The Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives houses an extensive collection of photographs by Helen McCall, a professional photographer who documented the rural life of British Columbia's Sunshine Coast during the 1920s and 1930s. McCall's involvement with the life and people of the area, coupled with her need and determination to become financially independent, led to her career in photography. The CURA project examined the artistic, social and historical context of McCall's life and work through research on the photograph collection, other selected documents and oral histories.
Research began at the University of Victoria where student Jocelyn Statia (Visual Arts and History in Art) worked with Dr. Ariane B. Isler-de Jongh (History in Art) and Dr. Lynne S. Marks (History). During the summers of 2001 and 2002 Statia worked at the museum with staff and museum volunteer Bill Gregg to research the McCall collection of negatives, prints and photo postcards and to collect oral histories. Interviews conducted with local residents, summer campers and family members elicited information and personal stories of insight into life during the 20s, 30s and 40s on the Sunshine Coast. Additional sources were identified and researched, including documents in museum and local archives, community directories, newspapers, and correspondence.
In August 2001, a small exhibition of photographs was mounted at the museum as a way to introduce the Sunshine Coast communities to this project. Jocelyn developed a slide presentation entitled "Back to School: 1930-1941" using the class photos on postcards from the McCall Collection.
The McCall collection was digitized and the museum produced a CD-ROM, The Helen McCall Photography Collection, with a selection of 1128 images of McCall’s photographs.
During the summer of 2003, UVic co-op student Becky Leung (Visual Arts) worked at the museum to help complete the project publication Helen McCall's Community Album. The cover of the cleverly designed book is based on one of McCall’s own photo albums, which is in the museum’s collection. The Introduction to the publication is by Ariane Isler-de Jongh, Lynne Marks and Jocelyn Statia, and the catalogue entries on the many illustrated photographs feature the research and oral histories developed during the project. An Appendix provides more detailed and archival information on the photographs.
Both the publication and the CD-ROM are available from the museum at firstname.lastname@example.org