Museum to commemorate Morrissey Internment

An exhibit on the history of the Morrissey Internment Camp will open soon at the Fernie Museum.

An exhibit on the history of the Morrissey Internment Camp will open soon at the Fernie Museum.

The exhibit will coincide with the centennial anniversary of the internment operations in the Elk Valley and will make use of internationally conducted research.

“The museum has been working closely with Fernie resident Daniel Ste-Marie and Sarah Beaulieu, a PhD candiate researching the Morrissey internment operations,” said museum director Ron Ulrich. “This exhibit in many ways is a completion of the first phase of that research and will tell the story in ways that it hasn’t been fully told before with the cooperation of archives nationally and internationally.”

In light of the War Measures Act of 1914, which enabled the registration and interment of “enemy aliens”, Elk Valley internment operations saw approximately 800 prisoners interned in Morrissey from June 1915 to October 1918.

Most internees were former citizens of Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe while some were naturalized Canadian citizens.

Ulrich said that there are also plans for the project to become a major travelling exhibit between the 24 British Columbian and Albertan internment locations and beyond.

Ulrich said that Burnaby-based Simon Fraser University has already booked the project to appear in their gallery.

“Even though it’s a very difficult and painful part of our past we feel that it’s important to delve into these experiences and these events that happened in order to allow us to understand our community better,” said Ulrich.

In addition to the exhibit, the museum will benefit from $24,500 in funding to put on a symposium highlighting the international research conducted for this project.

The funds are derived from the Endowment Council of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund and the Consulate-General of Switzerland in Vancouver.

“What the symposium will do is it will bring all the researchers who have been looking at the Morrissey Internment camp story from various angles to present their papers and provide an opportunity for dialogue around the camp and its operations,” said Ulrich. “A lot of us know the research that’s being done but we’ve never all sat collectively in the same room together. With this it will also afford us the opportunity to understand the gaps that may still exist in terms of historical records and research.”

The museum will host a preview night for Historical Society members on Friday, June 5 with the general public opening of the exhibit the next night on Saturday, June 6.