Stories Behind Objects

Written by Yeeva Ly, VPMA Curatorial Summer Student


Museums are a staple in any culture. They are not only vessels of history and culture, but also a safe and nurturing environment for ideas to flourish. While perhaps the primary directive of a museum is to preserve a piece of history or serve as an educational tool for the public, another vastly understated and underappreciated purpose is the preservation and retelling of personal histories. In every exhibit, placard, or artifact, there lies a story waiting to be explored and retold. Even the most unassuming of objects may tell the most fascinating of stories.


Psychiatric Nurse’s Cap


During my time working in the collections, I always had a lingering curiosity about the histories behind the objects I worked with. Many of them came without detailed histories, leaving us to wonder what kinds of things they had witnessed in their time before joining the collection. Some of these objects however, did come with at least the briefest of descriptions, giving us a slight glimpse into their past.


VPD Psychiatric Nurse's cap worn by Margaret Johann Andersen, 1950s.

Vancouver Police Museum Uniform Collection, XPM 2010.057.001a


Pictured above is a nurse’s cap worn by psychiatric nurses in the 1950’s. This particular cap belonged to Margaret Johann Andersen (née Sutherland). Margaret was a Constable with the Vancouver Police Department, serving as a Police Matron in the late 50s and early 60s. Prior to joining the VPD, Margaret trained as a nurse at Essendale Hospital (later Riverview Hospital) in Coquitlam, with a focus in psychiatric nursing. After graduating the program, she became a Registered Practical Nurse in 1952.

Margaret Andersen in VPD uniform*

During this time, she would also achieve certification in Industrial First Aid and in oxygen therapy. On July 3, 1956, Margaret would be appointed as a constable in the Vancouver Police Department. In addition to the nurse’s cap pictured above, her police ID, issued by the City of Vancouver and signed by the Chief Constable, is also a part of our collection. Upon becoming a constable, Margaret would go on to become a Police Matron, working primarily with female victims, youths, and arrested women. While serving as a Matron, she simultaneously worked as a nurse, alternating her duties between days.


During her time with the VPD, she would rise from the 3rd Class Level to 1st Class Nurse, eventually retiring on April 30, 1963. Her tenure at the VPD is one that is quite remarkable; having joined the force during a time when the field was primarily male-dominated, she was among the first female constables to receive equal pay.


VPD Women’s Uniform Gloves


Uniform gloves worn by Detective Carol-Ann Halliday.

Vancouver Police Museum Uniform Collection, PM2003.010.390


While unassuming at first glance, the gloves pictured below belonged to Carol-Ann Halliday, another remarkable member of the VPD. In her 30 years of service with the Vancouver Police Department, Carol proved herself an exceptional officer and a pioneer for women in the force. Sworn-in on November 3, 1969, Carol would begin her service as a probationary officer and enter the Vancouver Police Training Academy soon after as the only female in her class.


This would be the beginning of her storied journey as she began to rise through the ranks. Almost immediately after graduating, she was assigned to an undercover operation where she dealt heavily with street drugs, becoming the first woman to purchase them undercover.

Upon completion of this assignment, she would then join the Women’s Squad, working as a Court Liaison in addition to her duties responding to emergency and non-emergency calls.

Carol-Ann Halliday in VPD uniform**

In 1974 she would return to active patrol, joining the Patrol Division North-District Two and later the School Liaison Squad. Carol-Ann became the first woman assigned to the squad and later, the first female Coordinator. Throughout Carol-Ann’s career, she would continue to push boundaries and pave the way for women in the VPD. Following this assignment, she would then achieve the rank of Detective with the Patrol Division North-General Investigation Squad. In 1984, she would become the first female Detective in the Major Crimes Sections, where she worked with the Robbery and Homicide squads.


Carol-Ann’s accomplishments as a pioneer and inspiration for women in policing would not be limited to her work with the VPD. While serving with the VPD, she would discover the International Association of Women Police (IAWP), an organization dedicated to women in policing. After attending the IAWP conference in 1976, she would become more involved in the organization, serving as the Sergeant at Arms in 1978 and 1983, and as President from 1984 to 1988. After an exemplary career with the VPD, Carol-Ann would retire on October 31, 1999. During her 30 years of service, Carol-Ann proved herself not only an exemplary and dedicated officer, but also a role model and inspiration for women in policing.


The Museum Role in Preservation


Going into this position as a summer student, I would never have imagined that I would get the opportunity to work so closely with pieces of history. As I processed each item, I would always wonder to myself: what stories are attached to this object and what can it tell us about the past? Each and every artifact that enters the collection has a story to tell, and it is the responsibility of museums to preserve and cherish such legacies - this is what makes museums so special.



*Daley, Carolyn J. Margaret Andersen. In Book Vancouver's Women in Blue: Trailblazers of the Vancouver Police Department 1904-1975. Vancouver: Ruddy Duck Press, 2020, 76.

**Daley, Carolyn J. Carol-Ann Halliday. In Vancouver's Women in Blue: Trailblazers of the Vancouver Police Department 1904-1975. Vancouver: Ruddy Duck Press, 2020, 106.