In answering the question 'What Use Are Metals To Me?' for our spring 2015 exhibit, I can't help but think of one of our site's coolest, yet least-considered features - a kerosene can roof. I think of it as it reminds me of how the recycling of our essential mined materials is not a modern concept.
Back in the early years of the Britannia Mine, self-sustainability was a way of life. Not through concerns about climate change or our ecological footprint, but because there was no choice. And the residents learned to make good use of old 'junk'.
Before the railway came through Britannia Beach in 1956 and the highway in 1958, the only way in and out of the community was by steamship. That meant everything had to come in by boat. Vancouver was several hours away. A quick trip to your hardware store of choice wasn't an option. For a start, there were only the two Mine-owned company stores to choose from. And given the isolation and need to import all goods by boat, items were expensive.
Coming back to today and some observant visitors may notice the roof of the old Pipe and Welding shop, but I suspect that for the most part it goes largely unnoticed. After all there is the imposing Mill 3 that grabs your attention. But if you happen to read this before a visit to the Museum then I urge you to check it out when you are here.
We don't know too much about the roof other than it is made of kerosene cans. These cans would have been common at Britannia, as residents used the fuel for heat and/or light. With an industrial building in need of a new roof, some bright spark took the notion to flatten the cans and turn them into shingles. They have lasted for many years and are holding up well despite being rusted. In terms of adding character to the site, these shingles are one of my favourites.
Header photo: courtesy of Denise Corcoran
In the time of COVID-19, when our lives have been turned upside down, it can help to reflect on what has gone before, in order to find hope for what may come.