Often, museums seek collections over individual objects as a more cohesive story can be told: although, it’s not always the most interesting one. There is the rare occasion that single objects cross our path and then while working backwards we find answers. This was the case with three mysterious birch bark scrolls that where donated to the museum in 2010 from the George Sayers estate.
“George Sayers came from England with his family in 1912 and attended school in Haney before heading off to UBC. He lasted one year and could not afford to continue, but he never let that get in the way of his quest for knowledge. He became a most accomplished machinist, inventor, and botanist and was much admired by all who knew him.”
After George died in 1987, friends had gathered some of the belongings that had been important to him, and then donated that collection to the museum in 2010. The objects consisted of equipment used with Abernethy & Lougheed, where George had spent most of his life working.
The tightly rolled scrolls were thought to have information or names of A&L employees on them. It was not until they were recently unrolled that it was discovered they had nothing at all to do with the logging company. They were covered with signatures of very familiar names – Mussallem, Adair, Poole, Aho, Morrison, Charlton, Jackson, Leggatt, Sayers, McFarlane, and Brown. The signers were male and female, some were siblings and clearly, they were from all over the district. There was no date or any reason for their gathering.
While looking in a 1924 MacLean school annual, it was uncovered that the group were members of the MacLean High School Literary and Athletic Club, while looking for a 1924 school annual. All of the rest of the signatures belong to those in the first and second years of high school, roughly equivalent to grades 10 and 11. MacLean was the first high school in the district, and it had opened in 1922. Its catchment was all of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
As a keeper of our community’s artifacts it’s important to recognize that even those small pieces that might be discarded by others, if they can be linked to a larger story, they are worth saving.