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Changes Upstream happening at Touchstones

Photo courtesy Touchstones Nelson

By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily

The flooding of a section of the Kootenay River in the 1970s was considered an “unforgettable” moment.

It was during the construction of the Libby Dam in Montana that Nelson born Stanley G. Triggs — who later became the curator of the McCord Museum of Photography at McGill University, Montreal — took nearly 300 photographs over a four-year span to record it.

The area now known as Lake Koocanusa was captured in photographs by Nelson’s Triggs and are now available for the public to view in the newest online exhibit on the Touchstones Nelson: Museum of Art and History website (www.touchstonesnelson.ca/exhbitions/triggs).

Changes Upstream: Along the Kootenay River features a collection of Triggs poignant photographs of the Canadian region that was flooded in the early 1970s by the construction of the Libby Dam — including 1972 as the reservoir began to fill.

Triggs' documentation of the sweeping changes to the upper Kootenay River Valley south of Wardner to the Canada/US border is a vital record of the drastic geographic and cultural effects of the Libby Dam construction.

The online show shows how the region transformed from farmland with communities to leveled fields, and, finally, a water reservoir.

“The site also contains excerpts from the journal Triggs kept as he traveled along the river photographing the area and the people who lived there,” said Touchstones curator Deb Thompson.

The journal entries contain some biographies and histories of the people of the region, as well as a glimpse of how Triggs worked and his family (who accompanied him).

Changes Upstream was made possible through funds provided by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University of BC and the BC History Digitization Program.

With files from Touchstones Nelson