The British Columbia Historical Federation has awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing to Robin Fisher, author of Wilson Duff: Coming Back, A Life. The 40th annual award was presented by former Lieutenant Governor and long time Nicola Valley resident, Judith Guichon, at the BCHF’s conference in Princeton, B.C.

According to the BCHF, the now award-winning book from Harbour Publishing explores the life and legacy of the pioneering anthropologist and museologist Wilson Duff, who was central to shaping a new understanding of First Nations’ cultures through his work at the Royal BC Museum and University of British Columbia. The anthropologist’s suffered from depression and took his own life at age 51. 

“Historian and academic Robin Fisher of Nanaimo was on hand to receive the award that includes a $2,500 prize — the largest for historical writing in B.C.,” noted the federation in a press release.

“Second prize of $1,500 went to Sean Carleton for Lesson in Legitimacy: Colonialism, Capitalism and the Rise of State Schooling in British Columbia from UBC Press, and third prize of $500 to David Rossiter and Patricia Burke Wood for Unstable Properties: Aboriginal Title and the Claim of British Columbia by UBC Press.”

The conference, held in July and hosted by the Princeton Museum and Archives, was the first in-person gathering of the BCHF since the COVID-19 pandemic began restricting public gatherings in 2019. According to the federation, presentations at the conference were wide-ranging, including a depression-era coal miners’ strike told through story and song; the little-known institution of the Chinese laundry; local settler and Indigenous history; a Trail newspaper war; the exploits of train robber Bill Miner; adapting to changing technologies, and more. These presentations will soon be available on the BCTF’s YouTube channel.

Another focus of the conference, given the host village of Princeton’s ongoing recovery from the same November 2021 flooding event that devastated Merritt, was climate change and emergency management coordination between the varying levels of government. 

The federation said it was honoured to visit Princeton, and invited Mayor Spencer Coyne to share the town’s struggles and triumphs as it recovers. 

“We are the face of climate change,” said Coyne to attendees, urging for more collaboration between regional, provincial, and federal governments. 

A special award was also presented during the conference to Lytton residents Lorna Fandrich, Richard Forrest, and John Haugen. Following the fire that destroyed the community of Lytton in June of 2021, each is dedicated to rebuilding museums and collections in the village.

According to the release, established in 1922, the BC Historical Federation currently provides a collective voice for over 100 member societies and 24,000 individuals in the provincial not-for-profit historical sector. For more information on the BCHF, visit www.bchistory.ca.