Opening February 2 and running until May 1, the Nanaimo Museum will have a new, eye-catching feature offering another glimpse into the Harbour city’s history.

The feature exhibit, “Red Lights and Roulette,” displays stories from the 1890s to 1920s, including photos and biographies of women from the era, and a corset collection from a private collection out of Vancouver.


Vintage sign at exhibit

The exhibit is intended to “tell the story of a different part of Nanaimo’s history,” according to Aimee Greenaway, interpretation curator for the museum.

“These are women that, when you open up the history book about the history of Nanaimo, you’re not going to find them,” Greenaway said.

The corsets collected will be displayed on mannequins, many dating back to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Melanie Talkington, the corsetiere loaning the corsets, runs Lace Embrace Atelier in Vancouver, and her corsets have been shown all over the world, including the Louvre in Paris in 2013. Talkington is now traveling to New York, where the BGC Gallery will display the antique undergarments.

The women featured in the Nanaimo exhibit (including Eva Russel, Belle Harvy, and Marguerite Morris) will have their stories shared, showing a side of the city that many didn’t know about, 

IMG_1731The red light district of Nanaimo (seen above) was located on Fraser Street, where the Island Highway now runs past the harbour.

In the gambling section of the exhibit, the museum tracks the changes made to gambling laws in the 1870s to the present day success of Casino Nanaimo and the lottery industry. This section displays the laws which used to surround gambling, and how Nanaimoites would continue to gamble in secret.

The museum’s Speaker Series: “Red Lights in Nanaimo” will take place Wednesday, February 11 at 1:30 pm, and registration is required. Tickets are $10 for the special presentation and $2 for the regular tour, and are available at the museum on Commercial Street beside Serious Coffee.