Friday, 26 June 2009

Winds of Change -- More Museum Exhibit Musings

The other day I received an email talking about the Winds of Change and asking museums to identify how they are responding to the factors that “continue to blow across our communities and the world.” When I read them, I realized that one way 1906-1913 is incredibly important to people today is that they had to respond to many of the same factors. Their successes and failures can help us better plan our response. What can we learn from 100 years ago?

Here’s a list of some of the winds of change this person identified:
- climate change
- unemployment
- urban sprawl
- loss of biodiversity
- increased ethno-cultural diversity in cities
- desertification
- globalized economics
- use of energy (renewable and non-renewable)
- equity (economic, education, employment, social, etc)
- immigration (as an essential component of economic growth)
- an economic system based on continuous growth
- any social, environmental, cultural or economic issue that is rooted in a given community

Let’s start with immigration. Over the last 10 years Canada has welcomed about 200,000 immigrants a year or about 2 million people into a country of approximately 30 million people. In the 8 years from 1906-1913, Canada welcomed almost 2.2 million people or an average of 270,000 people a year. The total population of Canada in the early 20th century was less than 8 million people. Said another way, in 1914, ¼ of all people in Canada were immigrants who had arrived in the past 10 years.

In Lethbridge the population went from 2,313 in 1906 to 8,050 in 1911 for a growth of 248.03%. How did they manage that growth or did they even try? How did they handle housing? (do you think the city would still let us set up tents and cots in Galt Gardens?) Construction of roads and infrastructure? (as I've said before, we came out of this period greatly in debt) What were the concerns around immigration discussed then? Now? Is there something here for us to learn? Does our response to growth and immigration differ from theirs 100 years ago? If yes, how and why? What does it tell us about how our community is different now? What does it show us has persisted in our community?

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