Monday, 7 September 2009

Museum Exhibit Musings -- Document Stories

Kelti Boissoneault, who worked with us here at the museum this summer, was kind enough to go through the Archives and pull out some documents from this time period and review them for me. Kelti not only gave me a description of each document beyond what was available in the catalogue information but rated each document on an interest scale as to whether or not she thought I should use it in the exhibit. I thought I would share some of the documents she thought were interesting and see how they relate to the overall themes I’m considering for this exhibit.

On 6 July I posted some information on White Man’s Cafe, one of the cafes in the early 20th century that would only hire white employees. The menu for the cafe is in the Archives. And, as an opportunity to compare today’s prices with those of 100 years ago, it lets us know, for example, that a Clubhouse Sandwich was $0.45.

Another item found was the souvenir booklet issued with Fleetwood School opened in 1911. This book provides a lot of information on what school was like 100 years ago. Would be very interesting for students and teachers today to see what they would have had to deal with back then. In the school realm, there is also a monthly report sheet for Dora Nimmons for high school in 1907. While Dora was not (of course) signed up for all of the classes, this is the list of classes for which she could have been enrolled:
  • reading,
  • literature,
  • grammar,
  • composition,
  • history,
  • geography,
  • arithmetic,
  • algebra,
  • geometry,
  • agriculture,
  • hygiene,
  • physics,
  • botany,
  • chemistry,
  • animal life,
  • book keeping,
  • Latin,
  • French and
  • drawing.

I also find it fascinating that the report also provides Dora’s standing in the class so every month she (and her parents) know how she compares with the other students. Considering that this was also a time when students marks and standing were publicly reported in the newspaper, this shouldn’t be too surprising.

If we combine these documents with the physical objects we have (cornerstones, things buried in the cornerstones) and photographs and books/textbooks such as the Alexandra Readers, I foresee an interesting section in the exhibit on changes in education and schools.

How to tell the story of immigration in the 1906-1913 time period? Certainly the statistics alone and the growth of Lethbridge and Alberta tell part of the story. But in the Archives are some incredible documents. One file has several documents related to a Lewis Stockwell including his steamer ticket, inspection card from the immigration officer, train ticket from Montreal to Lethbridge, and other documents. There are also homestead certificates, letters home and from the old country and much more. Would case studies be a good way to tell the immigration story?

These are only a few of the document Kelti came across. More later.

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