Courtenay & District Museum

  • Tragedy at Second Narrows
  • Sponsoring the Museum
  • 2008-2009 Sponsors
  • Behind the Scenes
  • Becoming British Columbia
  • Photo of the Month
  • Museum Funding

  • Phone:



    Mailing Address:
    207 Fourth Street,
    Courtenay BC,
    V9N 1G7

    Tuesday to Saturday
    10am - 5pm

    Sunday and Monday:

    John Wilson

    Vice President
    Daryl Wright

    Past President
    April Shopland

    Elizabeth Braithwaite

    Ruth Masters
    Rick Ross
    Jim Haggart
    Ross Dingwall

    Member of...

    British Columbia Museums Association

    Canadian Museums

    Archives Association of
    British Columbia

    Heritage Society of British Columbia


    Tragedy at Second Narrows:
    The Story of the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge

    Speaker: Eric Jamieson
    When: 7pm, Tuesday, April 21st
    Where: Courtenay and District Museum
    Cost: $6 non-members; $5 Historical Society Members. Advance tickets recommended.

    Author Eric Jamieson revisits one of the worst industrial accidents in the history of British Columbia in an illustrated lecture based on his new book, Tragedy at Second Narrows: The Story of the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge ($32.95, Harbour Publishing).

    The publication of Jamieson's book last fall marked just over fifty years since the disaster. On June 17, 1958, the new bridge being built across Burrard Inlet collapsed into the flooding tidal waters of Second Narrows, killing eighteen workers. Photos of the two broken spans tilted into the sea went around the world and provided the city with one of its iconic historical images, still familiar to school children half a century later. The shocking thing was that the bridge was not an old, decrepit structure, but a new one just in the midst of being erected with all the support and security modern engineering could provide. That somebody had made a colossal error seemed obvious, but it would take a Royal Commission to discover how and why.

    Eric Jamieson returns to the scene of the disaster and reconstructs the tragic event with scrupulous care, introducing the entire cast of politicians, construction bosses, engineers and ironworkers who were involved. He relives those terrifying moments when the structure began to crack and drop like the bottom was falling out of the world. By the end of the presentation, people will have learned about the fascinating world of big-time bridge building and will be left with a clear picture of precisely how the catastrophe took shape and plunged to its inevitable conclusion.

    For over thirty years Eric Jamieson made his living as a banker, working around the province in Victoria, Campbell River, Prince George, Vancouver and North Vancouver. He has served a total of eighteen years on the boards of museums, most recently with the North Vancouver Museum and Archives. Tragedy at Second Narrows is his second book; he is also the author of South Pole—900 Miles on Foot. Jamieson now lives in North Vancouver with his wife Joan.

    This event is made possible with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.


    Sponsoring the Museum

    It is with great pleasure that we announce the success and continuation of our sponsorship initiative to support museum programming and extension. The Courtenay Museum is an exciting destination that interprets cultural and natural heritage of the Comox Valley through exhibitions, lectures, special events and programmes. The museum hosts over 35,000 local, national and international visitors a year.

    Upcoming events in 2009 will include celebrations, tours, lectures and exhibits. As well, we will continue to provide ongoing programming and field trips to students in the Comox Valley.  

    Many of the museum's programmes would not be possible without strong sponsorship from our donors and funders. We respectfully request your one-year sponsorship in order to continue to carry out these worthwhile programmes.  

    The levels of sponsorship are:

    • $1,500 Dogwood
    • $1,000 Garry Oak
    • $750 Arbutus
    • $500 Fir
    • Up to $500 Seedling

    Sponsors at the Dogwood level will have their logo or name featured on the museum's newsletter, website and on any publications the museum produces. Additionally, the Courtenay and District Museum is a charitable organization, so contributions are tax deductible.

    Your contributions can also be made on a monthly basis. All sponsors above the $500 level will receive a museum membership and a complimentary copy of the coffee table book The Comox Valley by Paula Wild.

    We hope you will consider being a part of this worthwhile initiative as we promote and interpret the exciting natural and cultural heritage of the Comox Valley. Please feel free to contact us at 250-334-0686 if you have any questions or desire further information.


    2008-2009 Sponsors

    Judy and Stan Hagen                 
    Daryl and Evelyn Wright - Francis Jeweller's Ltd.
    The Rotary Club of Courtenay Foundation

    Comox Valley Echo
    Marjorie Thorpe                 
    The Bickle Family
    Lorna Gunn

    Elizabeth Braithwaite

    Dove and Mike Hendren                  
    Ruth Masters                 
    Deborah Griffiths                 
    John and Joan Wilson                 
    Ed LaFleur
    George E. Sprogis
    Doug and Donna Kerr


    Behind the Scenes:
    Fishnet Floats

    CDM 967.305.1

    For over 25 years, the Courtenay Museum has been a work site host to Katimavik participants from across Canada. This spring, participant Kaitlyn Brenton has chosen one of the museum's more unusual items to write about for this newsletter.

    A beautiful glass ball called a fishnet floater has washed up into the Courtenay Museum collection. Commonly called Japanese glass floats, these glass balls were invented in Norway in 1840. Early floats, including most Japanese glass fishing floats, were made by a glassblower using recycled glass - sometimes old sake bottles. After being blown, floats were removed from the blowpipe and sealed with a 'button' of melted glass before being placed in a cooling oven. They were a way to keep fishermen’s nets afloat atop the ocean. On occasion, nets of up to 80 kilometers long could be seen, strung together using these floats.

    By 1910 the far eastern countries, particularly Japan, had started to use this practice. The Japanese experimented with different shapes and sizes that could range from 2 inches to 20 inches. In the 1920s Denmark, Scotland, and Czechoslovakia began using fishnet floats, and by the 1940s England, Germany, Russia, and the United States were using them as well. After World War II plastic, wood, and cork were experimented with but in 1956 glass floaters were deemed the best choice because they were more durable and inexpensive.

    Glass floaters were often lost during storms or detached from rotting ropes and are still found all over the world, including the shores of Hawaii, the western coastal US and British Columbia. The floats vary in colour and dimension, and are often marked by netting, sand, sun and salt water. They have become a popular collectors item for beachcombers and even home decorators.


    Becoming British Columbia: A Population History

    North Island College invites you to the Courtenay & District Museum April 23, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. for the exclusive preview of Becoming British Columbia: A Population History.

    Enjoy a sampling of local wines and delicious Vancouver Island gourmet cheeses paired with an evening of historical revelation hosted by Dr. John Douglas Belshaw, author and Associate Vice-President of Education at North Island College.

    In the book that will offer the first comprehensive demographic history of this province, Dr. Belshaw investigates critical moments in the 240 year demographic record of British Columbia’s population, which has experienced transformations of a kind and magnitude witnessed nowhere else in North America. The introduction of exotic diseases changed the human landscape almost overnight, as did gold rushes, industrialization, two world wars, a baby boom, late twentieth-century immigration from Asia, and a grey wave.

    Discover how demographic patterns are linked to larger social and political questions and how biology, politics, and history conspired with sex, death, and migration to create a particular kind of society.

    Becoming British Columbia will appeal to scholars, students and general readers interested in BC history.

    Please RSVP your attendance at this sneak preview event by April 20, 2009 to Erin Petersen at 250-334-5000 x: 4039, or by email at


    Photo of the Month

    CDM #990.24.207
    Maruya farm, Courtenay, c. 1905

    You can view more photos like this on our website. Click here to visit our holdings.


    Museum Funding

    The Courtenay and District Historical Society was registered as a nonprofit society in 1961 to preserve and interpret cultural and natural heritage of the Comox Valley. It has functioned as an independent society since that time. Funds are derived from the generous support of the City of Courtenay, British Columbia Arts Council, Comox Valley Regional District, Comox Valley Charitable Bingo Foundation, and from museum generated revenues and donations.

    Proud sponsors of the Courtenay & District Museum:


    The City of Courtenay


    BC Arts Councils

    BC Hydro

    Regional District Comox-Strathcona