Thunderbird Park is right next door to, and essentially a part of, the Royal BC Museum. I say that it is essentially part of the Royal BC Museum because it is part of the same grounds, and many of the items there are of historical interest to the past of British Columbia and Victoria. For example, one of the structures (Helmcken House) in the park is the oldest publicly accessible building in BC that is still sitting on its original foundation in its original location.
An assortment of totems also populate the park, and each of these has a story (as any totem should!).
Currently the historic Helmcken House building is closed to the public as there is restoration work ongoing. It is thought it will reopen to the public in spring of 2011. This house was originally opened as a museum in its own right in 1941. As it is a separate entrance fee and attraction from the Royal BC Museum, it really deserves its own entry. However, i was unable to visit it due to the closure for restoration.
One of the other large buildings in the park may look like an older structure, but it is actually much newer than this. It faces the corner of Bellville Street and Douglas Street, and you will notice a huge First Nations character face on that side of the building - there is no missing that face! This structure was constructed in the 1950s. It is called Wawadiťła (the Mungo Martin House for those who get tongue tied with First Nations names) and is still used for First Nations events of various types.
Next door to Wawadiťła is a structure dating from the very early 1980s. It s a carving studio for the continued creation of poles and other objects by First Nations carvers. It is apparently mostly used in the warmer months.
The web site below is located on the Royal BC Museum web site. It has the best summary I have been able to find of the various features of the park (including the various poles residing there) and a history of the park. To see what is in the park today, select the "present park" item from the menu on the right side of the page.
The various grounds of the museum also includes a number of items of interest that are not inside the museum, and those may be interesting to explore as well. They aren't exactly part of Thunderbird Park, but they are not exactly part of the Royal BC Museum either, other than they sit on the grounds of the museum - just as the items in Thunderbird Park sort of do now. For example, there are gardens on the grounds that have a small collection of native British Columbia plants, and there are several fountains. Dinosaur footprints occupy an area near the main entrance to the museum, and a set of totem poles from an old First Nations village have been preserved in a huge glass display case facing Thunderbird Park - we can hope that they enjoy the companionship of their fellow totems that remain outdoors.
As I am including all things on the grounds outside the musuem, perhaps the most dominant of those is the Netherlands Centennial Carillon, which towers over the nearest busy intersection outside the museum, but is one block west of Thunderbird Park itself.
While not officially part of Thunderbird Park, this huge bell tower is in fact part of the exterior features of the Royal British Columbia Museum, and therefore it fits in more with the features of Thunderbird Park than it does in some of the other categories.
The Carillon was a gift from the Dutch community of British Columbia as thanksgiving for Canada's role in liberating the Netherlands during World War II. It was officially opened in 1968. It currently has 62 bells, though 13 of those were added in 1971.
At the base of the Carillon there are a series of signs which tell the performance schedule, and a bit about the resident bell ringer at the control panel. When I visited the schedule was Sundays only, 3:00 to 3:45 in the afternoon. However, I did hear brief sections of music issue from the tower on other days and hours, so it is possible that practice sessions and testing also happen from time to time. However, the official performance schedule is when you can hear the music really flow from the tower.
The biggest problem is finding a place to enjoy the music, as the roads nearby a really busy and quite noisy. Places well inside the grounds of the Empress are quite taken with road noise as well, though certainly better than right next to the intersection. Places along the waterfront are somewhat sheltered from this noise, if you get down to the walkway along the water rather than street level. Also, the grounds of the Parliament building are a good choice too.
The carillon is on the grounds of the Royal British Columbia Museum, and the official web site for the museum has a page about the Carillon, which appears to be the closest available for an official web site for the bell tower.
According to the web site, the Carillon has themes to its music based on the month of the year.
The oldest surviving house in Victoria, and supposedly all of British Columbia, is the Helmcken House, built in 1852. It is in Thunderbird Park next to the Royal British Columbia Museum. It belinged to Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken, a physician with the Hudson's Bay Company and early Victoria settler. It is open to visit and has displays.
No matter how many times I have visited the Park I always go back for more...I am always intrigued by these totems and I never tire of seeing or photographing them...
Totem Poles are carved wooden pillars made by the First Nations of the Northwest Coast and are objects, usually animals that serve as an emblem for a family or clan. It represents a symbolic relationship between nature and human kin groups..
In 1940 a handful of old totem poles were erected on a vacant lot at the corner of Douglas and Belleville streets as a part of a conservation effort to preserve and display some of Vancouver Islands First Nations art that was quickly deteriorating.By 1951 the original poles had become severely decayed and the provincial government invited the late Chief Mungo Martin to be head carver of the Totem Restoration Program.After Martin's passing in 1962,native artist Henry Hunt carried on the program and for the time being the park is a tribute to the First Nations story here in Victoria and British Columbia...Most of the totems are recreations of the originals that sat here in 1940 with the exception of the pole located beside the Wawadit'la...or Mungo Martin house...
Today it is a park like setting surrounded by green grass and trees...its easy to get to..and easy to explore....its also FREE to access the grounds and you can take as long as you like to look at the different poles...
While Victoria's English heritage is very present throughout downtown, I feel that it's very important to acknowledge Victoria's long-standing First Nations heritage. For the First Nations (the politically correct name to call native aboriginal peoples in Canada) have been living on Vancouver Island for thousands of years. While it's true that one can visit the Royal BC Museum to see its First Nations exhibit, a visit to Thunderbird Park also offers visitors a chance to see material culture of Vancouver Island's First Nations, such as totem poles and the long house.
Whether these totem poles were actually made for Thunderbird Park, or were taken from other locations with or without permission, I don't know.
If you're not from Canada or North America, you might not be aware that totem poles are only indigenous to the natives of British Columbia, and parts of Washington state and Alaska. But they are not made by natives elsewhere in North America.
One thing that most people don't realize is that "First Nations" is just one giant umbrella term to signify the dozens of indigenous cultures in Canada. While "native" and "aboriginal" are used, the terms "Indian" and "Native American" are not. In Canada, the term "American" refers to citizens of the USA. As well, the First Nations have been living here for thousands of years before there was a USA or a Canada. Thus, "First Nations" is used because they were the first people to populate the land. This is the name they give themselves as a collective of indigenous nations.
First Nations cultures are distinct from one another, often with different languages, customs, and cultural aesthetics. Vancouver Island's First Nations include the Kwakwaka'wakw, the Nu-Chah-Nulth and the Coast Salish. This is also true for the totem poles which these cultures produce. Although we see them all as "totem poles" made by "First Nations", they have distinct aesthetics and uses, depending on the culture that produced it. It is not always obvious to tell certain artistic traits apart.
Thunderbird Park is a small area next to the Royal British Columbia Museum where you can see a collection of story poles (totem poles). There is also a workshop where you can watch traditional carving (with modern tools) if you are lucky. The park is free to enter, though a donation is welcome in the carving house.
Located at the corner of Belleville and Douglas Street, Thunderbird Park came into existance in 1941 when the museum took several totem poles from its collections and put them in outdoors on the museum grounds. Within a decade the original totem poles had deteriorated, so the museum was forced to move them back indoors. They contacted Mungo Martin, a professional carver, to create new totem poles to place in the park. It took several years, but they finally filled the park with beautiful totem poles. In the photo, you will see a totem pole beside Mungo Martin House, a building used today for celebration and education by First Nations people. Beside the Mungo Martin House lies the carving studies, where artists continue to craft new totem poles (and sometimes the public can watch).
At the website below, you can explore the past and present of Thunderbird Park. You can even scroll your mouse over the different totem poles and learn to identify their symbols. Totem poles serve a variety of purposes. They record historical events, present family lineages, shame individuals and groups, and represent shamanic powers.
As Thunderbird Park is outdoors, admission is free and it's open all day and all night! I wouldn't want to wander around there after dark though!
If you are looking for totem poles in Victoria, you will find lots of them in Thunderbird Park which is located very close to the Empress Hotel and Parliament Buildings. You can look at all kinds of totem poles, big and small, with all kinds of different designs. They are part of the culture of the natives of the area.
The park has a wonderful collection of Totem Poles. Don’t miss it. You walk slowly at the open air collection of Totem Poles learning to appreciate this glorious art. It started in 1940 when old totem poles were erected at the corner of Douglas and Belleville streets as a part of conservation efforts to preserve and display some of the Northwest Coast's art. By 1951 the original poles had become severely decayed, so late Chief Mungo Martin was invited to be head carver of the Totem Restoration Program. After Martin's passing in 1962, native artist Henry Hunt carried on the program as head carver. Richard Hunt and Tim Paul succeeded Henry Hunt until the end of the program in 1992.
it is not a very big park in downtown, but the totem poles do attract my attention and wanna have a look what's it about.
take a slow walk and look around, this park in surround by museum and other low rise buildings along the main street. In there, you can see a small house which tells people a little history of Victoria and the life of "new" comers from UK when they stayed here. The house inside still be remained to have the original design for people to see how it was in the past.
This park, beside the BC Museum, features a long house and several totems from the Bella Coola, Haida, Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuu-cha-nulth, Salish, and Tsimshian people. Sometimes you can even watch carvers at work.
Park open daily dawn-dusk. Free.
Spend some time in Thunderbird Park, the ground in front of the Royal BC Museum. It contains a reproduction tribal "bighouse" (or ceremonial hall) and several totems. Nice spot to take some pictures.
THUNDERBIRD PARK: Beside the Royal BC Museum. Collection of labelled totem poles.
In the Thunderbird Park Carving Studio, you can watch & talk to Native Indian artists at work. Neat!