On Family Day, we headed out to Richmond to visit the Gulf of Georgia Cannery. They had a special kids-get-in-free deal for the day, although ours were all young enough to get in free anyway. The cannery was pretty quiet, leaving us lots of space to wander and browse the exhibits.
I thought it was fascinating that they’d turned a real cannery into a museum—it was much more interesting than the small “cannery” section at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria.
The cannery itself was huge! It’s quite clean now (no fishy smell left!) with signs explaining what the equipment was. There was a lot of information about fishing and fisheries, including a touch-screen computer that the girls had fun with.
Then we walked around the corner and discovered the kids section! There was puzzles which Jade sat down to play with and dress-up clothes that Sunshine and Lily promptly donned. Then they pretended to go to work on the line:
There were lots of interpretive displays all around the cannery, from signs (in French and English) to listening stations and even a few short movies. I thought it was cute that the earpieces at one listening station were made from old tuna cans:
Even Jade got into the listening stations, though by this time in the day she was also getting tired and sitting down on the floor whenever she wanted me to carry her:
One thing I thought really cool about the cannery was the stories from actual workers. There were signs all over the cannery with little quotes and tidbits of information from people who worked here and had shared their memories, like this one:
There were other fun tidbits of information around the cannery, like the fact that some equipment came from Norway, or that some machines were similar to the dryers we use for clothes or the separators used on dairy farms. While the cannery was neat and clean and big right now, I don’t think I would have wanted to be there when it was full of fish and all the machines were clanking and humming!
Finally, one fun historical detail for the visit was that we were given punch cards when we arrived. We got to punch in when we entered and then punch out again when we left. The girls had fun putting their cards into the big machine and waiting for the THUMP.
This was an interesting part of BC’s history. I like visiting working museums, or places like this that have been preserved as they used to be so we can catch a glimpse of the past. It was also great to learn more about the oceans and sea life around us. I didn’t know the difference between cod and halibut, other than the price you see on the menu at a fish and chips restaurant.
Baby-friendly: yes. Most of the cannery was located on one level, with lots of space to navigate a stroller. There was one small section that was up four or five stairs. I’m pretty sure there was a change table in the washrooms.
Kid-friendly: yes. Kids under six get in free and there was the kids’ play area as well as several interactive displays (computers, TVs, models of fish, etc) to catch the kids’ attention. You can also request a Parks Canada Xplorers booklet for your kids (school-aged) to fill in while visiting the museum. And the cannery hosts birthday parties as well.
Check out the Gulf of Georgia Cannery website for more information, including upcoming events such as their monthly farmer’s markets and their annual Easter event. You can also follow the cannery on social media to stay up-to-date.
What a great learning opportunity! I love the fact that they gave everyone dress up clothes so you could participate in the history and really have a hands on experience. It looks like you had a lot of fun- thanks for sharing. I’d love to take my son there one day.
The girls were so excited when we found the dress up clothes! It was really cute. 🙂
I visited this cannery one summer day, all by myself, and I loved lots of the things you mentioned, Bonnie! We had a terrific young tour guide who enriched the experience even further.
I remember that the adults in our group weighed ourselves on a scale that told us how much we’d be worth in dollars, if we were certain types of fish. 🙂
The deepest effect on me was remembering how tedious, unpleasant and dangerous the work was — and that racism was not only acceptable but desirable during much of the cannery’s history. Asian-Canadians always had the unpleasant, dangerous jobs. At one time, the fish cans were even stamped “Packed by White Labor”.
I’m glad you took your girls there and are spreading the word about the cannery. Many more Canadians should know this piece of our history.
Laureen, yes, they did talk quite a bit about the racial discrimination there. They also mentioned that many of the Chinese labourers were the most highly skilled and the best at their jobs. And there was a section on women’s labour, and how women were paid so much less than men for doing the same jobs. I agree that it’s a much-needed part of our history, because I knew about workplace discrimination but that made it more real.
sounds fun and educational all at the same time! Love that you get to punch in and out like you were part of the crew!
I’ve always heard about “punching in” or out but that’s the first time I’ve actually seen a time card or a way to do that so it was cool. 🙂 We still have our time cards!
I love visiting places like this! It teaches my kids so much about the world around them and gives them a hands on experience
Same here! I learned as much as they did, though it’d be fun to go back in a year or two for another field trip and see how much more they get out of it. They still had fun. 🙂
Looks like you had a great time! I love it when a visit to a fun place is both fun and educational!