An archival moment: Dunsmuir film project

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Jenny Seeman
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An Archival Moment: Dunsmuir film project

In the midst of your daily routine around the university, you may spot or have spotted a camera operator or two around the grounds and castle, perhaps even a person in front of the camera, gesturing grandly at locally quarried and expertly fashioned granite, Saturna Island sandstone and Haddington Island andesite, or being interviewed inside the castle about the variety of wood panelling sourced from all around the globe.

The museum and archives at Royal Roads is currently embarking on an exciting project to tell the story of the Dunsmuirs of Hatley Park. Through a short documentary film, the intention is to place the university’s historic site in its original Edwardian context, describing who the Dunsmuir family was and how they lived, how the property was acquired, and the efforts that went into creating such an extensive private estate: from the formal home and gardens, the model farm, as well as the recreational spaces and hunting grounds.

The Dunsmuirs lived here from 1910 until 1937 and in those 27 years the world changed dramatically. While the story of the Dunsmuirs represents the epitome of Edwardian era gentility - their love of leisure pursuits are built right into the property with tennis courts, a croquet lawn, stables for show horses, the grand billiards room and large spaces for entertainment - they were not immune to the tragedies of the First World War. The youngest son, James (Boy) was lost in the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 and the family worked tirelessly to support the war effort with local fundraisers. James Dunsmuir made significant financial contributions for medical relief and supplies on the front lines and also paid for an operating theatre to be built at a hospital in Paris. He never recovered from the loss of Boy and died at his Cowichan Lake hunting lodge in 1920. Laura lived here until her death in 1937, maintaining her role as the doyenne of Victoria society.

Hatley Park historic site remains an unparalleled example of Edwardian design in Canada and the gardens and grounds team will also be sharing their knowledge about the history of the site and about the phenomenal work that goes into maintaining the property today.

Your patience and understanding is appreciated as the production crew works to create this important interpretive piece for the museum and archives collection. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact Jenny Seeman in the archives, ext. 4122.

Hatley Castle from the croquet lawn

8 Dunsmuir daughters at Hatley