Presenting a Moment in Time
When Henry Twidle snapped the shutter on images of coastal life, he must have had the urge to capture and preserve those early 20th century scenes. What would he think, however, if he could know that his photographs, 80 years later, would be in "cyberspace" - seen at will on computers anywhere in the world?
Our Archives holds a large collection of images taken by Henry Twidle. Some are classics which have often been published. Others are normally seen only by researchers or Museum staff. In a project currently underway, a new website will present the Twidle photographs, offering a view of the early 1900s era on northern Vancouver Island as recorded through the lens of Henry Twidle's camera.
Born in England in 1879, Henry Twidle came to Canada in his early 20s. After a stay in Vancouver, he went to Rock Bay (near Campbell River) as an employee of the Hastings Lumber Co. Rock Bay was one of the earliest of the now legendary large railway camps that once flourished along the coast. Joined by his bride Agnes, Henry was storekeeper for the Hastings Co. at Rock Bay for three years. In 1908 the two moved further north to operate their own store at Minstrel Island. In the heart of the maze of waterways and rugged terrain known as "The Jungles," this was the realm of small, independent handlogging operations.
In 1911 the Twidles moved once more, to Granite Bay on Quadra Island, where they would live for nearly 40 years. Granite Bay was a harbour for the fishing fleet, an active mining area, and the site of another large Hastings camp. Henry kept the store and post office and was stipendiary magistrate at Granite Bay. He and Agnes established a large garden and orchard and traveled about in their small gas boat, the Illini.
Wherever he was, Henry took photographs. His pictures document the world he knew, and now provide a diverse and valuable record of the times. There are many logging photographs: logs hitting the water, men posing atop machinery, mighty steam locomotives, minimal early logging trucks, cookhouse interiors, camp buildings, huge trees dwarfing men with their tools. There are photographs of major buildings, such as the hospitals at Rock Bay and Campbell River and the Willows Hotel, which also reveal surroundings vastly different from today. Henry recorded wharf scenes on "boat day," big fish catches, fishing boats, canneries, early roads and groups of people gathered before the camera. He took portraits of his neighbours, dramatic winter scenes and pictures of his wife and home in Granite Bay.
Henry and Agnes left no descendants. The Twidle photographs and a few related items have come to the Museum through various donors, ensuring that this important legacy endures.
Through a project sponsored by Canada's Digital Collections, the Twidle photographs will become a "virtual" presentation offering internet visitors a glimpse of life on northern Vancouver Island c. 1910 - 1930s. It will also provide a searchable on-line database for the images taken by Henry Twidle, and will be offered in both French and English. Funded by Industry Canada, the CDC project is administered by the Campbell River Community Network, partnering with the Museum at Campbell River, School District 72 and the Campbell River Francophone Association.