Monday, 25 May 2009

1906-1913 Exhibit -- More Musings on a Museum Exhibit

Continuing to work and research on the 1906-1913 Lethbridge exhibit. Trying to establish context and place these events in a larger understanding (social, economic, political, etc).
As I’m piecing together all of this information, one of the questions that comes to mind (and, thankfully, I have time before I need to answer this) is how far ranging do I want to make this exhibit? While it’s supposed to look at Lethbridge in the years 1906-1913, Lethbridge certainly can’t stand alone. It was part of a larger regional economy and community and was also affected by national and international events. Outside events certainly had a great effect, both short-term and long-term. And do I try to tell the whole story or focus on particular issues such as the social history of the community? For myself, a story is never fully told unless the largest context is provided. But will there be space in the exhibit to provide all of these stories?
How many people besides myself find it noteworthy that Marquis Wheat was introduced on a wide scale across the prairies in 1909? Since Marquis Wheat matured earlier than other wheat, it meant wheat could be grown in a much wider area than ever before. By the 1920s, 90% of all spring wheat in Canada was Marquis Wheat. In southern Alberta, it was a sample of Marquis Wheat that won Henry Holmes of Raymond a new Rumely tractor in the International Dry-Farming Congress. As Lethbridge was the Coal City in the Wheat Country (I love this phrase), this community was tied to the success and failure of the wheat crops.
The growth of the city itself was matched by growth in the communities around and land rushes took place during this time. The 1st major land rush occurred in Lethbridge on 1 September 1908 when more than 1000 eager settlers lined up at the government land office to get homesteads. The last major land rush was in 1912 when homesteaders lined up for land in the Del Bonita area.
Certainly, from an irrigation viewpoint, the Boundary Waters Treaty (1909) that governed the sharing of streams/rivers between Canada and the United States was both affected by irrigation development in southern Alberta and affected it as well. Where would the St. Mary River Irrigation District be without American water? Is it important, though, for this exhibit? Would Lethbridge have boomed in this period without irrigation? If the water had been diverted to the US would the boom have ended earlier?
Is at all relevant to the exhibit that on March 24, 1906, the "Census of the British Empire" shows England rules 1/5 of the world? Knowing that in the First World War, Lethbridge had the highest per capita enlistment of any city in Canada and Pincher Creek had the highest per capita enlistment of any community in Canada, it may help us understand the mind-set of many local citizens at the turn of the 20th century. To us, they were building Canada. They saw themselves as building the British Empire.
Well, back to more research. You’ll have to keep watching the blog (and, of course, come see my exhibit in 2011) to find out what direction I finally take. If you have ideas as to what course I SHOULD take, please share your thoughts. Until next time…

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