Posted by: Guest Author on November 9, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Gentle readers, we’ve reached the conclusion of the Painful Crushes Vancouver series but what have we learned? Well, for starters, there’s no such thing as a fairytale romance with Vancouver (surprise!). As Charlie Demers told us last month, you can be head-over-heels with Vancouver but living here still sometimes feels like dating someone in rehab.

Counterintuitively, it seems that knocking Vancouver off its pedestal can actually help us get over our painful crushes. Once we realize that Vancouver’s not perfect we can begin repositioning ourselves in the city, reimagining the kinds of relationships we’d like to have here, and challenging Vancouver to be a better place.

This is something that my final interviewee, writer and journalist Charles Montgomery has thought a lot about in researching his upcoming book, The Happy City, which focuses on the connections between urban design and emotional wellbeing. Like other critical, outspoken Vancouverites, Charles loves the city but believes we have a lot to work on. In a fitting end to the series, he talks about how to cultivate the kinds of trusting relationships that make us happy even when the city itself sometimes gets in our way.

When it comes to Vancouver there seems to be some discrepancy between what we think will make us happy and what actually does. What makes a city truly happy?

Well, I recently spent the last day of summer at Wreck Beach, drinking cold beer, eating what turned out to be a poorly cooked Bavarian smokey, and watching the hippies cheer and dance the sun as it disappeared. It was a moment of sweetness followed almost immediately by convulsive vomiting. In some ways it’s a metaphor for the city: Vancouver looks like everything you ever wanted and yet somehow it produces a kind of unwellness.

For the past few years I’ve been researching the connection between the science of happiness and the ways in which we design and live in cities. Vancouver gets so much right and yet we know that people in small towns such as Windsor and St. John’s claim to be more satisfied with life. What are we doing wrong? We know that in places where people say they’re the happiest there’s a high degree of social trust which suggests that the most powerful contributor to our happiness is our relationships with other people.

You say happy cities “guide people into intersecting moments” by providing public spaces where people can meet and connect. Why is Vancouver so bad at this?

People in Vancouver have to work harder just to pay for the places where they live. When you’re working harder you don’t have as much time for personal relationships. And for a variety of reasons Vancouver has been actively designing these experiences out of people’s lives. There’s a tremendous demand for two-bedroom plus apartments but one-bedroom apartments are much more profitable to build. We end up having these towers filled with ‘isolation units’ downtown where you eat alone, you sleep alone, you wake up alone.

But we’re also making an effort. I think the Woodward’s development is a really optimistic expression of what it means to live in a city together and to take chances. For the first time we have a roof over a public space so that people from the neighbourhood have somewhere to come when it’s raining. There’s market housing right next door to social housing. We know that Vancouver’s reliance on its supermodel good looks and natural amenities hasn’t fulfilled us but maybe these kinds of experiments can lead us in that direction.

What can we do, short of redesigning the city, to make ourselves happier here?

John Helliwell, an economist at UBC, insists that we just have to try harder. You know that elevator in your apartment building? That’s an opportunity to create new relationships. I’ve also found that spending more time biking has really helped. I used to complain about rush hour and despise other drivers on the road. I began interacting with people in a different way when I started cycling to work. When the city built the Dunsmuir bike path I found that we cyclists began experiencing our own rush hour but rather than avoiding it I timed my trip so that I could ride with all these other people. It’s not that we’re all going to become best friends but a morning culture of conviviality has definitely emerged.

What spaces make you happy in Vancouver?

It’s funny, when I lived in the West End I was a block from the beach and I was a block from shops and services, but I felt inexplicably unhappy and terribly lonely. And that feeling didn’t disappear for me until I found my home in East Vancouver. I don’t have a mountain view, no seawall, no architectural icons, no Vancouverism. But somehow by turning my back on that famous city I found a place that embraced me warmly.

So does wanting to change Vancouver make the city a bit of a "project" or a "fixer upper"? Maybe, but then again maybe that’s not such a bad thing in this case.

This series might be over but the conversation doesn’t need to end here. Find @Museumofvan on Twitter and share your own #PainfulCrushes in our city. What expectations have changed for you since living in Vancouver? What places make you particularly happy or sad?

You can find Charles writing about how cities are making us happy and miserable here and here, and also here.

MOV Guest author Anna Wilkinson is a museologist and oral historian living in East Vancouver. Her Chestbursters blog is a collection of endearingly awkward, cringe-inducing, and heartbreaking crush stories.

Posted by: Viviane Gosselin on November 1, 2011 at 1:05 pm

They may not stick around forever, but these three “P” words are helping me to think through the exhibition concept and zoning. I want to start imagining how we will divide up our 3600 square foot gallery space into zones that will focus on key ideas. It definitely helped to fuel conversations at the meeting last week with the Sex Talk in the City advisory committee:

  • Pleasure: Everybody agrees (at least in our committee) that sex is good, fun and healthy and that sexual pleasure will mean different things to different people. As Scarlett Lake suggested at one of our meetings: “Sex should be understood like a buffet at a restaurant: you pick and choose what you want. Some people will have adventurous tastes whereas others will come back for  the same thing every time!
  • Politics: This is really about how power is acquired and applied by groups of people to make collective decisions. And there are plenty of examples where groups in position of power make decisions that affect the way we express our sexuality publically and privately. The committee wants to further explore the private/public nature of sexuality.
  • Pedagogy: It may not be the most fitting term to capture my idea but I really wanted to stay with the “P”! This theme has to do with identifying ways in which we talk about sexuality to people of all ages in ways that enable and empower them to critically engage with the mass of information (good and bad) that’s out there and make educated decisions about their sexuality.


These are interconnected themes that could be emphasized or intersected in different areas of the exhibition. Take sex toys for instance: they accessorize our sex lives to support sexual exploration and pleasure; they can increase our understanding of our own sexuality – real teaching moments— and they have recently been at the centre of heated debates over legislations (or lack thereof) surrounding the manufacturing and distribution of sex toys.

I’m in the process of negotiating the loans of some interesting “antique” artefacts with other museums and local stores. I‘ll let you guess what they are . . .

A huge MERCI to Andrea, Janna and Otter co-founders/owners of Womyns’Ware for a most inspiring afternoon conversation about the poetics and politics of locally designed and manufactured sex toys.

Read more on the  Sex Talk in the City Project

Join in the conversation on Twitter: @xtalkinthecity #xtalkMOV

Posted by: Erin Brown John on October 31, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Voting. After an extremely low turnout in 2008, the City of Vancouver is trying to make it easier for people to vote in municipal elections with social media apps, more advanced polling days, and translating information and ballot questions into Punjabi and Chinese. An earlier request by the city to test online voting during this election was turned down by the provincial government.

OccupyVancouver. The handling of the camp at the Vancouver Art Gallery has emerged as a major election issue and as the protestors become more entrenched, so too does the pressure to move them. City staff have began to talk to the people at the camp about ending the occupation, but have yet to figure out the course of action with the smallest amount of conflict.

Legal experts at UBC opine that since the Art Gallery is on provincial land, it exists in a complicated grey area where city bylaws do not apply, making it difficult for anyone to form a legal case for removing the camp.

Others complain politicians should instead focus on addressing the conditions that led to the protest in the first place.

Missing women. Families of the missing women have testified to years of frustration, as police repeatedly ignored missing persons reports and chose not to investigate or press charges after receiving tips as early as 1997. The deadline for the inquiry has been extended by six months, due to the volume of evidence and testimony, and how long the proceedings took to begin.

Liquor laws. Both the Rio and District 319 have come up against the province's outdated liquor laws that prohibit them from screening films after acquiring their liquor licenses.

Videomatica. Finally some good news about one of Vancouver's best video rental stores: after slumping business and rising rents forced Videomatica to shut down their West 4th store, they've announced that they will continue DVD sales out of the back of Zulu Records.

Community stories. A creative writing workshop at Onsite enables people in the Downtown Eastside to tell their own stories, while Hope in Shadows aims to do the same thing with photography.

In South Hill, residents have been using digital filmmaking to tell their stories and connect with their neighbours.

How a group of concerned community members saved the saved the hollow tree in Stanley Park.

Image: Karen Kuo

Posted by: Erin Brown John on October 18, 2011 at 2:51 pm

#occupyvancouver dominates the news this week. Thousands of people gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery for Occupy Vancouver's first General Assembly on Saturday. Many people are prepared to camp out for some time, though the ban on staking tents to the ground and cooking with propane makes this more difficult.

The Tyee asks people why they have chosen to take to the streets.

We Day. Meanwhile, another gathering for change: as 18,000 youth participate in We Day, where Mikhail Gorbachev and other speakers presented on the value of community service and youth engagement.

The Missing Women Inquiry is off to a rocky start with protests as several groups have chosen to not participate. Many groups are concerned that the lack of funding provided to advocacy groups for legal assistance for is a serious impediment to having their voices heard, and without their support for the process, it is uncertain whether the Inquiry will acheive its purpose.

Powwow. A huge powwow took place in the Downtown Eastside to honour First Nations elders.

Evelyn Lau was named Vancouver's next poet laureate in advance of the Vancouver 125 Poetry Conference later this week.

Re:CONNECT challenges Vancouverites to reinvision the city's eastern core and viaducts as a vibrant space.

No more pictures. Jeff Wall laments the loss of photogenic buildings in Vancouver.

Local food. A few months after being featured in MOV's Home Grown exhibit, the Home Grow-In Grocery closed suddenly, taking customers' deposits with it. Now the store has reopened with new owners, who are trying to regain the trust of their customers while building our local food infrastructure.

Ethnic enclaves. Is it time for Vancouver to have a Pinoytown?

Image: Ariane Colenbrander

Posted by: Erin Brown John on October 11, 2011 at 3:10 pm

#OccupyVancouver. While protests on Wall Street continue, actions are spreading around North America and a demonstration is planned for Vancouver on October 15. While there's little indication that it has the potential of becoming violent, it seems to have the Vancouver Business Improvement Association worried.

The movement has Vancouver roots, though some at the General Assembly at W2 on the 8th felt that given the colonial history of Canada, "occupy" is an inapproriate term for the event.

Digitization. The Vancouver Archives describes some of the work and new challenges they're facing in storing digital content.

Arts spaces. As Red Gate finally closes, the City of Vancouver debates a report about how to promote the creation and upkeep of artist studios around the city.

Building Vancouver has been posting some really fascinating material lately about the people who were involved with building many of Vancouver's historical buildings. It's worth a look.

Image: caelie_

Posted by: Kate Follington on October 6, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Neon photography by Walter Griba Neon Vancouver | Ugly Vancouver opens at the MOV on Thursday, October 13. The  exhibition explores Vancouver's gritty, urban past in a fascinating look at the explosion of neon signs in the 1950s through 1970s and the visual purity crusade that virtually eradicated them from Vancouver streets.

Memories already starting to flow this way, and we're wondering what neon stories you have.

Did you use to have a neon sign at your store? Were you a frequenter of a club or shop with a great neon sign? Do you remember a hotel sign now long gone or foster fond memories of one still there today?

Tell us your neon story, or share with us what your favourite piece of neon signage in the city is – or was!

Comment below, engage on our Facebook, or add pictures to our Flickr Pool of neon signs that you’ve photographed.

Can't wait to hear your tales!

Posted by: Erin Brown John on October 3, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Insite. Hastings Street erupted into a clebration and pancake breakfast as people gathered to hear the Supreme Court of Canada reject the federal government's appeal to close Insite. This is a landmark decision  - not only does it allow the facility to remain open but it signals a change in attitudes toward addicts and positions healthcare as a higher priority than law and order. The unanimous decision by the court opens up possibility of safe injection sites across the country. Kind of fitting that this happened in Vancouver, the birthplace of Canada's first drug laws.

Stanley Park. While it's now the uncontroversial crown jewel of our city, Stanley Park got off to a rocky start, as the land was not only expropriated from First Nations people but also others who made their homes on the land. The removal of these people took nearly 40 years.

Growing pains. You can never have too much of a good thing. Or can you? In some cities there is a glut of farmer's markets and not enough consumer demand, forcing them to compete with each other for customers. In Vancouver the tight control over the creation of new markets seems to ensure that this will not be the case but in the suburbs it's a different story.

Mural tour. The City of Vancouver has created a cool interactive map and audio tour of murals in the downtown core and East Van.

Places that matter. John Atkin shares more of his findings while researching materials for the Heritage Foundation's Places that Matter project. This week: the Louvre Hotel and Saloon.

Image via Bruce...

Posted by: Wendy Nichols on October 3, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Greetings from behind the scenes at the Museum of Vancouver. A born and bred Vancouverite, I’ve now been working my dream job as Curator of Collections for just over two years. Outside of work you’ll find me enjoying our local food scene either at the Farmer’s Market or one of Vancouver’s great locavore restaurants. When not eating, I do my best to take in our fabulous surroundings hiking, kayaking, or snowshoeing. 

At the MOV, I’m the one in charge of keeping track of all the artifacts and their respective stories. This is my first blog post so I thought I’d introduce you to one of the fun parts of my job. 

As Curator of Collections, one of my roles is to assist in the acquisition of artifacts for the collection. The best part of this job is meeting with the donors and learning about the story that goes with each object. Often, the item has been passed down within a family and so the details about the where, why, and when have become blurry or even lost. This will understandably happen. Sometimes, an individual will recognize that though his or her object may not be that old, what they’ve got is a little piece of Vancouver history that must be shared. On these occasions, we benefit by receiving the story of that object firsthand. 

One such case happened earlier this year. Long-time Vancouver resident, Bill Earle, was downsizing and came across his 1950 Admiral television set that he has been carrying with him on each household move for the last 60 years. He recognized that this piece both told a part of his own personal history of a boy growing up in Vancouver, as well as represented a period in television history by providing such a great contrast to the 36” flat screen televisions found in many Vancouverites’ homes today. MOV agreed that this was an artifact and a story worth preserving. Mr. Earle kindly wrote out the history of the television so that nothing was lost. 

Vintage adrmial TV set 

7" Admiral black and white mantel television set, 1948

The above television set was purchased second-hand in 1953 by Bill Earle. Bill was just 13 years old at the time. Living on Alma Road and attending Point Grey Junior High, Bill earned his pocket money as a bicycle delivery boy for Moran’s Drug Store on Dunbar Street at West 40th Ave. Over three years of working there for a wage of 35 cents an hour, he had saved an impressive $75 dollars to put toward a special purchase. Bill saw the TV advertised in the Vancouver Province classifieds and convinced his father to go with him to take a look. The asking price was $95 so Bill’s father generously agreed to chip in the required $20 to meet the purchase price.    

When larger TVs, 17” and 21” models became more readily available, Bill’s family purchased a 21” Chisholm and the above little gem wound up being stored (as a precious heirloom!) in the basements of three different homes until its recent move to the Museum of Vancouver.

Bill’s TV is now always accessible via MOV’s brand new on-line artifact database. Click the green openMOV button in the top left corner. To go directly to the record for the Admiral TV, follow this link.

A big thank you to Bill Earle and all our donors for the time and thought you’ve put into your donations to the Museum of Vancouver. Without you, we (and by that I mean Vancouver) wouldn’t have the strong collection that we do.

For me, I have fond memories of watching TV as a child in my brother’s upstairs bedroom as that was the only room in which we could get adequate reception. We didn’t have cable so there were just 4 channels. My first memories are of the Friendly Giant, Mr. Dress Up, and Sesame St. line up. The TV was still in my brother’s room when I was in grade six and discovered that we got Little House on the Prairie (!). The poor guy - I wonder if this is why we soon got cable and the TV was moved to the rec room. 

What about you?  What are your early memories of TV?  Do you remember when the “remote control” was connected to the TV with a wire? Or when Betamax was the hottest thing? Or what other kinds of everyday artifacts represent your piece of Vancouver history?

Stay tuned for more behind the scenes blog posts from MOV’s Curatorial Department.

Posted by: Viviane Gosselin on October 3, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Where did September go? It feels like we opened Chosen Family @ MOV just yesterday, yet so much has happened since then with the gathering of material and ideas for Sex Talk in the City. Most importantly, we’ve learned (via feedback like that above) that our visitors think we should do more shows like Chosen Family Portraits.

This is great news and it confirms our hunch that our visitors are interested in talking and learning about various aspects of sexuality as it relates to life in Vancouver. It was on this encouraging note that the research phase of Sex Talk in the City began in mid-August. This is such a great part of the exhibition process! It’s all about imagining possibilities, brainstorming with people, and locating stories and artefacts. It’s definitely a non-linear process!

This phase involves lots of reading (from scholarly publications in museum studies and social sciences to school curricula, to graphic novels and historical studies), screening films and documentaries, interviewing people in the city (nurses, writers, LGBTQ youth, historians, and teachers), and following leads. A big thanks to those who have emailed me suggestions about people I should meet or subjects the exhibition should include. I agree with those who suggested I visit sex stores: it definitely qualifies as an educational experience!

To read more see

Join in the conversation on Twitter: @xtalkinthecity #xtalkMOV

Posted by: Erin Brown John on September 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Green roofs. In a new video landscape architect Bruce Hemstock discusses the green roof on top of the Vancouver Convention Centre and how it came to be.

There's also a garden on the roof of the main branch of the VPL. It's lesser-known because it's hard to get to and not normally open to the public. The Dependent shows us what's up there.

BC Place. With BC Place set to reopen with its new roof, the Sun looks at the history of the building and the impact it has had on the city.

Light show. A decorative light display on the side of a building is proving controversial in Coal Harbour with neighbours who find it distracting and claim that it damages their view. The controversy calls into question whether the city should be consulting with residents before installing public art.

Yes in my backyard. How to deal with neighbours that are against everything? Pivot Legal Society has created a YIMBY manual for people who want to support developments and social projects in their neighbourhoods.

Walking the city. Daphne Bramham at the Vancouver Sun reflects on a summer spent touring different neighbourhoods around the city with local residents. History, housing, walkability and sense of belonging were continually highlighted as issues for people, regardless of neighbourhood, as well as a sense of pride in the places they lived.

Image: dooq, via flickr


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