Author Archives: Paul C. Thistle

About Paul C. Thistle

Paul C. Thistle is the former Curator & CAO of The Sam Waller Museum (1983-1995) and most recently Curator at the Langley Centennial Museum & National Exhibition Centre (2006-2009). He has 26+ years of mission and management work in museums. He writes the Solving Task Saturation for Museum Workers & the Critical Museology Miscellanea blogs. In the field of ethnohistory, he is the author of the national, provincial, and academic award winning book Indian-European Trade Relations in the Lower Saskatchewan River Region to 1840. Manitoba Native Studies II and related journal articles such as "The Twatt Family, 1780-1840: Amerindian, Ethnic Category, or Ethnic Group Identity?" in The Western Metis: Profile of a People. He has teaching experience at the university, college, high school, museum programming, and professional development levels. He has many conference presentations to his credit, including at the 2014 Canadian Museums Association Annual Conference, Toronto, ON & the 2012 American Association of Museums annual conference in Minneapolis, MN. His educational background includes an Interdisciplinary M.A. in history and anthropology and a B.Ed. in cross-cultural and museum education from the University of Manitoba, a B.A. in anthropology and history from the University of Waterloo, and a Museology Certificate from the University of Winnipeg.

HBC Blacksmith Interpretation

On-line discussion about living history interpretation sparked some interesting conversation & a comment on my incorrect use of the term ‘farrier’ as a synonym for blacksmith. Further, that such a skilled person “would not want the drop in pay to work as an interpreter in a museum.” I had been thinking about the blacksmith interpreters I had seen at Hudson’s Bay Company historic sites pictured below.

All photographs in this post (except the last one below) are by the author.

crest of the Hudson's Bay Company on a concrete disk
Hudson’s Bay Company Crest

Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site

Land at the forks of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers was prone to flooding and so the Hudson’s Bay Company constructed a second fort upstream on higher Ground starting in 1830. The local limestone stone walls at Lower Fort Garry were completed in 1848. It served mainly as a supply depot & transshipment facility. Lower Fort Garry was named as a National Historic Site in 1958.

view of stone wall & bastion protecting Lower Fort Garry beside the Red River
Hudson’s Bay Company Lower Fort Garry built in the 1830s on the Red River
homestead house built in 1830s near Lower Fort Garry
Fraser House, 1830s, outside Lower Fort Garry
blacksmith shop with interpreter standing in doorway
Blacksmith Shop outside Lower Fort Garry
blacksmith forge in operation at Lower Fort Garry
Blacksmith Shop forge in operation.
blacksmith hammering on anvil at Lower Fort Garry
Lower Fort Garry Blacksmith Shop demonstration. 

Fort Langley National Historic Site

Fort Langley was established by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1827 on the Fraser River some distance upriver from its mouth. It was an important fur trade post and quickly became a provisioning and administrative centre for the HBC’s Columbia District. The original fort was abandoned in 1839 and a new one was built 3.5 km upstream. A fire in 1840 necessitated rebuilding. The HBC fort operated a large farm, initiated fish packing, cranberry harvesting, and became a commercial centre for the colony of British Columbia. Fort Langley was declared a National Historic Site in 1923. Only the log storehouse is original and several of the fort’s buildings are reconstructions.

inside of Fort Langley with one original late 1850s building & some reconstructions
Interior of reconstructed Fort Langley National Historic Site, built 1839-1840, on the Fraser River
re-enactors visiting Fort Langley National Historic site dressed in blanket coats from the back
Re-enactors visit Fort Langley
crowd attending event outside Fort Langley Big House
Event at reconstructed Fort Langley Big House
blacksmith shop reconstruction & visitors looking at demonstration
Blacksmithing demonstration at Fort Langley

Sadly, the author was unable to photograph the blacksmith interpreter at work due to low light levels and the type of film in my camera at the time.

Fort Langley blacksmith demonstration
Blacksmith interpreter at Fort Langley National Historic Site from (accessed 26 November 2018).

For an article related to historic site interpretation, see Paul C. Thistle. 2012. “Book Reviews: Playing Ourselves: Interpreting Native Histories at Historic Reconstructions by Laura Peers.” Material Culture: The Journal of the Pioneer America Society 44 (2): 78-81 [substantial excerpt available at ].