Trelle Morrow wrote such a necessary book for the Community Arts Council that they made it the subject of their latest feature gallery.
An Arts Compendium is a collection of the CAC's early years. It was just released as part of the arts agency's 50th anniversary celebrations.
Morrow, the city's most decorated and prolific writer of local history, was in charge of compiling all the materials from the various artists and arts groups from which the CAC was formed.
He was also given access to the boxes of material held in the CAC's own closet of saved materials dating back to 1968.
The book included the input of such foundational organizations as the Prince George Concert Association, the Opus 1 Choir, Theatre Workshop, New Caledonia Orchestra, The Alaska Music Trail and other now-defunct entities that enlivened the community's quality of life half a century ago.
It also included vignettes from modern organizations and included information about the structure and evolution of the CAC and the buildings that comprise their Studio 2880 complex on 15th Avenue.
On the day the book was released to the public, it was also revealed that a number of pages had been blown up and framed to form a visual display in the feature gallery.
"That's a little surprise for you," Morrow was told by Sean Farrell, executive director of the CAC, when the announcement was made.
"He's such a beloved member of the arts community, a pillar of Prince George society," Farrell said when asked about turning the book into an exhibit. "It was this whole process. It involved so many people, and artifacts, and dusty old items, so it leant itself to a physical display."
Morrow, a retired architect also celebrated for his building designs, is the author of 10 titles on the shelves of the Prince George Public Library, for which he has won three Jeanne Clarke History Awards, more (tied with the late Kent Sedgwick, who once wrote a book about Morrow) than any other writer.
He is also an active member of the Prince George Heritage Commission.
"He is a very busy boy," quipped Doug Hofstead, the community services manager for the City of Prince George, calling Morrow a unique treasure "we are so lucky to have" as a documentarian of our local area.
Morrow has a number of projects underway and is glad to have An Arts Compendium behind him. It was a different process for him, more akin to an editor than a writer, but he enjoyed having such formative information tucked between two permanent covers, all together.
"I thought we had a pretty good smattering of the city's arts community at that time, and it makes up an important document," he said. "I love the compendium medium for documenting local history. It could be five times bigger on future endeavours if someone could persevere. This was my first attempt at a compendium. As an experiment, I think it turned out to be a good platform, a good format, especially if you have someone pushing at people to contribute and dig up the information. That's what you need. Compiling the information is important work, but you have to have quality information with which to work."
He hoped this first edition would lead, at future milestone years, to updated versions that would carry on building the legacy of the CAC and thus tell the story of the city's quality of life and health of culture.
The fragility of that knowledge is a problem in this city, he said. The documents and physical items that represent different arts organizations have largely been lost almost as soon as they happened, and the same could be said for sport or business or municipal work.
The UNBC Archives, the public library, the Exploration Place, the Railway & Forestry Museum, these all have their place in holding onto papers and other physical materials that represent our community for future generations, but a key institution is lacking, he said.
"The city of Prince George will never be a cultural centre of the north until City Hall starts its own archives," he said. "Archives are important, they should be available to the public, and municipalities need to run their own. And many do, but not Prince George."
An Arts Compendium is available in participating bookstores and at the Studio 2880 Artisan Gift Shop where the feature gallery has the companion art exhibition on display now.