Come and check out the mysterious story of “Broken Arrow”!