With any museum exhibit, only a portion of the material gathered by the curator is used to create a narrative of the past. Sometimes the story behind the creation of an exhibit is a fascinating narrative as well. This is true of our micro-exhibition, A Lens on Vancouver’s Past: Walter Frost’s Holland America Line (1920-1975). The guest curator of the exhibition, Floris van Weelderen, will share some of that story on Tuesday, March 2 at 7:00 p.m. during a virtual presentation, Behind the Lens on Vancouver’s Past.  

Walter Edwin Frost (1898-1988) was an avid amateur Vancouver photographer interested in ships, trains, and the City of Vancouver.  After WW I, he bought a Kodak camera and began documenting the industrial activity of early and mid-20th century Vancouver with a focus on ships in Vancouver Harbour. Six decades later, Frost entrusted his extensive collection of black-and-white prints and negatives to the City of Vancouver Archives.

In 2019, Floris van Weelderen discovered Frost’s work while chronicling his father’s sea voyages aboard Holland-America Line (HAL) freighters and passenger liners. Van Weelderen noted that Frost’s body of work illustrates the evolution of marine shipping and naval architecture in crisp, black & white photographs. He was inspired to share Frost’s work with a wider audience. 

After many months of research and planning, a micro-exhibition featuring ten photographs by Walter Frost was launched at the VMM in December 2020. Frost’s photographs were last seen locally during an exhibition entitled Terminal City at the 1986 World Exposition (Expo 86). His work has also inspired other Vancouverites; Rebecca Bollwit featured Frost’s work on her award-winning blog, Miss604 in 2012.

Van Weelderen learned a great deal about Walter Frost through archival research and family interviews.  During the presentation, he’ll share highlights of Frost’s life, provide a brief history of the Port of Vancouver and present interesting facts about HAL and some of the HAL ships that visited Vancouver since the HAL North Pacific Coast cargo and passenger service started in 1920. The presentation will feature audience participation in the form of an on-line quiz (with a prize awarded for the highest score) and a question-and-answer period.

Floris van Weelderen, P.Eng., PE, PTOE, CD is a Senior Transportation Engineer and member of the Senior Leadership Team at the Vancouver office of Bunt & Associates Engineering Ltd. He published his first book Citadels of the West: Military Architecture in British Columbia in 2005 which was inspired by 24 years of military service with Vancouver’s British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own). Van Weelderen is also a member of the Vancouver Historical Society and the Steamship Historical Society of America.

Tickets for this event are $5 and free for members. If you’re a member and you need your promo code for free access, please email marketing@vanmaritime.com.

The images used in this post are from the City of Vancouver Archives.