General Store Site 12294 Harris Road Pitt Meadows, B.C.Click Here for Directions
Our Young Canada Works summer grant student, Austin Larson, offers a peek into his new job at our Hoffmann and Son Site.
Have you ever wondered what the lower mainland of B.C. was like 120 years ago? In a time where people used to make do with simpler tools to achieve their goals, what hardships did they face? And what would experiencing the birth of a railway spanning Canada feel like, and how would it have affected someone’s life right here in Pitt Meadows? This is what I wanted to find out, and there is no better place for that but right here. My name is Austin Larson, I’m a student from Simon Fraser University here to assist the Pitt Meadows Museum this summer with accessioning artifacts and helping with the many community events the museum is a part of.
This summer I have been tasked with photographing, measuring, and recording details of artifacts in the forge of the Hoffmann and Son Site. As in most forges, most of the tools and equipment were hand crafted or modified by Hans Hoffmann, making each artifact very unique with its specific niche in his shop. After Hans retired from ditch digging in 1979, he noticed his shop was the only one left that still took the time to “make parts for old, odd, interesting engines,” and to do it with “old, odd, interesting equipment,” which makes identifying the use of an old, odd, interesting tool made by his hands an exciting challenge.
As for myself, I am uncertain at what educational path to take, and thus have been in General Studies at SFU for two semesters. I know I have a strong lust for knowledge, and I like to make everything I do an educational experience, so a job at a museum where learning is part of the work was an irresistible opportunity. I applied for the government grant through Youth Canada Works website and soon after met with the curator, Leslie Norman, and her assistant, Jennifer Chernecki, for an interview. Speaking with them about the work I would be doing only made my anticipation and interest for the job grow. My first time in the Hoffmann and Sons shop I felt like a kid in a candy store; I moved quickly between machines and equipment, reading the placards and inquiring about others that didn’t have information. I’m still learning from things I find in the shop, and I probably will continue to during the summer.
I have only just begun my work here, but I have spent almost all of it unearthing old information which has seemed forgotten by the recent generation. While accessioning artifacts I try to discern their uses and origins, often leading me on a small hunt through the museum’s library for an old book on the subject in my spare time. While reading I always uncover new information which has me hunting down other artifacts in the museum’s collection, and the cycle repeats itself. It reminds me of a quote by Albert Einstein, “As our circle of knowledge expands, so does the circumference of darkness surrounding it;” for everything I learn of the past, even more questions arise to hook my intrigue.
Come by the Hoffmann and Son Site building and let me peak your interest of some of the old, odd, and interesting machines and tools Hans Hoffmann built and worked on. The site is open from 1pm-4pm, Wednesday to Sunday. Bring some questions that I can help answer or just come to see the cool machinery. Thanks for reading!