Virtual Exhibitions & Catalogues



Changing Waters: The Impact of Hydroelectric Development on the Landscape British Columbia from the Ron Waters Collection

Changing Waters features over 500 never before seen colour slides from the late 1950s to the early 1980s of the Kootenay Region, many from mining roads only accessible by four-wheel drive. The majority of the slides highlight the changes to the landscape brought on by the hydroelectric development in the area. These images are especially significant at this time as they depict the dams and reservoirs that are a part of the Canadian Columbia Basin covered by the Columbia River Treaty.

Ron Waters was an avid hiker and well-known amateur photographer. He has had several of his photographs published and in 1953 won the Beautiful Canada Calendar contest-cover. The images are unique because they are not aerials, but were taken from the top of various mountainous terrains in British Columbia. Ron would hike to the same location year after year recording the changes to the landscape with his camera. This gave a different perspective of the changes because at the time, not many people went hiking or exploring with cameras.

The creation of the site was funded in part by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University of British Columbia, British Columbia History Digitization Program.

Visit the exhibition at



Captured Power - Hydroelectric Projects from the Stevens Studio Collection

Captured Power features over 300 never before seen photographs of dams in the Columbia Basin. The images depict the construction, opening ceremonies, and ongoing operations of various West Kootenay power plants and hydroelectric dams, including the Duncan Dam, the Lower Bonnington Dam, the Keenleyside Dam, and the Kootenay Canal.

The Stevens Studio Collection is made up of thousands of photographs in several formats including: negatives, prints, slides, and film. Photographs selected for this project are related to the dams in the West Kootenay region during a period of significant development of hydroelectric infrastructures.

The creation of the site was funded in part by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University of British Columbia, British Columbia History Digitization Program.

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Discovered - The Kootenay Outlet Collection

This collection of 152 glass-plate negatives contain images of the Kootenay Lake Outlet area, including the communities of Procter, Balfour, Longbeach, Harrop, Nelson and Ainsworth; the Prairies; and even Europe, circa 1900-1910. These photographic records demonstrate an area developing into a residential and agricultural centre at the time of growth in the fruit industry in the West Kootenay region.

The creation of the site has been funded in part by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University of British Columbia, British Columbia History Digitization Program.

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Snapshots of the West

The Jacob “Jake” Ludwig sous-fonds consists of 202 black and white glass-plate and cellulose nitrate negatives. These photographs depict early BC mining camps and equipment; trains, steamships and sternwheelers of the Columbia Basin and the Coast; towns and cities including: Nelson, Rossland, Vernon, Kamloops and Revelstoke, parks in Vancouver and Victoria and various government buildings. Also included are some images of the Yukon, Southern Alaska, and Northern California.

The creation of the site has been funded in part by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University of British Columbia, British Columbia History Digitization Program.

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Landscape Lost: Forestry and Life in the Duncan River Valley

Touchstones Nelson is pleased to announce the launch of its newest online exhibit Landscape Lost: Forestry and Life in the Duncan River Valley. The site is a collection of photographs by Robert “Bob” Wallace of the Upper Duncan River Valley including fire lookouts, old mining and trappers cabins, community gatherings, as well as, the communities of Howser and Lardeau.

The BC Forest Service hired Wallace around 1939 as a lookoutman at Bear Creek in the Upper Duncan River Valley. Over 200 photographs document the area prior to the construction of the Duncan Dam that flooded the valley in 1967. The images, beautiful in their own right, have added significance in that they document jobs, transportation methods and communities that no longer exist, yet were common place just over half a century ago.

The site includes a biographical sketch of the photographer and excerpts from a work journal kept by Wallace in the summer of 1942 as he worked on the construction of the Bear Lookout in the Upper Duncan Valley.  Visitors to the site will get a glimpse of the talents, hard work ethic and love of the outdoors Wallace shared with his family, friends and co-workers.

The creation of the site has been funded in part by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University of British Columbia, British Columbia History Digitization Program. The exhibit is available at:


A History of John Houston

A virtual exhibition based on the life of Nelson’s first mayor, John Houston, is now available thanks to the Nelson History Theatre Society. Featuring rare photographs, engaging excerpts from early Nelson newspapers, and a detailed timeline, the website is both a comprehensive and entertaining resource. The site will be especially interesting for those from this area, since John Houston was a prominent figure in communities throughout the region. Richard Rowberry, Nelson History Theatre's Executive Director undertook most of the research into Mayor Houston’s life with additional assistance provided by Joey Bell, Kendra Cooper, Cricket Carroll, Greg Nesteroff, and web designer Evan Brynne.

The project was funded through a grant from Columbia Basin Trust/Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance, and through contributions from Touchstones Nelson. The Shawn Lamb Archives at Touchstones Nelson facilitated a great deal of the research.

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heartlab presents: Re-surface

Photo by: Jeremy Addington

Drawing on work originally created in direct response to the local geography of Calgary and area, Re-surface is a 3-Dimensional drawing/diorama that playfully represents the essence of words as sound and image as space by drawing upon the beauty of the Kootenay valley.

heartlab is a collaborative effort fusing the talents and vision of two artists: Anita Levesque and Bradley Smith. Combining text and visual imagery, the couple explore the dynamics between two distinct forms of communication, sometimes bridging the gap of both worlds, and in other instances creating a tension between the two. heartlab places an emphasis on process and time-based projects. Utilizing various drawing materials, manual typewriter and block printing tools, the duo create multi-sensory, installation narratives reminiscent of illustrated story books.

View an interactive, virtual experience of heartlab presents: Re-surface.
Participate in the conversation - tweet your heart out!

Touchstones gratefully acknowledges the support of the BC Arts council for making this website possible.


Alf Crossley: Spirit of the Land

April 2 – June 12, 2011

Alf Crossley has for many years been concerned with the landscape as the primary means of his artistic expression. After finishing art school, Alf made his way to the Kootenays where he bought an old Doukhobor house in Krestova that he still lives in today.

Central to his work is his practice of painting (and drawing) outdoors, furthering an interest in capturing not only light, but movement, and the fleeting and visceral nature of what he sees and experiences there. In this, he is following in a tradition that gained widespread recognition with the Impressionists, and would continue to resonate decades later with the Group of Seven.

Over the years, Alf has managed to not only to sustain his practice, but to derive a livelihood from it, a rare and unusual thing in any location, much less a rural one. This exhibition is not only a retrospective of past work, but a clear indication that the practice that it documents is active and ongoing.

View the Alf Crossley online exhibit.



Changes Upstream - the Photographs of Stanley G. Triggs

During the summers of 1969 to 1972 Stanley Triggs visited the area in Southeastern British Columbia that was to be flooded by the construction in Montana of the Libby Dam on the Kootenay River.  He documented the shift from large productive ranches and range land to wide expanses of water in the area north of the Libby Dam.  Through these photographs he recorded its effect on both the people living in the area and the landscape.

The creation of the site has been funded in part by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University of British Columbia, British Columbia History Digitization Program.

Visit the exhibition at



A Life in the Woods - Oral Histories from the West Kootenay Forests

Listen to 16 audio interviews and follow along with the transcripts to the memories of sixteen individuals who worked in the forest industry in the West Kootenay during the last century, including forest fire spotters, loggers, truck drivers, and fire fighters. Created from a selection of 16 recorded interviews previously edited for publication in 3 coil-bound volumes by Peter Chapman and Joel Russ for the West Kootenay Forest History Project during the mid-1990’s.  Funding for the development of the site was received from the BC History Digitization Program of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre at the University of British Columbia. View the exhibit online at


Sternwheelers of Kootenay Lake

Sternwheelers of Kootenay Lake

Sternwheelers of Kootenay Lake features images and first hand accounts of the sternwheelers that were once the lifeline for this area. Discover the history of the sternwheelers on Kootenay Lake, survey the historic landings and routes on the Lake and explore the boats through photographs and rare old movies.

This online exhibit was developed in partnership with the Virtual Museum of Canada and local museums and historical societies. Through the archives and collections of the various partnerorganizations and local collectors, the exhibition is full of images and information on the various aspects of the boats.

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The Art of Doukhobor Textiles

Celebrating 100 years of Doukhobor Settlement in British Columbia. This is the Web component of a physical exhibit which was on display at Touchstones Nelson between November 15, 2008 and January 18, 2009. View the exhibit.




Balance of Power: Hydroelectric Development in Southeastern British Columbia

The history of the area has been transformed by development - both on the rivers and along side them. Hydroelectric development in the area involved almost everything around us. The dams are the visible infrastructures, the stories of the people are less visible but their impact is just as strong. The transformation of the landscape over the last 110 years has been dramatic and the choices made have left their impression. Explore the history of the area through images, personal stories, and maps with film, archival photos and a Dynamic Map. View the exhibit.Virtual Museum of Canada



The Dewdney Trail

The Dewdney Trail was constructed to provide an all-Canadian route to the gold mining regions across southern British Columbia. The trail, constructed between 1860 and 1865, was named after Edgar Dewdney, the engineer in charge of the project who, in all likelihood followed many already established native and game trails. The route, beginning in the west at Hope, meandered 630 km to its eastern terminus at Wildhorse Creek near present-day Fort Steele.

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In the exhibition, the route of the Dewdney Trail can be traced with either an interactive map or a virtual flyover. The exhibition was created in partnership with The Virtual Museum of Canada. Virtual Museum of CanadaResearch assistance was provided by: Creston and District Museum, Trail Historical Society, Rossland Museum, Boundary Museum, Fort Steele Archives, Canadian Museum of Rail Travel in Cranbrook, Salmo Museum and Kettle River Museum.



The Silver King

The discovery of copper and silver rich ore on Toad Mountain in 1886 brought a rush of development that witnessed the establishment of the Silver King Mine and the City of Nelson. With the mine came the need for transportation routes including wagon roads, railroads and steamboats to move the ore. Although the mine and its associated smelter did not survive past the first decade of the 20 th century, their impact on Nelson and the surrounding area continues to this day. A Virtual Museum of Canada, Community Memories Exhibit. Virtual Museum of Canada




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