The photographer’s lens transports visitors back through the early days of Williams Lake with the latest exhibit at the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin.
Titled The Laketown, the exhibit showcases an evolving display of some of the incredible collection of historic images captured by photographers throughout the development of the area.
Downstairs in the Tourism Discovery Centre, visitors will be able to view selected images, original antique cameras, and more but it only just scratches the surface of the museum’s collection.
“There are boxes that I haven’t even gone through yet,” said Casey Bennet, the curator of this new exhibit.
Bennet has been working diligently on the digitization of negatives for the museum, which he started in January. He fits this project into his other duties, which are varied, but he said there hasn’t been a week since he started when he hasn’t worked on the project.
“There are times when I have to take a break because the scanner is heating up,” said Bennet, of the painstaking process. “But I love it … it’s so fun.”
One of the challenges, though, is choosing amongst the endless images he goes through in the process.
“I was hoping to show photographs that people hadn’t seen,” he explained of some of his choices.
This might not be as simple as a person might think, given the thousands of images shared on Facebook and other platforms amongst groups like Williams Lake & Cariboo/Chilcotin History, which has over 8,500 members.
The project and the exhibit will also help feed this apparent public appetite for nostalgia.
“(We) want to be able to look at, say a photograph of the Tribune, and have a memory come back of just a random memory that brings back a moment of happiness or youthfulness,” said Bennet.
With all of the thousands of images he has looked through, Bennet admits he has a few favourites, like the one in the Sid and Cordelia Western collection of a large elk head mounted on a vehicle and one by Lil Deschene of the Elks Hall burning down at night.
“I just feel like that’s a great capture,” said Bennet, who can appreciate the skill required to get such a great shot at an emergency event at night on film. “The more I learn about these people and the more I learn about those times, the more I really appreciate the work they put into just documenting Williams Lake. I think it’s super important that we have this kind of documentation of our town.”
– with files from Monica Lamb-Yorski