Turvey born Malcolm Church explained that when his father, Sydney Charles Church, died in October 1992, they needed to clear out his house, so put items into storage. During 1993, investigating the contents of a large wooden trunk filled mainly with carpenter’s tools, Malcolm found a box containing carefully wrapped rock samples. As they opened each separate newspaper parcel, inside they found a piece of paper enclosing each stone, explaining the type of rock and the location in Canada or Alaska from which the specimen had been collected. There was a flint arrow head found “on the banks of the Fraser River”. The box had clearly been posted from Canada in 1892, but there was no information or letter indicating the name of the geological surveyor or the company commissioning the survey. The box had been posted to the Denton family who were related to the Church family through Horace Church, Malcolm’s grandfather.
Malcolm happened to be working on a building site in Northamptonshire which included an archaeologist assigned to ensure no historic information was lost during the construction works. His suggestion was that Malcolm should contact the Canadian Parks Department staff because they might be interested in the rocks. Those staff referred him to the Canadian Museum of Civilisation, whose staff were very interested in receiving the collection. In 1993, they offered to send books about Canada to Malcolm’s sons’ school as a return gift. Many weeks passed after Malcolm posted the box of stones to the museum in Hull, Quebec, Canada. The museum wrote asking if he still planned to send their new specimen collection. Following persistent enquiries, Malcolm discovered the box had been sitting in the Post Office in Hull, England for all those six to eight weeks.
Finally, the box reached the museum. In August 1994, the Atlantic Provinces Historian explained the samples “comprise an interesting array of rocks typical of the mining region of British Columbia and representative of such assemblages gathered by nineteenth-century travellers. As such, the collection fitted nicely into our plans for a temporary exhibition “Souvenirs of Canada”, which just opened in July.” They noted the rocks came from the interior of British Columbia: Clinton, Nicola and Lilloet. They highlighted the locations on a photocopied map of Canada, adding that one rock was from Douglas Island off Alaska. Their view was that the rocks were field specimens “similar to those retrieved by prospectors.”
The books were posted to the school. In October 1994, one local newspaper heading was “Canada links as solid as a rock”. Another brief article described the “rock-solid relationship” between the museum and the school. The Souvenir Book sent to Malcolm explained the museum was created out of the Geological Survey of Canada of 1842. “Survey members’ field research and collecting activities gave rise to a museum, which became the National Museum of Canada in 1927”. In 1982 a “custom-designed” structure was created to house the Canadian Museum of Civilisation . In 2016, Malcolm and Jackie visited the museum during a two months’ touring holiday. Talking to a curator, they learned the museum was being extended into two further buildings to allow the collections to be split up appropriately. The donated geological specimens had been put into storage only six weeks before their arrival until the new buildings were ready to display them again.
Canadian Museum of Civilization, Souvenir Book. 1994. Publishing Division Canadian Museum of Civilization, Hull, Quebec.
Evening Telegraph, 8 October 1994. Kettering.
Unknown newspaper, 13 October 1994.