It’s Great to Be Back in Barkerville

History Town 1 (Birdsong) by Dirk Van Stralen

In 1993 I started working in Barkerville as a “street interpreter.”  By that I mean, I conducted tours of the main street of Barkerville Historic Town, in costume and “in character,” as well as wrote and performed a variety of historical vignettes and theatrical presentations that illuminated some of the finer points of gold rush life in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Ten years later – in autumn of 2003 – I hung up my petticoats, went away for a while, got a master’s degree in Applied Theatre (with a focus on Museum Theatre), worked at other places, and had twin babies. Then, in 2009, I moved back to Wells and spent four more seasons working in Barkerville, not as a street interpreter but at the Theatre Royal. This week, however, after eleven seasons away from it, I returned to “the street.” I am once again a Barkerville street performer, interpreting the complex and fascinating story of the Cariboo Gold Rush.

We “Streeters” have just finished a bustling week rehearsing new material.  Meanwhile, maintenance crews have buzzed around, moving massive piles of snow and filling in the persistent ruts and holes in the roads caused by one of the most prolific spring thaws in recent memory. The Visitor Experiences team has been organizing and printing schedules, cleaning the site, and setting up the Visitors’ Reception Centre (which has, by the way, received a long-awaited facelift in 2014). Barkerville’s curatorial department has been out and about, getting the town’s exhibits and displays back into shape for the imminent crowds. Other interpretive contracts have also been rehearsing nearby. Performers have been muttering lines to themselves on the bulkhead. The sound of presentations being honed and shaped inside buildings has echoed out onto the streets for the first time since September. Piano and guitars and gorgeous voices singing and re-singing this year’s musical numbers have rung out from the Theatre Royal. Merchants have been carrying box after box of fresh supplies into the various shops and restaurants. Costumes have been fitted and fixed.

And, as I type this now, I am just home from our official Opening Day. Barkerville is now open for the 2014 season. Tonight my feet ache from a full shift spent pounding the boardwalks in new boots, my grateful torso has been released from its corset, and I can’t stop thinking about how the town tours and scenes went today, and how we can make them better tomorrow.

It has been exciting and nostalgic to once again be in the middle of all the hard work and preparation leading up to opening day, and it is just as exciting to think about how we will all continue to work throughout the 2014 season to make Barkerville better and better. There are new exhibits opening this year, and some exciting new characters. There is a diverse line-up of special events throughout the summer, some new and some familiar. We have a new CEO and a new Curator heading into their inaugural seasons. Barkerville is old and new again, and amidst it all there is one thought that keeps coming to mind:

It’s great to be back.

– Danette Boucher

The above one-panel cartoon (originally published May 18th, 2014) by Dirk Van Stralen, with accompanying editorial by Danette Boucher, is the first of twenty weekly entries that were logged – and subsequently blogged – as part of a 2014 collaboration between Barkerville, British Columbia and the Prince George Citizen aimed at introducing some of the quirkier advantages to living, working, and playing in the Cariboo Goldfields. We hope you enjoy!