In Japan, it is believed that as you walk through the torii gate, you pass from the mundane or profane to the sacred.
At the Museum at Campbell River, a red torii gate marks the beginning of the new temporary exhibit Suigyo no Majiwar: A Friendship of Trust and Faith. Stepping through the gate, visitors will find colourful koi fish windsocks hanging from the ceiling, artwork, ornate gifts from Japan and information about the strong connections between Campbell River and Ishikari, Japan.
The exhibit celebrates the sister city relationship between these two coastal communities. It explores the history of the Campbell River Twinning Society and also focuses on the relationship developed through the sister city program between Ishikari and Campbell River since 1983.
The term “sister city” or “town twinning” refers to an agreement of social, cultural and economic exchange between two culturally or politically differing communities, according to the museum’s exhibit.
Since the official sister city agreement was signed in 1983, Campbell River and Ishikari have celebrated the anniversary of the twinning every 10 years. Local festivals and youth exchange programs reaffirm the relationship between the two communities.
Ken Blackburn, the museum’s director of public programs, says this exhibit was a real team effort.
Interim curator Suzanne Bonner went through the historic information provided by the Campbell River Twinning Society to create the content and worked with collections manager Megan Purcell, who did a lot of the work to set up the panels. Blackburn designed and oversaw the exhibit, and executive director Sandra Parrish oversaw the big picture.
“We thought it is an important aspect of the community’s contemporary history and 33 years in, this would be a good time to showcase it,” said Parrish. “[It was] really to support a society that had taken this on for so many years and been able to pass the torch along to different members over the years, and showcase them, promote some interest.”
Blackburn says this exhibit is an example of how the museum reaches out to groups or industries that are still active but also have a strong history in the area.
“Part of what we do is attempt to reflect the community,” he said. “To do that, we reach out to community groups and try to make partnerships with groups. The museum has a lot of entry points, whether we’re preserving the history of those groups through artifacts or through newspaper articles. In some cases, we may just have things that are here that reflect the group but in other cases, we have this living history idea where things are still active, they have quite a history but they’re still ongoing.
“[The exhibit] kind of fits that broader mandate of preserving but at the same time celebrating and participating with the community in activities that are still ongoing.”
For both Bonner and Blackburn, the strength of the friendship between people in Ishikari and in Campbell River really shone through as they worked on the exhibit.
“It was interesting when working with the twinning society, you can really tell how the members who were part of it, how being involved in the society has affected them positively and the lasting relationships they’ve developed as a result — not just the student exchanges, but people from Campbell River going to visit Ishikari and vice versa,” said Bonner.
Bonner hopes that people who visit the exhibit take away a sense of how much the relationship between Campbell River and Ishikari has developed since 1983.
“Initially, it was meant to have economic benefits as well as cultural understanding and friendships, but it seems that the economic ties never really developed, it was more so the cultural and personal relationships,” she said. “It seems to be a really big part of our community, so many of our youth have travelled to Ishikari and have gained confidence and become global citizens.”
The exhibit opened March 18 and runs until May 30.
“The Campbell River Museum’s exhibit celebrating our sister city relationship is artistic and fresh in its approach to revealing the historical ties between Campbell River and Ishikari,” said David Armitage, president of the Campbell River Twinning Society. “The new temporary sister city exhibit offers the general public a way to become more aware of the connections we hold between our two cities. In highlighting our 33-year history, it shows our accessibility of student exchange and involvement, cultural enrichment and the importance of salmon to both our communities. It reinforces the importance both Campbell River and Ishikari place on international connections, how faith and trust have developed and grown into more than just a friendship but into a feeling of family.”
From left, Debbie Kroot, Doug Saqui and Maryann Saqui look at the displays in the new temporary exhibit at the museum.