From 1954 until 1997, a massive 6,080 square foot relief map of British Columbia was on display at the PNE, and today it's back... sort of. A small portion of the map will be on display at this year's fair to support a fundraising effort that just launched, with the hopes of restoring the entire thing and bringing it back.
The Challenger Map was constructed by a man named George Challenger and his family, and was donated by them as a gift to all of us.
Made up of 989,842 individual pieces of plywood that were lovingly cut in the basement of the Challenger family home, a structure called the B.C. Building was constructed for it to be displayed in. Over more than four decades, millions of visitors learned about the vastness and beauty of our province through it.
However in the 1990s, a COPE city council decided on a new vision for Hastings Park and the PNE, and the map was ultimately put into storage after nearly being put into a wood chipper. The B.C. building was demolished.
Deconstructed into 196 pieces, it ultimately ended up in a climate-controlled Air Canada hangar at YVR, where it has been quietly sitting in pieces - fate unknown - for a very long time.
During the 2010 Olympics, the RCMP paid to restore 9 panels of the 196. They had them on display in Richmond to show off the topography of the area around Vancouver, and the security challenges they faced due to B.C.'s geography.
At this year's PNE, they're displaying those 9 restored panels along with pieces of the unrestored map to show the work that needs to be done to bring it back to its former glory. While it has held up surprisingly well, time hasn't been super kind to the appearance of the map. This display shows the contrast.
For those who remember seeing the map from the 40s to the 90s, these panels and their story will be a walk down memory lane. The display in the heritage barns will tell the story briefly to those who never saw the map.
The effort is the first public step taken by a group of British Columbians who are passionate about getting the map out of storage, having it restored and updated, and ultimately having it put on permanent display. This group includes Chief Strategy Officer with Kirk & Co Mike McDonald, Vancouver City Councillors Pete Fry and Lisa Dominato, BC Sports Hall of Fame CEO Nicholas Cartmell, Musqueam First Nation member Wade Grant, Bill Challenger, myself, and others, and recently gained steam with help from everyone at the PNE including but not limited to Shelley Frost, Laura Ballance, Jeff Strickland, Karen Massicotte, and Christie Kerr.
Watch V.I.A. for status updates on the campaign to bring this wonderful piece of B.C.'s history back to the fair, and learn more about the map's history and how you can pitch in at challengermap.ca.
We can do this, together!