Masset man honoured for lifelong commitment to his community

  • May. 30, 2003 5:00 p.m.

Howard Phillips, a longtime Masset volunteer and the inspiration behind the Dixon Entrance Maritime Museum, has won a special award from the Heritage Society of British Columbia.
The society gives out the Ruby Nobbs Outstanding Volunteer Achievement Award each year to a volunteer with exemplary commitment to heritage conservation. This year, it chose Mr. Phillips, after reading the nomination sent in by the Masset economic development committee.
According to the committee’s nomination letter, Mr. Phillips has been tireless in archiving the pioneer history of the islands and especially Masset. He moved to Masset from Vancouver in 1937, when he was almost 30, after his father was appointed Indian Agent there. He was a founding member of many community organizations and sat on boards like the Royal Canadian Legion, the New Masset Community Club, the school board, the Masset Rod and gun Club and the Queen Charlotte Islands Museum Society, predecessor of the Haida Gwaii Museum now located in Skidegate.
Mr. Phillips has donated many photographs, files and artifacts to all three museums on the islands – the Haida Gwaii Museum, the Port Clements Museum and the Dixon Entrance Maritime Museum. He also published several years ago a written and photographic documentation of island history called “The Days of My Years”, and has written several other essays, articles and books.
The Heritage Society usually gives out the Ruby Nobbs award at its annual general meeting (being held this weekend), but the village of Masset received special permission to present the award to Mr. Phillips during the Harbour Days celebration.
Mr. Phillips, who just celebrated his 95th birthday on May 5, lives in the Queen Charlotte hospital’s long-term care wing.
Masset economic development officer Shirley Kricheldorf said she decided to nominate Mr. Phillips for the award while working on a nomination package for the maritime museum. Mr. Phillips’s name kept coming up again and again while she did the research, she recalled.
“He was instrumental,” Ms Kricheldorf said “What better candidate could there be?”
The Dixon Entrance Maritime Museum Society is also being honoured by the Heritage Society with a certificate of recognition for its work restoring its heritage building.
The white and green building on Harrison Avenue was built in 1914 as a hospital, and later became the community school, then a teacher residency, an alternate school, and the offices of NorthWest Community College. For several years the building was abandoned and unoccupied.
According to the nomination: “The building was in a severe state of deterioration, tree branches were actually growing through cracks around the windows, when the Dixon Entrance Maritime Museum Society, formed in 1998, obtained a 99-year lease from the Village of Masset. A grant to support renovations of the building was obtained from Western Diversification under the Community Economic Adjustment Initiative and administered through Haida Gwaii Community Futures. Using old photographs as a guide, and working cooperatively with the contractor, the building was restored to resemble its original appearance. The building has an open concept supported by beams. The building has undergone a profound transformation from a dark, damp and dingy hodge-podge of rooms into the open, bright, cheery and welcoming cultural space it is now.”
The museum has now been open for a year, and local residents continue to donate memorabilia and artifacts. The society is still working on raising money to finish the outside renovations, which will include a wrap-around porch and landscaping.
Board member Barb Elduayen was flying to Vancouver to receive the award at a special ceremony Saturday night (May 31), thanks to Masset Travel, which donated the airfare, Ms Kricheldorf said. As part of winning the award, the museum has the opportunity to present a short slide show, she added.
“It’s really exciting because 75 people who work at museums and heritage sites are going to be at that dinner,” Ms Kricheldorf said. “They’re all going to see the presentation about the Masset museum.”
Mr. Phillips and the museum were nominated for their awards by the Masset economic development committee.