Craigdarroch Castle in 21 Treasures
About the Book
Told in 21 objects—including furnishings, artwork, and tools—this approachable museum guide takes readers into the family history, local lore, and oddities of one of Victoria’s most famous landmarks.
Craigdarroch Castle, built by coal baron Robert Dunsmuir for his wife, Joan, and their family, was completed in 1890. Following Joan’s death, the castle was put up for sale in 1908, and later housed a military hospital and the nascent University of Victoria.
Since 1979 the castle has operated as a museum and is one of the top tourist attractions in the city, a prime example of a “bonanza castle” and a rich repository of Victorian-era furnishings and décor, as well as objects evoking the hospital and college eras. Author Moira Dann offers the reader 21 selections from the castle’s collection, using each artifact as a portal into the history of the building and life in Victorian and more recent times.
The Black Forest clock, acquired by Joan on a trip to Europe; the telescope used by the eldest Dunsmuir son, James, aboard his yacht the Dolaura; the castle’s famous stained-glass windows; a nineteenth-century intercom system known as a speaking tube—these and 17 more are described with detail and enthusiasm, and accompanied by photographs. Dann provides careful research into each object’s provenance and manufacture, while inviting readers to join her imaginative journeys into the lives of the castle’s occupants through the years.
“Craigdarroch Castle in 21 Treasures is a beautiful volume of introductions and connections: Moira gives readers a taste of our vast collection by introducing castle artifacts and the stories they tell, and connects each treasure to castle life and to the reader’s curiosity,”
— John Hughes, Craigdarroch Castle Executive Director
“Inspired by A History of Canada in Ten Maps by Adam Shoalts and A History of the World in 100 Objects (a BBC/British Museum podcast partnersip that became a book), this book came about when Dann seized on the idea of using a “limited number of objects to do a deep dive into the story” of the castle and “to follow my own twisted trail of curiosity.””
— Jennifer Bain, National Parks Traveler