During the seasonal festivities of 1985 Les Skipsey and Gavin Halkett, both retired teachers, realized what a rich and varied educational history Nanaimo has and so began the story of our important and impressive Skipsey Educational Heritage Collection.
Of significance to the local communities are the files of schools from the mid-Vancouver Island region, past and present. As well, the Collection houses one of Western Canada’s most complete collections of educational texts dating back to the 1800s. A third and equally important component of the Skipsey Educational Heritage Collection is the various memorabilia, priceless artifacts, old photographs and early teaching aids. What began as a collection of bits and pieces stored in boxes eventually grew into a true library/museum where the 3,000 items could be displayed and studied by interested parties. Over the years several catalogues of the growing Collection were done until eventually it was decided that it should be put on a database and made available to the School District and community at large.
The number of volunteers who wrote down information, packed and unpacked boxes, shelved, sorted and moved items over the years are numerous, but special mention should go to Vicki Harrison, Mary Skipsey, Les Skipsey, Bernice Ward and Leigh Wharton who kept working even when it seemed that the Collection was going to fold. Another important person, who deserves uncounted thanks, for her patience and persistence is Pat Parkin who singlehandedly put all of the gathered data for each item into a database catalogue, as well as, developing a manual to be used by future workers.
Special recognition must be given to then Superintendent Mike Munro, senior staff of SD 68 and the Board of Trustees who on March 25, 2009 signed a Letter of Agreement to preserve this unique collection in perpetuity. Thanks should also be given to such organizations as, New Horizon for Seniors, the BCRTA, and our own branch, the NLRTA, for the funding that they gave to the Heritage Committee to continue its work on the compilation and preservation of the Collection.
Finally and even more importantly, heartfelt thanks go to both the living and those long gone who recognized the educational and historical value of their photographs, mementos, books, artifacts, and other items and who then entrusted these things to the NLRTA Heritage Committee. Because it was this trust that helped to make the Skipsey Educational Heritage Collection what it is and so helped us, the NLRTA, make sure that ‘the future has a past’.