Thursday, 17 December 2009

A Good Yarn of Dolls and Action Figure

You know you have fantastic volunteers when they're willing to take yarn home and wrap 700 "doll bodies." This requires taking yarn and wrapping it around a book 50 times -- and then repeat that 700 times. Why would our volunteers be so willing to take on this task? Well, because throughout the month of December hundreds of students came to the Galt to experience Christmas of the past (some of the over 8500 students who came to the Galt in 2009). And every student who came for Christmas made their own yarn doll (or "action figure") from the prepared body (as well as made a game and decorated cookies and more...).

I love to hear how the dolls do after they leave the museum. One of the parent volunteers this year said her older daughter (now in grade 3) still has her doll that she made when she was in kindergarten. And I personally have seen these dolls out and about Lethbridge with their proud new owners. If you have any other stories of what has happened to these dolls after they left the Galt, we would love to hear them!

Thank you again to all of the Galt volunteers who helped make the doll bodies. You helped make a lot of kids in southern Alberta very happy.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Sorry to break your heart, but...

I have been breaking a lot of hearts this last month or so (no, I’m not being egotistical). It’s just that when I explain to a class that pteranodons and plesiosaurs are not really dinosaurs (they’re extinct flying and marine reptiles, respectively) and that brontosaurus doesn’t exist, I break a lot of hearts. A lot of people name these as their FAVOURITE dinosaurs – but they’re not dinosaurs. Dinosaurs don’t fly and dinosaurs don’t swim and in the case of brontosaurus a mistake was made with the wrong head on the wrong body and he’s actually Apatosaurus.

When I was a kid I was taught all about brontosaurus. The books were full of him. I learned about his diet, his habitat – everything. Now I know most of what I was told is wrong and that in the past #*#&$ years (yeah, like I’m going to admit my age) a lot of what we know about dinosaurs has changed. New discoveries, new ways of looking at old evidence -- this is a major part of paleontology.

The same is and has always been true of history. And I found a great example of this. On Christmas Day 1907 there was a riot here in Lethbridge. The Lethbridge Herald of the time gives a rather interesting description of what happened. But the other day I was researching and found on-line a collection of folk tales from southern Alberta. In there was a description of the riot that differs a lot from the Herald account. Which is the more accurate? I’m not sure at this point.

But the on-line story does suggest an answer to one question. According to the newspaper the riot was started when a Chinese waiter got into a fight with a white customer and hit the customer over the head with a hammer. Rumour got around town that the customer was killed and the riot ensued. No cause is given for why the fight (between the customer and waiter) was started or why the waiter reacted the way he did.

According to the article found on-line two white customers had been drinking heavily and were shooting at tomato cans in the restaurant. They then had to be subdued by the Chinese waiter who hit one over the head with the blunt end of a cleaver. This story certainly has more explanation for why the waiter reacted the way he did.

Any find like this makes me want to go back and see what else I can find so back to researching for me…

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Galt volunteers

Dec 5th each year marks International Volunteer Day, a chance for us to say THANK YOU to volunteers in our organizations, our communities and all over the world.

A belated THANK YOU to every single one of you for your assistance.....whether you have helped with one event in 2009, or volunteer weekly in areas such as Collections or Archives, your support of the Galt Museum & Archives makes it what it is - we would never be able to offer what we do, nor be who we are, without your support.

I know many of you do not see each other in the work you do, because so many do work behind the scenes or from home, but believe me when I say that we have a HUGE number of volunteers supporting fact, we have close around 250 individuals who have volunteered in 2009, and the total hours to date this year are quickly approaching 8000....those are amazing statistics.

We have had two volunteers pass away this past year, and wish to also take some time to remember them both - Yosh Senda and Murielle Joliffe. Both were amazing contributors to the history of our city and region and we were fortunate to have them share some of their great lives with us.

We also have lost volunteers who have had to move away because of school, careers, family and for other reasons. We miss them all but appreciate all they did for us in their time in Lethbridge.

THANK YOU to each and every one of you! You are an important part of your community for stepping up and helping organizations like the Galt to be able to do what we do to make our community a better place.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Mewburn -- Master of the Retort

I want to share some stories that I came across during my research. Both of these concern Dr. Frank Mewburn, Lethbridge's 1st doctor. He was here both during the building of the 1891 Galt Hospital and the 1910 expansion (which is part of the Galt Museum & Archives today). In 1913 he moved to Calgary and after the First World War he became the 1st head of surgery at the University of Alberta Medical School. While both of these stories give an understanding of Mewburn's personality there is also a lot of information about the state of medicine at that time.

Mewburn was known as a master of the retort. He was often given to strong language when driven to the point of exasperation.

One time Dr. Mewburn was operating in the Galt Hospital at Lethbridge when the lights suddenly went out. Doctors and nurses who were in the room with him held their breath and waited for the blow to fall. One girl, nicely brought up, knew enough to put her fingers in her ears.
But the doctor chuckled quietly and merely said, "Gentlemen: I cannot do the subject justice."

On another occasion, Dr. Mewburn was operating at Macleod. The subject of the operation was a dignitary of the church, and a bishop of the same church was in the room where the operation was being performed.
It was a hot, sultry day and somehow or other a fly had gotten into the operating room. The fly buzzed around the room and showed particular interest in the operating table.
Dr. Mewburn kept muttering and brushing the fly away. Once or twice, he opened his mouth to say something appropriate about flies in general, but every time he started to speak, he remembered that there was a bishop seeing and hearing everything that went on.
Finally he reached the end of his tether. He turned to Dr. G.A. Kennedy, who was assisting with the operation, and said: "Kennedy, you've go to do one of two things! Either kill that fly or put the bishop out!"

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Fresh Ideas from 3 Weeks Away

It's been a while since I've blogged. I was away at an incredible seminar in Indianapolis for 3 weeks at the beginning of November (Seminar for Historical Administration). Thought I would share a few photos that highlight some of the things I saw and did.

This first one is from the Indiana State Museum. Indiana is well-known for its limestone and this exhibit shows how limestone was carved into many of the features and monuments found throughout Indiana. I would love to do something similar around sandstone for our area (especially for our Lethbridge 1906-1913 exhibit). As you may be able to see this part of the exhibit has a window directly outside where you can see real examples of limestone.

I took this next one from a hot air balloon at Conner Prairie Interactive History Park. It's very interesting to see what some sites are doing to add to the visitor experience. This was a fun experience but I found the story of John Conner and his two families incredibly more interesting. One thing we discussed a lot at the seminar was how to keep the "real thing" central to what we do (but also make it fun and different).

This next one is from the Indianapolis Children's Museum. This was a fascinating exhibit called the Power of Children and looked at the lives of Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges and Ryan White. This was one of the best examples I've ever seen for taking incredibly difficult subjects (Holocaust, racism, hatred) and making it understandable and powerful for children. I know this is one thing I struggle with for our education programs -- how to truly represent all of history (the positive and the negative) in a way that gives children a true sense of history and that is also done at their level. I really wish this was a traveling exhibit.

One of the other museums we visited was the Indiana Medical History Museum. This was an intriguing museum set in the old Pathology building. The actual classroom (with original chairs) is still there and much of the material is still in the laboratories from when the building was in use. I could have stayed a lot longer at this museum. But one thing I found rather interesting was that they had on display records from the asylum that you could look through and you could read people's names and what conditions lead to them being committed. One of the things I always question is how much private information can/should a historian reveal about a person even when that person is dead? Just because you know something, should you be able to use it for writing history?

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

From recently processed Archives files...

A letter postmarked CALGARY FEB 25, 5 PM, 1943 ALBERTA

addressed to

Mr. Larry Doyle
c/o Plunkett + Savage
Lethbridge, Alberta

Prohibition Headquarters
Calgary. Alberta Canada.

Dear Sir;

No doubt you have heard of me and my great work in the cause of Temperance. For several years I have been travelling about the country on the lecture platform. Perhaps you are familiar with some of my better known talks as "Down With The Drink Evil-- "Rum and Rebellion and "there is No Booze in Christianity ".

For the past few years I have had one Herman Fortescue who used to sit with me on the platform. I would point him out to the audience as a horrible example of the ravages of drink. Herman was originally a man of splendid background, had an excellent education, and fine family connections. During the years when he should have thought to the moulding of his character he developed an insatiable desire for Rum Whiskey and other strong drinks. How much better for him if he had turned to a more gainful occupation. There was times when poor Herman's condition was pitiful. Here was a brilliant man who had become a wreck of his former self. He would sit on the platform beside me, mouth wide open,and staring at the audience- a low down rum soaked bum.

Unfortunately last Spring poor Herman passed away.

A mutual friend has given me your name and I am wondering if you would consent to accompany me on a winter tour to take poor Herman's place.?

Sincerely Yours

John Christian Rhodes (D.D.)