Local History

5 Artifacts with Great Backstories At the Surrey Museum

Gas Mask, The Civilian Respirator
Gas Mask, The Civilian Respirator

Objects in museums are there for a reason – they have historical significance and a story to tell.  The artifacts at the Surrey Museum are no exception.  In fact, artifacts at the Surrey Museum are even more interesting because they speak to LOCAL history. Here are  five artifacts from the Surrey Museum’s collection.

Gas Mask, The Civilian Respirator


Enemy alien invasions and air raid attacks were a realistic common fear during World War II.  It was common practice for households to have a supply just in case.  Not something you find among bottled water and batteries in present day emergency kits.

This gas mask is part of the Surrey During the War Years collection which features many interesting local war artifacts.

Stay tuned in July for the unveiling of the new First Responders Exhibit.  The exhibit will feature the stories of Surrey’s local, First Responders, heroes: police, fire and ambulance.

Mirroscope (AKA Magic Lantern)


At first glance, it is a lightbox but the story holds so much more. Circa 1910, this one was made in Ohio. They were first fuelled by kerosene and then switched to electric.  Such magic lanterns were often used by missionaries overseas. They projected pictures of Surrey landscapes to recruit people to immigrate.  It makes you wonder how many of our ancestors were moved enough by images on a magic lantern to immigrate here.

Many different cameras and projectors are on display in the Captured on Film section, depicting different methods of technology and reflecting various times in Surrey’s history.

Bee Smoker


A hand tool used to control bee behaviour during hive maintenance and honey gathering. The hanging smoker was filled with wood smoke and placed in the opening of the hive. The smoke drives the bees from the hive permitting the combs to be removed. Smoke initiates a feeding response in anticipation of possible hive abandonment due to fire. When a bee consumes honey, the bee’s abdomen distends, making it difficult to make the necessary flexes to sting.

Our Bee Smoker, c. 1940, is displayed with Surrey farming equipment.  Don’t miss the Surrey Museum drop in Discovery Saturday: Tales from a Honeycomb on August 20 or the Community Bee Garden at Historic Stewart Farm.

BCER Bench


The BC Electric Railway or Interurban brought people from Vancouver to Steveston, Surrey and Chilliwack, running in Surrey from 1910-1950. The backs of seats like this would be flipped when the train was set to go in the opposite direction so that passengers faced the right way.

Interurban service was discontinued when more bridges and roads were built in the Lower Mainland and there was a push across North America for people to buy automobiles.

The bench is housed in the Rivers and Roads display of the Surrey Museum, along with the BCER Punch Clock. After a visit to the Museum, take a trip to the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society.

Pysanky/Pysanka Ostrich Egg


Originating in the Ukraine, these eggs are painted with a stylus and then dyed many vibrant colours. A symbol of life, they are associated with mythical and religious ceremonies dating back to early Pagan times.

Our Pysanky egg, which was received as a gift by our Surrey- based donor, is unusual because it is made of an ostrich egg. Most are made with much smaller chicken eggs.

You can see this big egg in the exhibit Community Treasures: Ukrainians in Canada: 125 Years.it.  The exhibit will feature the stories of Surrey’s local, First Responders, heroes: police, fire and ambulance.

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Surrey604 Staff
Surrey604 is an online magazine and media outlet based in Surrey, BC. Through writing, video, photography, and social media, we secure an intimate reach to the public. We promote local events and causes.