Friday, 17 December 2010

Thoughts from a Grade 9 Brain

One great part of my job is the Thank You letters I receive from students. As another year wraps up, I thought I would share some of my favourite snippets from a grade 9 class.

In October, we took a grade 9 class to Mountain View Cemetery to learn Lethbridge history and discuss the biographies of some Lethbridge people. The students were each assigned a person and researched that individual both before and after the tour.

“While on the tour I learned that a lot of miners died while working on [sic] the mine. The thing that I liked most about the tour was the worksheets you made us do.” – I see a future in Archives for this student.

“I liked how we got to miss school to go to the graveyard and I liked how we got to learn about our people for our project.” -- It’s not really “missing school” when you come with your teachers.

“Learning how to tell about someone’s life and what they liked by looking for certain things on their headstone & footstone is pretty cool. Thank you so much for putting up with us for the morning and teaching us about the different things you can find in a graveyard.” – I, too, think the history to be found in a graveyard is “pretty cool.” And, spending much of my time working with elementary students, it was fun to work with grade 9 students for a change.

“You didn’t show us the guy I was researching, but the information you gave on everyone else was helpful.” – What can I say? Sorry.

“I didn’t really learn much about Winston Churchill but that’s because he wasn’t in that graveyard.” -- No, but I wish he was. It would make my tours that much more interesting.

“I appreciate that you walked around in the cold so we could learn. It was interesting to learn about all these people that used to live in Lethbridge. It was also helpful.” AND “Many of us learned things about the famous people that we were researching about. But we would have enjoyed it more if it wasn’t so cold out.” -- Outdoor tours would be much more comfortable if they weren’t outdoors.

“I really enjoyed learning about new people and Lethbridge’s history….I honestly didn’t mind doing the worksheet because I learned a lot about our history that I had no idea about and now I know what symbols in a cemetery mean.” -- I’m so glad you see it as ‘our history’. What I find compelling about cemetery history is that it is democratic . Everyone – rich or poor, old or young, worker or owner, man or woman – ends up in the cemetery and it tells the story of the entire community.

“Thank you very much for spending your time with us to show us around the cemetery. We all very enjoyed the experience! You did a very good job at teaching us.” – Thank you.

“We all really appreciate it. I thought that what you taught us was really interesting. I think it is really cool that you research and care so much about people that you have never met before.” – It’s one of the occupational hazards of being a historian – people don’t seem interesting until they’re dead.

“It’s pretty amazing that you know all the facts, let alone remember everything about these people and how they died.” -- Don’t tell anyone, but I just make it all up. Kidding, of course. I’m lucky to have one of those memories where facts and figures stick in my head.

Thank you to all of the students, teachers, and parents who visited the Galt for education programs in 2010 – all 9920 students and 1715 adults!!! See you in 2011.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Aliens, US Air Force, Mormons, and Atomic Bombs!

My family and I are going on a long drive this winter holiday - long as in driving all the way from Southern Alberta to California. I have spent a great deal of time preparing for this holiday by studying websites and books about the different museums and sites we may see along the way and must say that there are a few that I really look forward to:

1. The Hill Air Force Base Museum in Utah - this museum comes recommended by a friend who also has boys. She told me how much they loved it (and the free admission/admission by donation). Since then I have read many reviews and this museum comes highly recommended by everyone. Not only that, when I emailed them an enquiry, the response back was so genuinely kind that I really look forward to meeting the staff and my expectations are for a very memorable visit!

2. In Nevada, my sons have encouraged me for months to go see Area 51. Expecting nothing to really see, I investigated what might be around there (along the Extraterrestrial Highway as it is fondly named) and I found the Alien Research Centre. While not a museum, this place very much intrigues me, in the same way that the Voodoo Museum in the French Quarter in New Orleans intrigued me.....I am expecting to see something created by someone who is very passionate, or wants to make money on the tourists like us. It may not be the best quality but the experience will no doubt be fun and memorable!

3. The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum in Nephi has me curious. It sounds like a smaller, probably mostly volunteer run museum, about a religion that plays such a crucial role in that area's culture, as well as the culture in Southern Alberta. I don't know a lot about the Mormon religion so figure that I will start here, with a museum dedicatd to the pioneers of the religion.

4. Finally, having a very strong interest in war and pacifism, I am excited, but admittedly saddened and nervous, to go to The Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas. I don't know if I want to know more about this terrible weapon but part of me wants to know the capabilities and past history that doesn't make the news every day.

Museums and sites on travels can be the big, well known ones that are in every guide and travel website, but they can also be the lesser known ones that you hear about through word of mouth or really digging through materials. I tend to go with the latter and am excited to learn more about the US Air Force, Aliens, Mormons, and Atomic Testing. I am sure I'll come back with plenty of memories and experience from these that will allow me to look at my job differently (don't think I don't pick up every volunteer application and brochure I see!! Or every event calendar...!) but also allow me to look at the world with fresh eyes - this is, after all, what museums are for, is it not?

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Where's Kipp?

I wanted to confirm the precise date when the first two Lethbridge City Charters came into effect (May 9, 1906, and March 25, 1913, respectively). The on-line form from Alberta Municipal Affairs that had this information had a link to a map so I decided to click on it. The map showed all of the cities, towns, and hamlets in and around Lethbridge (from Fort Macleod to Taber and from Carmangay to Magrath). Some of it surprised me.

How many of you have been to the Hamlet of Fairview? It is, of course, the community between 43rd Street and the Research Centre.

Did you know that Moon River Estates is considered a hamlet?

Or that Johnson’s Addition (the western edge of Taber) is a hamlet and not part of Taber?

Most of the map held no surprises. But as I studied it, I realized Kipp wasn’t on the map. So now I wanted to know – was Kipp still a hamlet or has it become something else?

I did a search of Kipp on-line and a non-official web-site described it as a “populated locality.” I love that phrase but it didn’t answer the question.

So I went to the County of Lethbridge site. The County has a series of maps available including a hamlet map.

On the County map, Kipp is still included as a hamlet.

So, is it or isn’t it? Was it just forgotten from the provincial map? Or has there been a recent change? Is Kipp still a hamlet?

If the “title” of Kipp has changed, it wouldn’t be the first time. Kipp started as Fort Kipp, a trading post. The present day Kipp kept the name but is in a different location.

Personally, I hope Kipp is still a hamlet.

{the pictures above show an abandoned reststop in Kipp in the 1960s [Galt Archives P19752207254] and the Thompson Store and British American dealer/Service Station in Kipp in 1957 [Galt Archives P19754090074]}

Thursday, 2 December 2010

I'm a Hypocrite

I'm a hypocrite.
I realized it the other day as a group of us were discussing current events and politics. I want to live in a time of relative calm and abundance. What's the Chinese curse -- may you live in interesting times? I don't want to live in interesting times. I would like nice, rational understandable and even ever so slightly boring times.

BUT I am incredibly happy that people in the past lived in interesting times with economic volatility, strikes, protests, controversial elections, arguments that played out in the newspaper, uncertainty, and so much more. Because these sort of times make for fascinating study and reading. And there are great anecdotes, statistics, photographs, etc. to use in presenting these stories.

But as a historian what I can't lose sight of is that these were real people who lived through these events -- while I may look at it from the distance of time and the objectivity of research, there are also times when I have to think of it from the perspective of the human context. What was it like to have your farm foreclosed on? To get a telegram informing you a son/brother/husband had died? What was it like to be in the midst of one of the political tempests that regularly were written up in the newspapers of old? To have been standing between the police and the mine as temporary workers were escorted to work in the coal mine? To have been a worker protesting unemployment?

Did those people wish, as I do, that they didn't live in interesting times? Probably. And for their sake I wish they had had more quiet lives. For my sake, though, I'm glad they didn't.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Photo Not Available

One advantage to doing recent history is that there are photographs to help explain and understand locations, events and happenings. Usually. Unfortunately, for many things, even those that happened recently, there are often not photos available.

For obvious reasons, a lot of illegal activities (especially those only suspected and not proved) don't have photographic evidence. It would make a lot of my research much easier if more people would take photographs of themselves doing illegal activities and donating them to museums.

And there is also a bias to photographic evidence. Wealthy, well-known people tend to have more photos of them in the Archives than average, everyday people. There are many more photographs of certain immigrant groups than of others. For example, we have few photographs of Chinese immigrants to early Lethbridge. And we have no photographs of early Black immigration to Lethbridge (though we have written evidence).

It becomes incredibly frustrating when a photo just does not exist. Especially when you want to tell these stories in exhibits. The visuals -- objects from collections and photographs -- are vital to the telling of stories in museums.

Many of the early coal miners and their families lived in "dug-outs." I'm not talking about the kind of dug-outs that hold water (or baseball players, for that batter). These were cave like structures dug into the sides of the coulees, lined with wood and used for homes. They would have some similarities to sod houses or soddies in their dirt construction. But they were built into the hill.

An advantage to these was that the person living in them was essentially squatting so there was no rent to pay. But, I would assume, they did not have the advantages of a house like windows and electricity? In reality, though, I don't know much about these structures. We have one or two written descriptions of them (though not greatly detailed descriptions) but despite our best efforts we can not find a photograph.

This may be because no one took photos of them or no one has ever thought to donate a photo of them to the Archives. Of course, it was also because it was the poor coal-miners who lived in these.

If you know of such a photo, can you please get in touch with us here at the Galt? Even if it's not of a Lethbridge dug-out, I'd love to see a picture. Using the written descriptions, we're going to recreate one for the Lethbridge 1906-1913 exhibit. But a photograph would help ensure that it's as accurate as possible.

I also want to encourage everybody to think of the photographs (and documents and objects) that you have at home. You may be holding a clue that helps answer questions about history or that allows the shared history of the community to be better told. Before getting rid of these items, think carefully about whether or not they should be in a museum or archives (and I'm not just talking about donating them to the Galt -- just be certain to get in touch with SOME museum or archives). When these photos, document, objects are lost -- a piece of all of our identity is lost.

And if I can't find a photograph of a dug-out, maybe I can convince some nice person to build/re-create one some day (it could wait until spring) so we could take photos of what we think they looked like? Just a thought.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Scattered Thoughts

The last week has been one of those weeks where I've had 30 different projects all vying for my attention and I've had to go between teaching and a meeting or project the entire week. So if that's what my life has been like, I decided that's what the blog will be like.

So, you're going to be subjected to the flotsam and jetsam of my mind (scary, huh?).

First, the joy of the last week or so. I've been working with a lot of very young students (aged 3-6) and they never cease to amaze me with their literal thinking. I had one young girl handing something in so I said "thank you kindly." She looked at me with big blue eyes and informed me "my name's not kindly." After I finished laughing, I explained to her what I meant.

I had another class where I was talking about Sir Alexander Galt and everything he had done. And then I said he had a museum named after him and asked the class if anyone knew of a museum named after Sir Alexander Galt. Silence in the classroom. So I tried a different tactic. I asked, "well, where are you right now?" The answer? "In a chair."

I've also been doing considerable in-depth research for my exhibit on Lethbridge 1906 to 1913. I know the big picture but there's a few small, persistent questions I still haven't answered. Such as when precisely did different people acquire the right to vote in municipal elections. For example, when did women get the right to vote? Knowing the kind of week I've been having, I should have known it wouldn't be a straightforward answer.

The 1st woman to vote in Lethbridge was in the 1890s -- a widow who was considered head of household. In the 1913 act of incorporation, men and women could both vote but ONLY if they met particular and detailed requirements about owning property. So now the question becomes how many women met those requirements? I suspect the McLeay sisters, entrepreneurs who owned a business and building downtown could vote. But how many others?

Then in 1918 the Province of Alberta said it was going to change the Charters of all cities in Alberta to give women the right to vote.

And I'm working on reformatting some brochures one of our volunteers translated into Arabic. I'm just working on making certain the brochure fits properly on the page and then we'll have the Short History of Lethbridge brochure available in Arabic and Chinese.

And I had the fun opportunity this past week to go to Nord-Bridge Seniors and do a presentation on Lethbridge history. It was a great crowd and, as always, I loved sharing little known stories about Lethbridge's past. Unfortunately for me, I can't include those stats in my school stats so I'm still hoping to find a way to get 300 or so more students by the end of the year so I can reach my magic 10,000 students in one calendar year mark.

Seriously, anyone want me to come talk to an assembly before the end of the year? If not, I guess I'll just have to be satisfied with 9600 students (projected) for this year.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Pioneer Home Remedies AKA Things Not To Do

Put a little oil on a burn so it doesn’t get crusty? Sulfur mixed with molasses to “clean you out” if you have constipation? Willow bark shampoo to cure dandruff? Wash your hair and head with kerosene to get rid of head lice?

No, I’m absolutely not suggesting you go out and try any of these. In fact, I strongly recommend that you NEVER try any of these. These are home remedies used in Lethbridge and southern Alberta in days past.

Back in 2001, the Galt Museum & Archives hosted an exhibit called Feeling Better. This exhibit looked at the history of medicine in southern Alberta. As part of the exhibit, we invited people to come in and record some of the home remedies that they remembered from their parents and grandparents. We also went around and collected as many home remedies as we could.

For years we have had this collection of home remedies and haven’t done much with them. I’ve wanted for years to put them together into a book but this just hasn’t happened.

But this year, 2010, we’re celebrating the 100th year of our building – which was once, of course, part of the Galt Hospital. Medicine and home remedies are being discussed again amongst Galt staff. And the home remedies we collected got another lease on life.

They were, along with pictures of the Galt Hospital and other health institutions in southern Alberta, put together into a 2011 calendar. As you flip through the page of the calendar, you’ll get glimpses into medicine of the past – and be incredibly thankful you were born in this day and age! Medicine before antibiotics is not something I really want to think about.

Personally, I still think we should publish the book of old-time remedies. There are way too many to be all used in the calendar and this is something we shouldn’t let languish in a drawer for another 9 years. But Michelle, our store manager, doesn’t think we have enough for a full-size book.

So if you have remedies you want to add to make the book long enough, please send them into the Galt. The more, the merrier. Then maybe I can convince Michelle that there’s enough material to print the book. THANKS to everyone who provided home remedies in the past and to those who are going to send some in now!!!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Fabric of British Home Children

A child separated forever from family and friends and shipped off to another country to serve as child labour? Couldn’t be part of Canadian history, could it?

A small exhibit – a powerful story! The Fabric of British Home Children at the Galt until 30 January 2011.

Poor, alone, unwanted and vulnerable is how many British children must have felt in the crowded cities of Britain during the middle of the 19th century. The cities at the time were places of poverty, pollution, social inequality, slums, and dangerous working conditions for hundreds of thousands of people. With the rising population and increased urbanization, some church groups, orphanages and workhouses felt they could no longer support the growing number of children in their care. The solution? Send them off to the colonies to work on farms or as domestic help.

Between 1869 and 1948, Britain sent approximately 100,000 children to Canada. The move sometimes split up families – some of the children were orphans, many (perhaps as many as 2/3) were taken from their parents; sometimes siblings got to remain together, sometimes they were sent to opposite ends of Canada.

The idea was to have the younger children adopted by the families in Canada while the older children were to be provided with food and shelter in exchange for labour. How did it really work? It depended on the family that took them in. Some children thrived in their new country. The lucky ones were taken in and adopted by loving, caring families. Other children faced abuse, loneliness and poor working conditions, working as free labour without benefit of education or support.

This is a story of many Canadian families. It is estimated that 4,000,000 Canadians today – or more than 10% of our population – can trace part of their family history to the British Home Children. Over 10,000 of the British Home Children fought in the First and Second World Wars. Starting with so very little, these children grew up to be many of the men and women who helped to build Canada.

But many of the home children didn’t tell their families of their experiences. So families often had to research and find out the stories for themselves.

A woman’s wish to know more about her family and to honour the British Home Children lead to this exhibit. The exhibit is focused on two quilts created by Hazel Perrier of Claresholm, Alberta, to commemorate the British Home Children. One quilt is made from squares sent to Hazel from descendants of British Home Children from across Canada. The other quilt tells Hazel’s own family history.

Bobbie Fox, a Galt staff member, researched and wrote panels on the history of British Home Children to provide more context for the quilts during their stay here at the Galt.
It is particularly appropriate that this exhibit is here this year as 2010 has been declared by the House of Commons as the Year of the British Home Child. Member of Parliament Phil McColeman had an uncle who was a Home Child and MP McColeman successfully introduced a private members’ motion that was unanimously passed in the House of Commons last year. In honour of the Year of the British Home Child, Canada Post issued a commemorative stamp. You can learn more about the message in the stamp when visiting the exhibit.

Web-sites and organizations are working with families to help them trace them origin and ancestors. It is impossible to give these children back their childhoods – but hopefully many of the families will be able to find their history and learn the true story of their families.

From what I have seen with families and visitors, the great power of this exhibit is its ability to start conversations and to start people thinking about these issues, these lives and how the individuals and Canada were all affected. I don’t have answers for the questions I pose below but these are some things I’ve asked students to consider: Was life in Canada better than in the slums, as the reformers of the time believed, or worse? Should Canada follow other countries and apologize for this program? Is this still happening (in a slightly different way) in the world today? What can or should be done about it?
If you have answers or just want to discuss the questions above, take some time this fall to stop by the Galt, view the exhibit and think about the British Home Children.

Friday, 29 October 2010

All in a days work

Kiwi fruit grow on vines.

You may think that's an odd statement to start a blog related to southern Alberta history and the Galt Museum, but to me it makes perfect sense. Ever had one of those weeks when, as a teacher, you ask if anyone has questions and you get lots of questions -- just none on the topic you've been discussing for the last 90 minutes?

I had several classes of grade 2s in this week and we were doing Then and Now -- a program that looks at how Lethbridge has changed. At the end of every program, I turn to the students and ask questions.

The three I received this week were not what I expected. What do kiwis grow on? Where do seeds come from? Where do metals come from? The seeds and the metals questions I found easy enough to answer but, truth be told, I never before this week considered what kind of plant a kiwi is. So as soon as the class left, I had to look it up. I had assumed a tree or bush and was surprised to find the answer.

I like unexpected questions like this because they make you think and they also enlivened up the week. Who knows what next week will bring?

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Macabre Museum - the history and the details

This Sunday is Halloween - one of my favourite times of year. After learning last year of the Cantos Music Foundations' Halloween event where they had someone who could do psychometry "read" their instruments, a few of us thought that would be a fun way to hear some history - to have a psychic tell us about some of our artifacts so that we could look at them in a different way than museums usually do.

Over the last year I have been trying to learn as much as I can about psychometry and the paranormal world. I learned that there is far more to it than ghosts and spirits - that people in Lethbridge believe there are vortexes in the coulees, that exorcisms of some sort are actually not as uncommon as I would have thought, etc. Of course, my beliefs have been mainly shaped by my experiences from Hollywood movies and I haven't really talked to anyone before this about this "world" but I have learned that it is large, in fact very large in Lethbridge. This surprised me as being a religious community, I assumed that there would be many hurdles to learning some basics so I could figure out how to plan this event, but instead I found that there are a lot of people who believe and practice these things here, they are just not in locations that I frequent. I remember learning about this in sociology classes in university - you know what you do because of who and where you spend time and until you immerse yourself into someone else's world, your whole belief is based on assumptions usually shaped from the world you are immersed in.

So this has been an interesting journey. I came at this as a skeptic and while I would not say that I am 100% a believer in everything I have heard, I now believe that I have learned enough to know that some of what I have heard does intrigue me and make some sense to me. I totally respect everyone I have met and talked to - their beliefs may not always match mine but they are patient and kind in explaining things to me and answering my many "dumb questions". I am always glad to meet people with differing views who will take the time to explain them to me, as it is those who look down on different people and don't take the time to explain things, that often end up being the image that we remember - that has not been my experience this time at all!

So in the last few days we have firmed things up and I am hoping Lethbridge is looking for an experience similar to what I, as someone who admits much stupidity in this area, would be looking for. We have an individual who has the ability to pick up on energies who will tell us what she can about some objects that we have selected and she hasn't seen. The audience will have a chance to ask her questions as well. Do you believe in her abilities? Well it will be up to you to decide after you spend some time with her.

We will also have tours of our building but instead of the normal tour, we will do the tour where people will hear about the experiences reported by staff, visitors and volunteers in our building. Some of the stories will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up and many will make you giggle as you hear about things such as jokes that staff have pulled on each other, as we have "played ghost" before to try to scare each other! Are visitors and regulars in our building paranoid, or are these experiences real? Well it will be up to you to decide in the end!

We will also have an individual who is an amateur in the field but who has spent many years studying and learning, to answer your questions about different things to do with dealing with the paranormal world. He can also tell you some of the stories of Lethbridge ghosts that he has collected or heard about and then it will be up to you to decide if you believe or if he is pulling your leg and a really good actor!

And of course we have some people who claim to be able to give you readings based on tarot cards and other things. Again, some people take this very seriously and others think this is all fun. Our readers will surely share with you some things you didn't know and you can take it all in and believe in all that you hear, or you can laugh and have a good time with their attempts at "reading" you.

So this Halloween, we definitely invite you to share a few hours with us - will you come as a skeptic and leave as a believer....or come as a skeptic and leave as a skeptic?? Maybe you will come as a believer and leave skeptical of the people we found to help out with this event?? If so, maybe you can let me know who you would have invited and case we do this event again next year.

In the end, we just want to have a fun evening for those people who don't have kids to take trick or treating - basically any adult who is curious to experience something different than their norm, or those who celebrate this as their norm. I know that I want to learn new things, I want to appreciate new beliefs....and I may not believe in the end but I will certainly be able to say that I listened, tried and have had some fun experiences no matter what I believe in the end!

So join us....if you dare ;) And know that all funds raised support the Galt and Trap\Door Artist Run Centre, who are partners in this new, entertaining Halloween event. In the end, you'll have helped two wonderful organizations, while having a good time with your friends!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

A Hunt for New Stats

Blogging a day early as I won't be around the office tomorrow.

I have been leading classes at the museum for more years than I wish to admit (I started working here in the last millennium). And once you write a program you get a script in your head and don't always update or change the program as often as you maybe should.

But as every teacher (and historian and researcher and politician and…) knows, every so often you need to go back and see how the facts and figures have changed. So over the last month I’ve been purposely checking the facts that I give out during some of our programs so that I'm always up to date with the newest stats.

And in that research I’ve found some things that have surprised me. Thought I’d share some of them. Some of these may surprise you, too. Or you may just roll your eyes and say, of course, everyone knew that (but I won’t really believe you).

Population density is higher in Alberta than British Columbia. BC has 4.84 people per square kilometer. Alberta has 5.76. Saskatchewan sits at 1.75 people per square kilometer.

There are as many people in Calgary as in the entire province of Saskatchewan. I already knew this one but it still amazes me. I use this one with students when we’re talking about natural resources and the development of Alberta and Saskatchewan. At present there are about 3.7 times more Albertans than Saskatchewonians (sure that’s not the right word). However, in 1905, when the two provinces were created, there were more people in Saskatchewan than Alberta. A lot can change in 100 years.

During the wrap-up in our history of coal class, the class (grade 4s) discusses whether or not there’s still coal under Lethbridge. We mined coal in the Lethbridge area for 90 years (from 1874 to 1965) and in the 1960s the last large mine closed. Why? Did we run out of coal or for some other reason? There’s still LOTS of coal under Lethbridge. The most recent estimate is that in this area between 90% and 95% of the coal is still under the ground.

The next question: do we still use coal in Alberta? Here the class is not so sure. What’s your guess? Do we use coal in Alberta? At present approximately 49% of our electricity is generated through coal. This is one of the stats I had to change for my program. It wasn’t that long ago that it was 75% of our electricity came from coal.

I was talking about this stat yesterday with some visitors (adult, not students) and they asked with, all of the hours of sunlight in southern Alberta, why we don't use more solar energy. And me, who usually has an answer for everything, couldn't some up with a good answer for them. Why don't we use more solar energy in southern Alberta??? Another stat, another question that I'm going to have to go and research.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Toast, rice, and Tim Curry

The smell of toast fills the air of the museum today. With 400 slices of bread being toasted, this will last for hours, if not the whole day.

Yes, it is that day - the one day each year that we have volunteers come in to prepare toast to be thrown about with reckless abandon during the screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show (on October 30th this year). When they are done with the toast, they will pack bags of rice - lots of rice - 80 lbs of it to be exact!

I often wonder what Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, and the rest of the cast think when they look at what the Rocky Horror Picture Show has become?! Is t his beyond their wildest dreams at the time of filming or did they suspect it would turn into a cultural phenomenon? I mean, when else in Lethbridge can you see men in corsets and heels walking around proudly, winning awards for looking "the best"?!

If you haven't experienced this before, don't be shy - you do not need to dress up and you don't have to know when to throw the rice, or toast, or many other things that are in the prop bags we provide - we give you a handout, we have many "sluts" (the popular word for RHPS fanatics) who will know when to do things and you can follow their lead, plus we have the prompter on the screen that tells you to throw toast, don your party hat, squirt everyone with water, etc.

It's an exciting night at the museum each year - definitely my favourite, EVEN when having to clean up afterwards. Every year I just leave work laughing and smiling for days, because the songs are stuck in my head, the audience's excitement and interactions bring the movie to life in ways that watching it at home cannot (and I doubt you'd throw toast in your home, knowing you'd have to pick it up - here, you can leave and not worry about the mess left behind!).

I just have to say a HUGE thank you to all those volunteers who help me with doing such odd tasks as toasting bread, filling bags with rice and confetti, and more (espeically those who stay to clean up)! I could not do it without them, and the audience appreciates their work. It may not seem like it when we pick it all up at the end of the night but their laughter tells a different story! I feel very fortunate to be the Coordinator of Volunteers at an organization that has the BEST volunteers!

See you October 30th at the Galt!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Galt Gardens -- An Educational Resource

If all of the classes we have booked for the rest of the year come (and we certainly expect they will) we are expecting between 9000 and 9200 students to visit the Galt in 2010. And hopefully we'll still book more classes.

These students range in age from 3 years to university and they have come this year to learn about dinosaurs, coal mining, the Second World War, the Great Depression, great people of southern Alberta and so much more. And I love all of the different classes we offer.

But I must admit that one of my absolute favourite programs is the Downtown Lethbridge Treasure Hunt. For this class we take grade 2 classes to Galt Gardens. They have pictures of what the buildings used to look like and information on each building. And they have to find those buildings today. They also have to find three monuments within the park (there are over 20 monuments in the park) and answer questions about them. The students work in groups and spend about 45 minutes doing the treasure hunt. Then we go over the answers and have a tour.

There are many reasons why I love this program. The kids are immersed in history. They get to see the historic buildings and stand in Lethbridge's oldest park (125 years old this year) and they are engaged in active learning. They also get a true sense that history isn't just something from the past but that history surrounds us and that if we look around our community there is history and important things (monuments, buildings, plaques) everywhere. All you have to do is be a history detective in your community.

But as much as I love this program for the kids, it is sometimes even more fun watching the adults. We need a high adult to student ratio for this trip so we sometimes have up to 9 adults on a field trip. Many of them haven't been to Galt Gardens (or even the downtown) for years or they're new to the community and this is their first opportunity to learn about their new city. Watching them see the community with fresh eyes is great. And one of the things I most love about this program is that the adults learn as much as the kids and have as much fun as the kids.

Now the only thing I hope for is that the weather holds for the next few weeks so that the cold weather can't stop this amazing adventure.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Tale of the Pickled Pork

People often ask me why I love history -- stories like the one above are a large part of the reason. These great stories told about people's lives or the lives of their friends, family and neighbours. I was researching something on midwive of southern Alberta and I came across this story and it made me chuckle. Not sure how easy it is to read so I'll repeat it for you here:

"Money was scarce in 1922 so to get a little extra I started moonshining. The Mounties found out and tried to get me. Somehow I managed to keep one steap ahead of them. Once I almost got caught. The Mounties were coming to the farm and I had no time to hide the booze. As a last resort I fed it to my pigs. The end result was happy pickled pork and no ticket."

I love also the story about people such as the midwife whose husband was known to bake the best bread in the community. It seemed that every time she started work on a few loaves of bread she would be called out to deliver a baby and her husband ended up having to finish up the baking of most of the bread.

Or the story of the nurse who was going out with two doctors on a house call to a farm and had to tie her hat onto her head with bandages to keep it from blowing away in the chinook wind.

Or the young men so proud of their new car who were driving from Barons to Claresholm for the baseball game and waved jauntily to the older woman driving to Claresholm with an old horse and wagon. On the way to the game the tire of the car went flat and the horse and wagon passed them. They got the car going and passed the wagon again. But within only a few miles they had another flat and soon enough the horse and wagon caught up to them again. The lady in the wagon had the last laugh when the men finally had to accept a ride with her to Claresholm because the rough roads were just too much for the tires of their new car to handle.

I was raised hearing stories like this of my family and community history and I could listen to them for hours as a kid. I hope parents and grandparents are still taking the time to pass stories like this on. The kids may complain about it today but they'll thank you for it in the long run.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Happy Hump Day

Ahhh it's mid-week....that means only a few days to the weekend, and not only the weekend but a LONG weekend! I imagine everyone is probably looking forward to the end of this week and wanting the days to go quickly.

I usually find my motivation to get odd tasks done reaches it's peak on Wednesdays for some reason. I often come in, create a huge TO DO list and start plugging away, and Wednesdays, more than any day, I get through it!

So now that I have so many major events behind me, I find that my TO DO list includes a lot of cleaning up - cleaning up physically (my work space is pretty crazy right now) up paper trails (lots of data entry and number stuff to do after an event).....and cleaning up mentally in that I am letting go of the past few months and focussing my energies on those to come.

As I do this I wonder a few things - first of all, what do most event coordinators at museums, art galleries or really for any nonprofit due for storage? I know that as an event is coming closer, I end up with more and more things building up and in my office and the common area outside of it. Before our expansion I had a huge office (that I shared with our store manager) but it was big enough to store everything, and it had a door so that I could hide it all. Now, with no door and a cubicle, things are more challenging. How do others do it?? Suggestions....advice...please share!

I also wonder how event coordinators "let go"? When I was doing my theatre degree we often did rituals after a show to help us let go, and planning an event is like directing or being involved in a play in any capacity - your heart and soul get poured into that "performace" (ie event) and afterwards there is a bit of a mental high and low. Do other event coordinators have their rituals to deal with this? I have read how writing things down and sealing them up really does have a positive effect on letting go of things, but this was in the context of stressors in one's life - but we did similar things in theatre, often buring our farewell notes to our characters, or burying them.....wonder what my coworkers would think if I had a small fire after each event?! :)

But anyhow, I realize I am losing time on this Hump Day, my day to get the weird things on my TO DO list done, so I should go tackle them.....but I look forward to responses, suggestions, ideas and the like!

Friday, 1 October 2010

Recycling -- An Old Idea

Recognize these?
I was always told by my Mom that the very best Tea Towels were old flour sacks. People have recycled old flour sacks like this forever. An embroidery pattern would be stamped onto the cloth and then stitched. Many of the patterns people used were similar to these here -- one for each day of the week showing the different activities of a woman's life. Monday was wash day. Tuesday for ironing. And on through the week.
I have been wanting a set of these to use with our Great Depression school program and I finally got some this fall. Thanks to Mary Zuba for providing an entire week set to the museum so that kids of today will understand the past a little better.
But, of course, tea towels were not the only thing you could do with flour sacks. Over the years I've heard of at least 100 different uses. Sacks were made into everything imagineable including, of course, clothes. Not being the crafty kind of person who could sew up clothes from an old sack to show students, I was also very fortunate this year to get an apron made out of a rice sack. The Buddhist Temple of Southern Alberta is selling these aprons as a fund-raiser.
Now when students visit to learn about the Great Depression or we're discussing the environment and recycling, we have hands-on, interactive items to show them.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

9 months.....

9 months feels like a long time when someone is pregnant! I am sure the women out there would agree that from the first moment you find out you are pregnant to the first moment you hold your babe, it is a long LONG wait.

Well 9 months feels just as long when it is the length of time spent planning an event, but I finally got to "hold my babe" this past Sunday, when the event day came, and went, and with much success from all the feedback I have received.

This event was the Galt babies party and Centennial celebration event of our building - we also invited the whole community because it was a centennial celebration and because we had a new exhibit - this saved our community programmer and curator from planning programs around the new exhibit opening since I was already going to be doing an event, and they could thus focus their energies on other matters.

We sent out about 1100 invitations to Galt Babies, all over the world! We also sent out invitations to our members, volunteers, and those involved with the exhibit. We put posters up and advertised in the Leisure Guide and other public places so the public would know they were welcome, too.

Over 9 months I had a wonderful committee who met very frequently, weekly at least for the last few months and bi-weekly before that. This committee helped shape the event, spending the first few months brainstorming and looking into what was possible and what was not. Once we had a HUGE list of ideas of things we wanted, I first met with the curator to see how this could all fit in with her having a few speakers at the exhibit opening, and the community programmer to see how much of this we could do with her supplies on hand. Then I took it to the staff and got some feedback from them.

We started with what felt like 100 ideas and in the end only used a small number of them because, well, with only one staff and a crew of volunteers, we could only manage so much planning, but also because many of our activities would have been outside and Lethbridge has had the rainiest, coldest summer I have ever seen and it seemed too risky to put so many eggs into that basket.

But we did it - we managed - we pulled it off! And though, of course, there were things that could have been better, ie I'd have loved to have a stage but we had no place to store it on Friday and Saturday, so our performers were on the floor level with the seated guests); we could have emphasized to the public that they were welcome - as it was, almost everyone there was a Galt Baby and/or a guest of a Galt Baby; etc.....we still heard so much excitement about the rides in the streetcar that the Lethbridge Exhibition sponsored that day, and everyone loved the reenactment of the 1910 opening with 2 actors (Charlie Christensen played Mr Naismith, ViceChair of the Board of the Hospital; Duane Petluk played Prime Minister Laurier) and the found key (found by Ray Waddle) story. I have to thank Kevin Poupart, former Katimavik volunteer with the Galt, for the key idea!

And one of the most wonderful parts of the day took place a few days after the event.....Haraga Jewelry made a beautiful silver bracelet and engraved in it "Galt Centennial 2010" and gave it to us as a donation to giveaway. I got to call the winner of the bracelet and she was so excited she almost started to cry on the phone. She couldn't believe she had won. She told me how much fun she had had on Sunday and how much she loves the Galt and how special and treasured this bracelet would be. I was so glad it was going to be cherished by her as it was by me, when I first saw this wonderful donation.

Today our community programmer pulled me aside during the senior's program and said to me "the bracelet winner is here" and pointed her out. She had come to pick up her bracelet and stayed for the senior's program that we run on Wednesday afternoons. I went to introduce myself to her as the person who called her and she almost started to cry again, and apparently she had cried at the front desk when she came to claim her prize.

To be a part of an event that allows me to talk to one person who shares, through her stories and her passion and her emotion how much we mean to her, is fantastic. To hear this woman thank me for the work that I did, along with my volunteer committee, over the last 9 months, makes the long LONG wait of starting the planning to seeing my event/babe be born, makes every stressful meeting/email/phone call and all the sleepless nights and countless hours of working odd hours....things to appreciate! Like seeing your babe for the first time, I can smile now after meeting this women today and nod my head and think "yes, it was worth it" as I forgot all the "pain" associated with the last 9 months.

Thank you to my wonderful volunteer committee and to all of those who attended the event - I hope many of you feel the same way that this woman does and I look forward to hosting another Galt Babies event in the near future (hoping for summer 2011!)

Friday, 24 September 2010

Do you have a black bear I can borrow?

I'm serious. I really do need a black bear (not a live one but one to display in an exhibit). In 1912, as part of the development of Henderson Park, a zoo was built here in Lethbridge. It was HUGE -- two black bears and one eagle. The zoo only ran for a few years and was closed due to money problems. The picture here (Galt Archives 19760219024) shows one of the bears in its enclosure.

For the exhibit I'm curating on Lethbridge 1906-1913, we think we'll recreate part of the zoo and would like to have a black bear to go with it. We actually have a few leads on where to borrow one but if you have ideas, let us know. The zoo really gives a sense of how people of that time thought and gives an idea of how they saw Henderson Park.

The zoo and other visuals and objects we have also create a connection to the Dry Farming Conference of 1912 which was one of Lethbridge's great successes from that time period. Now if only I can find a Rumely Tractor. [The first prize given at the conference (and won by a southern Alberta farmer) was a Rumely Tractor.] And figure out a way to get it into the building. (I haven't given up on it yet.)

We also want to have a really immersive part of the exhibit so are creating what we are calling an Interactive Parlour. We're working with the Lethbridge Community Band to find and get music from the time period. We have books (textbooks and others) from the time period that people can look through. We have Christmas cards from the time period. But we're still looking for more items. If you were to walk into an area on an exhibit 1906-1913 called an Interactive Parlour, what would you expect and want to find there?

We're also hoping to create an area in the exhibit on historic buildings with information on those still remaining and an area of ruins of buildings we've lost. Think of ruins from Greece and Italy -- but how to recreate that in a small space and with our lost buildings? So many ideas. So few months to create it all. So back to work I go.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Colour Me History

I love to colour. And I particularly love to colour outside the lines (or even draw my own lines when I think that will look better).

So as I was thinking about how to "layer" things for my exhibit (provide information in various ways for those who like in-depth material but not bore those who just want a little bit of catchy information), I was lucky enough to visit the Lewis and Clarke Interpretive Centre in Great Falls and got from them a very cool idea. On the Saturday we visited they had in the centre two Newfoundland dogs. This allowed them to talk about the Newfoundland Dog (Seaman) who was on the expedition. With the dogs were a bunch of handouts and information -- on the breed, on Seaman's adventures, and more, there was also colouring pages of Newfoundland dogs.

Eureka! I had an idea (and, yes, I do have them on occasion). Why not create colouring pages of events that happened in Lethbridge between 1906 and 1913? Especially on things that kids will find interesting and relevant to them. Anyone who knows me, knows drawing is not one of my strong suits (I NEVER win at games like Pictionary) but we have incredible, awesome, amazing volunteers (I just can't say enough about them)!

We put out a request to volunteers to help with this and got several responses (but if others are also interested, please let us know because we can certainly use a few more). The more we can create for kids, the better. We will draw a set of pictures and at the bottom of each picture will be some historical information for kids and parents. We'll have these pictures available for kids to take home during the exhibit but we'll also have them up on our web-site for people to download and enjoy at home before or after their visit to the museum.

I say I'm doing all of this to make the exhibit more accessible for all age groups. But, really, it's because if we get the pages done, I'll have an excuse to do some colouring. Because, after all, someone is going to have to test to make certain they're good and effective colouring sheets.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Doctors, nurses, and blood...oh my!

Last Friday we celebrated and had fun at our biggest annual fundraiser, our Beer Tasting event! This year we used the theme of medicine as the hospital building that we are in turned 100 this month.

Pacific Wine and Spirits

This was a very fun theme to create from, and easy to do......
  • we of course recommended people come dressed in costume - there were doctors, nurses, patients, and even a "blood" costume (which won our grand prize draw, donated by Mark Anthony Group, of a countertop wine bottle fridge)

Costume Winners

  • we changed all the signage in our building to reflect those you'd see in a hospital

  • we added colored tape to the floor from the entrance, to follow to other parts of the event (ie follow the blue tape to the bar)

  • the band, a local group called DNR, is a group of doctors and nurses, mainly from the emergency room at the Lethbridge hospital - they played some excellent rock music!


  • event bracelets said "Emergency Room" on them and people had to report to triage upon their arrival

  • we offered complimentary samples of Panago's Organic Juices in test tubes

and more!

Girls Night Out Wines

With some amazing sponsors - Davidson and Williams, Quintus Financial (Terry Mah), LA Liquor, Panago Pizza, Days Inn, , , and Pyramid Entertainment


fantastic support from Cremo Cream, Imbibe Magazine, LA Chefs, Lasting Impressions Airbrush Tattoos, Petris Liquor, , Golden Hour First Aid Services, Stage Right home staging, and the Sandman Inn

Big Rock


the silent auction donors such as Bert and Mac's, Custom Creation Gift Baskets, El Dorado RV, Galko Homes, Gas King, Heidelberg Inn, Honkers Pub, Lethbridge Historical Society, Lethbridge Living magazine, Lethbridge Lodge, Pauline Johnston Antiques and Collectibles, Sandman Inn, Spiralz Creations, Stage Right home staging, and Sweet Ideas

Lasting Impressions Airbrush Tattooing

The Crowd

we had our most successful Beer Tasting ever!

Thanks to everyone for supporting the Galt Museum & Archives. We hope you had fun and look forward already to next year's event!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Writing-on-Stone Bus Tour

For the past three years we have been collecting feedback about our bus tour programs and by far the most requested place for us to take a tour was Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. In August, on our last bus tour of the season, we finally got a chance to go there.
On the drive to Writing-on-Stone our Blackfoot interpreter from the museum, Blanche Bruised Head, talked about Blackfoot history and culture. People on the bus asked lots of insightful questions and I think it really helped prepare people for the next part of the tour: the interpretive walk to see the petroglyphs and pictographs that cover the park's sandstone cliffs.
The petroglyph/pictograph part of the tour was led by Bonnie, a park interpreter. The tour normally takes about 1-1.5 hours, but ours ran a little long giving people lots of time to ask questions. The walk required a park guide because we were in a protected area that is not otherwise open to the public. Some areas in the park are protected to preserve the pictographs and petroglyphs, while other areas of the park are open to the public. There is also a self-guided tour of the area that is a nice 4.4 km (return) walk.
The hoodoos, seen above, were created by wind and water erosion. First Nations people have lived in this area for at least 3,000 years. Some of the petroglyphs and pictographs they created here recorded important biographical or historical information. Other rock art would have been linked to their spiritual lives, including petroglyphs and pictographs that were created as a part of rituals and vision quests.

Petroglyphs are rock carvings:
Pictographs, in contrast, are paintings created with ochre which is a crushed iron ore mixed with water:
While the guests were on the walk in the protected area, my volunteer Tasha and I set up the picnic lunch. This, from a planning perspective, was the most challenging part of the tour! The bookable picnic shelters at Writing-on-Stone book up in January so we relied on getting to one of the first-come, first-serve shelters in the river valley. We booked Country Kitchen Catering to make buffalo (or bison) burgers and then we brought the burgers, pre-cooked in a warmer, out to the picnic shelter. There was salad and dainties for dessert.
Buffalo is a traditional food for the Blackfoot people so this opened up a conversation about traditional foods and we learned about some of the native plants of the area. For example, did you know that wild turnips grow in our coulees back in Lethbridge? Also, during lunch we served traditional Saskatoon Berry soup and bannock cooked by the Blackfoot Cultural Society. Our afternoon snack was buffalo jerky since buffalo meat was often preserved by drying and then used in various foods like pemmican. Mint tea, similar to what we served in the morning before the bus departed, is another traditional food from the area.

After lunch we went up to the interpretive centre for another tour with Bonnie (center in picture below), and for a chance to explore the exhibits and learn more about the history of the area.
Overall, the tour was a lot of fun and a really interesting way to learn about Blackfoot history. Blanche and Bonnie as our tour guides really did a great job of contextualising the rock art and explaining the historical themes. The volunteers, as always, were also a great help in making the day a success. I’m looking forward to doing this tour again in the future.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Flashlight Cemetery Tours

And, now, for some blatant advertising.

Sorry, I couldn't resist. I try not to use the BLOG solely for marketing but I have had so many people ask when Flashlight Cemetery Tour tickets go on sale that I thought it would be easiest to focus this BLOG on the tours. Tickets went on sale on September 7 and are available through the front desk of the Galt.

You can find all details as to dates and times on our web-site:

I know from our front desk that ticket sales are going briskly so (and particularly if you have specific dates and times that you want) buy your tickets right away. This tour sells out annually.

I thought I'd take the opportunity to share one of my favourite memories from past years of the tours.

As most of you know the tours are done in the dark and by flashlight. St. Patrick's Cemetery, where we hold these, is quite isolated and the noise of the city is muffled. At one of our stops, with everyone in the tour facing me, I suddenly saw all of the members of the tour freeze and I heard a collective gasp, as people's eyes got big and focused on something behind me. With great trepidation, I turned and looked at whatever they were seeing behind me. There in the distance were four orbs of light. I started to laugh and turned back towards the group. "It's deer, people." Our flashlights were reflected from the deers' eyes.

I'd love to hear your memories of the tours. If you have any fun stories to share, please pass them along.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Clue #2...and Zombies, Vampires, Rocky Horror Picture Show galore!

A few people have emailed me this week letting me know where they have searched for the key but have not yet found it....the key, what is it about, you ask....?! Well on Sept 26th we are recreating the opening of our building 100 years ago, and that includes the fact that the key was misplaced. In honour of that (probably embarassing) fact, we have hidden a key (along with instructions, in a small plastic baggy to guard it from the elements) somewhere in Lethbridge. New clues are being released each Wednesday here, on our twitter, on our facebook and on our website, as well as in the media.

Clue #1 from last week: “Trees! Water! Go there, you'll see! Walk or race, you set the pace. Peek around Lethbridge's beautiful gathering space.”

Clue #2 released today: "Searching, researching - can be fun right? Spend time looking in the archives into the night. Lethbridge has libraries for you to be - but did they know you'd be looking for a key?"

Let me know if YOU find it!! And you can open the doors for us at this upcoming event!

I am also really excited to note that our Halloween Movie Madness tickets are going on sale this Friday. With the Rocky Horror Picture Show being such a success, some of our youth and post-secondary volunteers and I thought it would be fun to expand on this for a few nights before Halloween. It is a FULL schedule with Thursday Oct 28th being Bite Night (Vampires) from 4 pm - 1 am; Zombies Galore Friday Oct 29th from 5:30 pm - 1:30 am; and finally Rocky Horror Picture Show on Saturday Oct 30th!

Tickets are $10 for Thurs, $10 for Fri night, and $18 for Saturday night, because we include your prop bag for the RHPS! Or you can get all 3 nights for $30. We'll have a bar, concession, costume prizes and the doors are open for come and go all night long!

If you want to see the list of movies being screened, check out our website and click on Events.....there are some from every decade almost, some cheesy, some scary, and a whole lotta fun! But now I have to decide what theme nights to run in 2011 so if you have a preference - werewolves, ghosts, or a whole series (Friday the 13th anyone??) let me know so that I have time to work on getting the rights to do a public screening in time!

Start working on this costumes - the last week of October is going to be a fuuuuunnnnn week!

Friday, 3 September 2010

Making a Difference

This experience made me smile (and, I must admit, tear up a little) when it was told to me.

Blanche, our Blackfoot interpreter, has been working with us here at the museum for the past 8 years. Blanche is legally blind (though many people who do programs with her are not aware of this). Blanche has this incredible ability to captivate young and old alike with her stories and experiences. As she teaches Blackfoot history and culture, she is also about building bridges between people. There is, unfortunately, a great deal of prejudice and misunderstanding between cultures and especially with respect to the Blackfoot in southern Alberta. Blanche has often told me over the years experiences she has had in the community and her strong hope that eventually everyone will just be treated as people and not First Nations or white.

As I called her earlier this week to book a class, she related the following story to me.
For years, Blanche has told students about her limited vision and says that if they see her out and about in the community, they should come up to her and say oki (Blackfoot for “hi) and introduce themselves because she won’t be able to see them. In August this year Blanche was at Wal-Mart shopping with her son and grandson. As she was sitting there, a young girl walked past her, stopped and then walked towards her with her hand-outstretched. When she got in front of Blanche she said “oki” and then “oki, Museum Lady.” She was with her young brother and turned to him and said “this lady works at the Galt Museum. You and me and Mom and Dad should go and visit her there one day.”

At that point her Mom noticed her talking to Blanche (who, as far as she knew, was a stranger) and asked her daughter why she was bothering the lady. The daughter responded that she was the museum lady and that she wanted to say hello.

To the little girl, she may just have been saying hi to someone she recognized, but to Blanche it was so much more. Months after meeting Blanche at the museum, the young girl remembered her and remembered what she had said.

Blanche remembered the meeting as unbelievably beautiful and was deeply touched by this little girl and her brother. Blanche’s son who was standing beside her summed it all up. He looked at Blanche and said “Mom, you’re making a difference.” Isn’t that, really, what all of us want to achieve – make the world better by what we do every day? Thanks, Blanche, for all that you do for us (and the community) every day.