“One person’s trash is another person’s treasure – especially if you are collecting old space junk” – excerpt from an interview of Jim Bernath by Flash News, July 1998).
The Jim Bernath collection of astronomy and space artifacts will be featured at this year’s Astronomy Day and Science Rendezvous – Saturday 11:00am to 3:00pm May 11th at Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby campus. Come, see, and touch meteorites, pieces of tile from the space shuttle, the iconic Canadian logo and flag produced for the Canadarm, and other space memorabilia. Parts of the collection are shown in the video below but it is a hands-on display best experienced in person at Astronomy Day!
Jim was a member of RASC since 1975 – that is 44 years. To many, he was known as “Mr. Space of Canada” and a self-described “Specialist in NASA and the Space Shuttle Programs”. Unlike many collectors, Jim didn’t keep his artifacts private but instead chose to display and share them with the public. Jim regularly traveled with his van of curiosities across Canada and the United States. He would set up displays in schools, auditoriums, and malls – wherever he could find a crowd.
At the RASC General Assembly in October of 1981, Jim was one of the recipients of the Best Centre Display. Jim was a regular in presenting his display at our annual Astronomy Day events. Adults and especially kids buzzed around his display tables and loved to hear him explain all of the details of missions and memorabilia.
2018’s International Astronomy Day event was Jim’s last time with us. His fragile health precluded him from bringing the last few pieces of his displays to the event. Instead, Jim was setup next to the tables for the Jim Bernath Collection and he spent the entire afternoon giving away autographed posters of space and the space shuttle with a line-up of children waiting to meet him. He was a rock-star and it was a great send off for him because sadly, shortly after the event, Jim was admitted to long term care and passed away a few months later.
Over the past few years, RASC Vancouver began to acquire pieces of Jim’s displays and created RASC Vancouver’s Jim Bernath Collection to carry on his legacy. It has now become an integral part of our outreach programming.
“His warm charm, wit, and his love of all things astronomical will be missed. Thank you Jim for your generous service on Earth.” – Pomponia Martinez, past-president of RASC Vancouver.
Parts of this article are taken from a tribute to Jim Bernath by Suzanna Nagy, the past president of RASC Vancouver, that will appear in a upcoming issue of the Journal of the RASC.