Check it Out: Book explores fort’s impact and history



Take a moment and think about what you’re doing right now. Are you reading this column in the print edition of the newspaper or the online version? If you’re drinking a cup of coffee, did you brew it at home, or did Starbucks do it for you? Will tonight’s dinner be cooked on the stove, warmed in the microwave, or served to you by one of the many eating establishments in the area?

I’m asking these questions to show how easy it is to take life’s modern conveniences for granted. Turn the clock back 200 years, and I’m guessing reading material and hot meals were scarce commodities in early 18th century Southwest Washington. To learn just how different 21st century Vancouver is from its frontier days as a fur trading post, colonial settlement and military garrison, take a look at this week’s title, “Exploring Fort Vancouver,” a new book published by Fort Vancouver National Trust.

The Fort was home to a diverse population, and archaeological digs have unearthed a bounty of artifacts including glass trade beads, coins, tobacco pipes, tools, pottery and musket balls. Filled with color photographs, this book showcases some of those historical remnants of bygone times. Detailed descriptions accompany each photograph, providing historical context for the reader. And to help explain the significance of Fort Vancouver and its artifacts as they relate to local, national and world history, several authors have contributed essays on archaeology, technology and medicine. It all makes for a very interesting read.

So, the next time you’re sipping on a coffee while driving by the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, reflect on how much has changed since the fur trading days. Better yet, pull off the highway, park your car at the fort’s Visitor Center, and spend some time getting to know what life was like for our predecessors.

Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at She blogs at