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Tide Water Tales Ebb and Flow at Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site

Over the next several months, Artists Rendering Tales Collective Inc. (ARTCi) will be researching, documenting, performing and creating art with the public at the Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site located in beautiful Steveston, British Columbia.

Photo of Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site by Tracie Stewart (ARTCi)

The residency, dubbed "Tide Water Tales" seeks to capture some of the little-known tales of Britannia while celebrating the community’s connection to and the impact of the Fraser River upon them. Through various kinds of art forms, ARTCi will explore the importance of place.

Nestled on the banks of the Fraser River, Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site offers an authentic representation of a once thriving community of canneries, boatyards, residences, and stores. It is a veritable time capsule where modern-day visitors can enjoy stepping back to experience the evolution of a community and an industry on the river frontier. Many of the buildings date back to 1885 and tell the stories of multi-ethnic residents and workers including the: First Nations, Chinese, European, and Japanese. Each one of the buildings sing of cultural interactions, each artifact tells a story, revealing what people who made their livelihoods there did on a day-to-day basis.

In 1889, the shipyard building was constructed and was later purchased by the Anglo British Columbia (ABC) Packing Company. Two years later a salmon cannery was in full operation, and became one of the busiest canneries on the Fraser River, producing canned salmon for shipment all over the world.

The Hell's Gate Landslide of 1912 – 1913 caused a significant decline in salmon stocks, forcing many canneries along the Fraser River to close or convert to other uses. In 1917-18, Britannia Cannery was turned into a shipyard by adding carpentry, engine and machine shops. The ABC Company maintained a fishing fleet and general maritime repair shop until 1969, when the Canadian Fishing Company purchased the Shipyard. Ten years later it sold the building to BC Packers, and the Shipyard finally closed its doors.

Today, visitors can meander down the historic boardwalk and read the storyboards that reveal Britannia’s rich history. They can enter the Murakami House and the Murakami Boatworks, explore the Chinese Bunkhouse and the various stilt houses and net lofts used in bygone eras. When the site buildings are closed visitors can download the free City of Richmond app and take self-guided mobile tours.

Image from Inside the Chinese Bunkhouse, Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site by Lori Sherritt-Fleming (ARTCi)

Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site offers a wide variety of programs and activities throughout the year. For more information visit the website or better yet visit in person. We encourage you to come and find your connection to "Tide Water Tales."

Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site

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