Educate! Illustrate! Organize! Working-class and Labour History Through Comics is a 3 month exhibit curated by Robin Folvik, a member of the Graphic History Collective. The exhibit was created for the Cumberland Museum and Archives to open in conjunction with the Pacific Northwest Labour History Association and Miners’ Memorial Weekend, June 12-15th, 2014. It highlights artwork from the Graphic History Collective and from the Graphic History Project, an initiative to bring together different groups of artists and authors to create radical, illustrated histories.
The Graphic History Collective is made up of academics, activists, educators, researchers, and artists. We came together in 2009 to publish May Day: A Graphic History of Protest in Canada with financial support from SSHRC and the guidance of Dr. Mark Leier (Simon Fraser University History Department). Through that process, we developed more than just a finished comic; we also scratched out a space where we each could explore and experiment with ways of sharing work and support as part of the creative process.
Shortly after publishing our third edition of May Day with Between the Lines Press in 2012, we decided we wanted to expand the collective to include others as part of this process. With the encouragement of noted American historian Paul Buhle, we drafted a call-out for others to work with us to create short comics focused on radical and/or marginalized histories as part of the Graphic History Project. The plan was to make the comics available online for free and to later compile them as part of an edited collection. We received many responses, primarily from North America, and accepted nearly 20 of the story proposals. A large number of them focused on labour and working-class history, while several specifically connect to British Columbia.
Learning that the annual Pacific Northwest Labour History Association conference was planned for Cumberland, BC, to be held in conjunction with Miners’ Memorial Weekend, the Cumberland Museum and Archives seemed the perfect place to showcase some of this work. Three pages from five of the comics created as part of this Project are included.
Three pages from our inaugural project, May Day: A Graphic History of Protest, are also part of this exhibit. Although not specifically focused on the Pacific Northwest, Cumberland makes an appearance in the comic, alongside general labour history important to Canada.
Joining these pieces is a banner image created by Jay MacPherson, another contributor to the Graphic History Project. This banner image is for the Labour History Project, an initiative to create BC labour history/studies curriculum, supported by a number of groups including the Labour Heritage Centre, the BC Teachers’ Association, and the BC Federation of Labour. This banner image is used with the lesson plans developed for Working People: A History of Labour in BC, a series of short historical vignettes airing on the Knowledge Network and produced through the support of the Labour Heritage Centre. Characters in this drawing appear throughout the films.
Finally, given the importance of Cumberland, BC to labour and working-class history, to further honour the occasion Sam Bradd and Robin Folvik joined together to create a historical map of Cumberland, visually and textually marking neighbourhoods, along with places of interest and historical relevance. We received an incredible level of support and help from the Cumberland Museum, particularly with our liaison and final fact-checker Anna Rambow, and intern Maleah Schmitke, who pulled together valuable (and well organized!) facts and photographs. This map has been donated to the Cumberland Museum, under a Creative Commons licence, for sale in the gift shop with proceeds going back to support the Museum.
Participating Artists and Authors
Dreaming of What Might Be: Knights of Labor in Canada, 1880-1900.
Sam Bradd (Artist) with Sean Carleton, Julia Smith, Robin Folvik (Co-authors)
May Day: A Graphic History of Protest in Canada.
Sam Bradd, Trevor McKilligan (Artists) with Robin Folvik, Sean Carleton, Mark Leier (Co-authors)
Historic Houses in Cumberland, BC (Map)
Sam Bradd (Artist) with research assistance from Maleah Schmitke & Robin Folvik
Coal Mountain: A Graphic Re-telling of the 1935 Corbin Miners’ Strike.
Nicole Marie Burton, Artist and Author
Battle of Ballantyne Pier: An Injury to One is an Injury to All.
David Lester, Artist and Author Labour History Project (Banner Image)
Jay MacPherson, Artist
Bill Williamson: Hobo, Wobbly, Communist, On to Ottawa Trekker, Spanish Civil War Veteran, Photographer.
Kara Sievewright, Artist and Editor, with Bill Williamson’s words.
Dancing on the Water, Fighting for the Land: Indigenous Labour on Burrard Inlet.
Tania Willard, Secwepemc Nation (Artist) with Robin Folvik and Sean Carleton (Co-authors)
Special thanks to:
Murray Bush (Flux Design)
Cumberland Museum & Archives
Pacific Northwest Labour History Association
Jason C. Ross