19th Century Heritage in Burnaby Village Museum

It’s possible that you have seen Burnaby Village Museum, also called the Burnaby Heritage Village, in the lists of “must-visit places” in British Columbia.

“Village Museum” sounds so different comparing to what we immediately imagine hearing the word “museum”, so I visited it and now I want to tell you about it in case if you haven’t had a chance to go there yet.

Burnaby Tram

19th Century Original Buildings Gathered in One Village

The entrance is free, you just need to book your visit in advance due to COVID precautions.

The Village contains a set of houses and buildings originally built around the city of Burnaby in the 19th and early 20th centuries by first immigrants and settlers.  The buildings were collected and carefully transported to one place - the Heritage Village.

At the village, you can see:

  • a Chinese store with traditional Chinese medicine ingredients,
  • one of the first general stores that sold groceries and everything else (there was also a surprise: one of IBM’s first “business machines”),
  • a bachelor’s house (it’s small, but quite cool for one person) and a family house (all tiles in the house are different and original),
  • newspaper publishing house (printing back in the days was so complicated),
  • school (small note: King George V of the United Kingdom might look a lot like the last emperor of Russian Empire Nicholas II. It’s because they were first cousins, they even used to trick friends by switching clothes in their youth),
  • old tram station and an original tram restored by a hard work of many volunteers,
  • and many, many more essential institutions for any village/town/city.

Lovely employees take care of the place, grow flowers and vegetables, and really enjoy taking you through the Village and share stories with you.

Depending on what time or day you go there, you might see a blacksmith at the work: heating metal up till red, giving it a shape and cooling it down with water. I was lucky to get a cute little hook for clothes as a souvenir that they made right in front of me!

Indigenous Culture Learning Opportunities

Over the past five years the Museum has been working on the Indigenous culture learning program: salmon leather, cedar weaving, and other exciting moments to learn more about Indigenous history and living culture.

I had a lovely and heart touching conversation with a First Nation person while watching them creating salmon leather (yes, it exists and it’s cool!). It’s an old and time-consuming process, knowledge of which is carefully transferred through generations.  I learned that while not many people have heard about fish leather, it was widely used, including in China as well.

I really admire what I learned about the Indigenous approach to using all parts of a fish and not wasting any of it. You can get more than just foods from a fish: the leather is strong and waterproof, and it can be naturally dyed. Also, a salmon’s bones can be used as beads.

The conversation got even more fascinating because I was with my friend from Taiwan, who has recently been learning salmon leather making processes.  It was fun to see everyone sharing their experience with each other.


Carousel and Future Plans

Unfortunately, the famous carousel was closed, but I hope to see it open again soon.  The carousel is extremely popular around Christmas and Canada Day. As a person that grew up in a country without carousels and saw them only in the movies, I’m looking forward to going back to Burnaby Village Museum to take a ride on the carousel and enjoy learning more about history of the place I chose to live.

Normally, I don’t visit a lot of museums, because I have been to so many of them and it is getting more difficult to impress me. But I definitely recommend you visit the Burnaby Heritage Village and see it by your own eyes.


This blog post is part of our summer Sharing Cycle, in which people from Language Partners BC share what else they are involved in, to invite others in.