In recent years, the MOV has received funding from the BC History Digitization Program, run by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre at UBC. The aim of the program is to promote increased access to British Columbia’s historical resources. For us, that means photographing the objects in our collection and making those images accessible to the public at openmov.museumofvancouver.ca. This year’s round of digitization focused on objects from the Vancouver History Collection. Two sets of artefacts in particular caught my eye. They both involve long-standing Vancouver institutions (though one is now defunct) awarding their employees with jewelry for extended years of service.
The first set, comprised of a tie clip, keychain, and a ring, belonged to Eric Nicol. Though born in Kingston, ON, Nicol’s family moved to BC when he was two and he was truly a Vancouver boy, attending high school at Lord Byng and university at UBC. After a few years away in Europe, he returned to Vancouver and became a longtime humour columnist for The Province, winning three Stephen Leacock Memorial Medals for Humour during his tenure.
These three pieces were awarded to him by The Province; a tie clip for 15 years of service, a keychain for 20 years, and a ring for 25 years. It’s unclear what company was responsible for the manufacture of the tie clip and key chain, but the ring’s history reads like a provenance hat trick. Not only was it awarded to a Vancouver resident by a Vancouver newspaper, it was produced by Birks, which has, despite its origins in Montreal, over a century’s worth of history in Vancouver.
The other service awards the MOV has in its collection are from Woodward’s. The company awarded its employees everything from tie tacks, to watches, to cufflinks and earrings. Most of the awards in the MOV’s collection are for 20 years of service and the Roman numerals XX feature prominently. There are a few tie tacks and a set of cufflinks, however, which feature the iconic script W that the company first started using in 1958.
It’s strange to imagine being gifted rings and cufflinks by one’s employer, much less working for the same one for over 20 years. Much like being able to afford a house in Vancouver or making it through March without a rainy day, it’s not something that a lot of people see as feasible. However, should anyone currently employed at the MOV still be around in 20 years, I’d like to see them gifted with our iconic white roof immortalized as a giant pendant from Birks, thank you very much.
The digitization of the Vancouver History Collection was made possible by funding from the British Columbia History Digitization Program at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University of British Columbia.