Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Stories keep breaking like waves on the shore

where Beatrix Potter bought her tinned veggies and tea
I am astounded at how many of my students are learning basic history about their background for the very first time. The conversations that are opening up at home sound very interesting... neutral ground for some of my students to talk to semi-estranged parents or realize that their step-mom's family background has a direct relationship to the kind of values and parenting skills used now, etc. etc. There have been some powerful, awkward, messy stories involving residential school survival and the impact of colonization, and lots of research dead-ends that are that way for a reason. Today, though, was about classic history... Hailey has waited patiently to show me an album and share the family stories she is discovering. Her background seems mainly British, and her grandmother who lives here in Prince George has kept great records. One of the pictures (shown above) is her family's old store in Windermere, UK that was frequented by Beatrix Potter. We've been seeing incredible photos this week, including daguerrotypes going back to the early history of photography. The artifacts in granny's house, though, were what really got us intrigued. One is a tiny worn leather-bound bible or such, maybe old enough to be alkaline paper pre-1800 - she may bring it in tomorrow. Another is a small wooden chest, curly maple with brass strapping. It belonged to the William Beatty, the chief surgeon for Admiral Nelson during the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. He is tied to Hailey's family tree and the box, which looks almost new, has passed down the line and has ended up in our backwoods city in northern BC. What other treasures are hidden here? A movie has been made about Beatty and the surgeon's perspective from the lower decks of the HMS Victory, including the treatment of the injured and dying Lord Nelson.

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