Newton-area resident Diane Johnson, a volunteer with Surrey Archives, won an 2019 Award of Recognition from the British Columbia Historical Federation. (submitted photo)

Newton-area resident Diane Johnson, a volunteer with Surrey Archives, won an 2019 Award of Recognition from the British Columbia Historical Federation. (submitted photo)

PEOPLE

Surrey history buff transcribes her way to a provincial award

‘It can be tedious work but it’s also very interesting,’ Diane Johnson says

Diane Johnson’s typing skills and appreciation for Surrey history have earned her a provincial award.

The Newton resident is a 2019 winner of a British Columbia Historical Federation award of recognition, for her work to transcribe thousands of hours of town council meeting minutes and oral histories.

Johnson, a Surrey Historical Society member, has volunteered at the Surrey Archives for 11 years. In 2019 alone she contributed 1,030 hours of volunteer time to extensive transcription projects that make archival records accessible for modern researchers, according to the BCHF.

“It can be tedious work but it’s also very interesting,” said Johnson, who was a fraud analyst for a bank prior to retirement.

“I’m a longtime Surrey resident and I was really interested in helping to preserve and learn more about Surrey’s history,” she said.

Johnson is especially keen to transcribe the oral histories the Archives has collected. To date she’s done close to 250 of them — painstaking work that requires listening to each interview carefully, many times over, and typing the words exactly as spoken.

“Some of them are people I knew or have heard of, and just hearing their stories is really quite interesting,” she said. “It helped give me a good mental picture of Surrey’s history. They’re recorded interviews, and some of them went back years and years ago, into the 1960s, including one of firefighters talking about fighting a large fire at Queen Elizabeth High School in 1967. I’d been a student at that high school prior to that, so that was really interesting.”

The council minutes are more tedious, she said.

“Some interesting things do come up,” Johnson added. “For example, just the other day I came across an item from 1951 when they had a referendum to decide whether or not to keep the municipal police force and go with the RCMP, so history does seem to repeat itself.”

Her work to make those meeting minutes keyword-searchable is “invaluable to both outside researchers and staff at the Surrey Archives,” the BCHF says.

The federation’s Award of Recognition is for those who have given exceptional service to their organization or community, either for a specific project or for long service in the preservation of British Columbia’s history.

The BCHF’s annual conference and awards event was to be held in Surrey in June, but is cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the prizes are being announced early, and plans are to honour winners during the 2021 conference hosted by the 98-year-old federation, which “encourages interest in the history of British Columbia through research, presentation, and support in its role as an umbrella organization for provincial historical societies.”

Johnson said she received her award certificate in the mail a few days ago.

“I hope to continue on doing this, as long as my eyesight and my fingers work,” she added with a laugh.

“Right now I’m working on transcribing some of the council minutes. I started on that when they started recording them in 1880, and now I’m up to 1951, which is a lot of work. Most of the minutes were scanned, and those are on the city’s website, so I can take them right off the internet. A few got missed in the scanning, so on days when I’m at the Archives I transcribe those ones from the original minute books and then slot them in the appropriate place.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

historyMuseum of SurreySurrey

Just Posted

A new DPD team began targeting gang-related activity on May 15, including checking on individuals who must abide by curfews and conditions. (Delta Police Department photo)
Delta police taking action to address gang conflict

Three-pronged strategy focused on interdiction, investigation and prevention

(Delta Police Department photo)
Property crime in Delta down, collisions up in first quarter of 2021

Police note little change in violent crime stats compared to Q1 in 2020 — 174 incidents versus 177

The City of Surrey partnered with the Work Zone Safety Alliance last year to remind drivers to slow down in construction zones. (File photo)
White Rock, Surrey motorists asked to slow down in ‘cone zones’

Provincewide campaign encouraging residents to be mindful of construction workers

Semiahmoo First Nation archeology manager Don Welsh (left) sifts through shell midden at a Crescent Beach site in August 2019. (File photo)
Semiahmoo First Nation to repatriate 200 ancestors

B.C. grant funding return of remains from Simon Fraser University

Fraser Valley Heritage Rail Society volunteers stand on the train platform in Cloverdale in 2020. A new exhibit about FVHRS and Surrey’s train history opens at the Museum of Surrey June 2. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
New exhibition on Surrey’s train history to open at Museum of Surrey

Separate two-day event welcomes kids June 25-26

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present seven-year-old Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
7-year old Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery for rescuing child at beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program, May 10, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays below 500 a day over weekend

14 more deaths, down to 350 in hospital as of Monday

(Vancouver Police Department)
Vancouver police expect violence to escalate, ID 6 gangsters who pose ‘public safety risk’

VPD asking public to stay away from these six people, who they say may be targeted in shootings

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C. high’s school’s pride crosswalk restored following ‘hateful’ graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Greater Victoria high school

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of Vancouver Island homicide

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

Vancouver Canucks’ Jake Virtanen (18) and Calgary Flames’ Josh Leivo, front right, vie for the puck as goalie Jacob Markstrom, back left, watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Saturday, February 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen sued over alleged sexual assault

Statement of claim says the woman, identified only by her initials, suffered physical and emotional damages

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Most Read