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An original audio story series led by Jayme Collins

You can find Archival Ecologies on Apple Podcasts, Spotify Amazon Music and iHeartRadio.

Archival Ecologies is an audio story series created and produced by Jayme Collins as a companion to a book project. The series investigates how ecological events and natural disasters are affecting cultural collections and the artifacts and memories they preserve for diverse communities.  As climate change leads to more extreme weather events, the interactions between archives and the environments where they reside are becoming more frequent and more fraught. Beset by floods, fires, mold blooms and other ecologies, the objects and documents that communities preserve are sometimes lost or damaged.

This series tells the stories of such archives, their stewards and their significance for communities at the forefront of climate change. What do objects and collections mean in the communities that steward them, and what does recovery from loss look like? How do cultural stories continue or change in the absence of objects and collections? Archival Ecologies will address these questions by exploring the ecological lives of cultural collections in states of disruption, documenting collections in crisis and researching their connections to geographies and histories. Each season will take listeners to a new environment to share community experiences of why archives matter, what their loss means and what recovery might look like.

Credits

Created and hosted by Jayme Collins with research, writing and production support from Jamie Rodriguez, Kavya Kamath and Molly Taylor. Music by Hamilton Poe. Sincere thanks to Kouvenda Media for their partnership on this project. A production of Blue Lab with support from Princeton University. Copyright 2023 Jayme Collins and Blue Lab.

Season 1: Fire in Lytton

You can find Archival Ecologies on Apple Podcasts, Spotify Amazon Music and iHeartRadio.

During the 2021 summer heatwave in the Pacific Northwest, the historic town of Lytton, BC and nearby First Nations reserves suffered a catastrophic wildfire that took local archives, museums and cultural collections with it. In this first season of Archival Ecologies, we’ll tell the stories of those collections and the communities who have stewarded them. Through the voices of those cultural stewards and knowledge keepers and the objects that have been lost (or salvaged), we’ll explore the interwoven histories and geographies of the region and the larger intersections between climate change, cultural preservation and recovery.

Episode 1: In the Burn Zone

Two years after a devastating 2021 wildfire burned through much of their village center, community members gather in Lytton, British Columbia for a prayer walk. Big questions inspire and inflect the event: How can the community rebuild? And what will the new community look like? Lytton community members weigh in on preserving their multicultural histories and recovering community identity when the artifacts and cultural collections that represented them are gone.

Pauline and Ernie Michell, Pastoral Elders from Nlaka’pamux nation, at a multi-faith rebuilding blessing event on the second anniversary of the Lytton Fire (June 30, 2023). Photo by Molly Taylor.

A sign welcoming drivers to Lytton, Canada’s “hotspot” in the Fraser Canyon region of British Columbia. Photo by Molly Taylor.

A hollyhock growing in Lytton, June 2023. Photo by Molly Taylor.

Community members walk along Main Street through Lytton, British Columbia on June 30, 2023, two years to the day after a devastating wildfire burned down much of the town. Photo by Molly Taylor.

A “ginger jar” from Lorna’s collection that survived the fire in the Lytton Chinese History Museum. The fire has turned the jade-green glaze a rust red in patches. The jar is missing its cork lid, which burned during the fire. Photo by Jayme Collins.

A CN Rail train passing above the site of Lytton’s Chinese History Museum, still fenced off. Photo by Jamie Rodriguez

Team members Jayme Collins and Molly Taylor talking with collection steward Lorna Fandrich on the site of her Chinese History Museum. Photo by Jamie Rodriguez.

Episode 2: Salvage

In the wake of the fire, concerns about contamination slow down efforts to salvage material from the burn site. The BC Heritage Emergency Response Network aids Lytton’s organizations—especially the Lytton Chinese History Museum, founded by Lorna Fandrich—to access and recover material from the sites. Most of Lorna’s collection burned, but she was able to recover about 200 objects that will provide the foundation for the new museum. With a combination of salvaged and newly acquired objects, Lorna plans to rebuild the Lytton Chinese History Museum to tell the same story: the history of Chinese life in the Fraser Canyon region.

Lorna Fandrich with new and old objects from her collection. Photo by Jayme Collins.

Grasshopper perched on an old board at the Lytton burn site. Photo by Jamie Rodriguez.

Newly acquired buttons and game pieces from Lorna Fandrich’s collection for the new Lytton Chinese History Museum. Photo by Jayme Collins.

Concrete, rebar, and plastic litter the site of the former Lytton Chinese History Museum. Photo by Jamie Rodriguez.

Lorna Fandrich giving us a tour of the site of the Chinese History Museum, which used to sit in the large hole in front of her. The large hole is evidence of the contamination remediation process. She will rebuild at the same site. Photo by Jamie Rodriguez.

Lorna Fandrich, founder of the Lytton Chinese History Museum. Photo by Jamie Rodriguez.

Episode 3: The Place of Objects

Nlaka’pamux knowledge keeper John Haugen describes baskets the Lytton First Nation Community lost during the 2021 wildfire and discusses the role of basketry in the community. The meaning and the making of baskets in the community draws together food systems, local ecological knowledge, colonial land and resource use disruptions, and the circulation of baskets and other First Nations cultural material during colonization, when baskets circulated as economic goods and as cultural artifacts destined for museums across the globe. For John, the recovery of baskets in the community hinges on the repatriation of baskets and on the creation of a local community center for showing baskets and teaching basket making knowledge, fostering a new generation of basket makers in the community.

Sound design by Sam Riddell and Jayme Collins. Mixing by Sam Riddell.

Kumsheen, where the Thompson and Fraser Rivers meet at Lytton before going southward through the Fraser Canyon and then west to the Fraser Valley and Pacific Ocean. Photo by Jayme Collins.

John Haugen, Nlaka’pamux knowledge keeper. Photo by Jayme Collins.

Two Nlaka’pamux baskets recently repatriated to John Haugen. Photo by Jayme Collins.

Coll Thrush, Professor of History at The University of British Columbia, Vancouver next to Nlaka’pamux baskets in the textile storage room in the basement of the Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver. Photo by Jayme Collins.

Nlaka’pamux baskets held in the collection of the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, BC, on a table in the textile storage room. Photo by Jayme Collins.