Tuesday, 30 March 2010

It's a sell-out...or a rumour....or both

This Saturday we are putting on our annual Easter event, Eggstravaganza. This is a family day where we offer about 10-15 crafts, egg dying, the Easter Bunny visits, opportunities to explore the exhibits, and different activites based on our theme - this year Treasures & Curiosities from Around the World.

We get about 800-1000 people into the museum for this event, but we don't presell tickets.

Much to my surprise, I have received numerous phone calls asking me if the event is already sold out.....hmmmm.....seems the rumour-mill is going full speed as the calls have come from far and near communities! How does one, with only 2 business days left before the event, ensure that this is cleared up? That people know that they can come and they just pay admission at the door and they get entry??

Well I do have an interview with Shaw TV tomorrow so I'll mention it then, but otherwise we have to hope that the media runs information about the event in the next few days so people understand that they can come, and they should - it promises to be a great time!

The other misconception with this event is that people come every year thinking it is a chocolate candy hunt. We stress that in much of our marketing, that it is in fact NOT that, but still we get a few disappointed families and children each year when they realize that we don't actually hand out much candy at all, as the focus is on time with the family and learning and trying new things at the museum......there are so many allergies and there are so many families that are sugar free that we try to respect that and focus on memories instead of cavities :)

Then, on the other hand, I am busy finalizing Taste of Downtown - a fun event that is the fundraiser that takes place during the Historic Lethbridge Festival and will be happening on May 5th. These tickets go on sale on Monday, one month before the event, and have typically sold out in a matter of days! In the case of that event, I tell people RUN, DON'T WALK to the Galt Museum early next week because people buy large quantities of these tickets. With only 200 available, they are gone quickly! So mark your calendar, tickets are still $20 each and we will sell out - you can buy them over the phone at 403-320-3954, with a credit card.

Next week I'll let the cat out of the bag and tell you who is participating in this year's Taste of Downtown -we have some old favourites and some new spots you'll want to check out! And of course, you'll learn about some of Lethbridge's oldest buildings and be able to look at them through new eyes as you realize the many purposes they have served!

Sunday, 28 March 2010

First Signs of Spring

Our first sign of spring is up in the Native Prairie Plants garden at the Galt Museum:

The garden, designed by June Flanagan, was created to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Lethbridge and District Horticultural Society in 2009. Flanagan, author of Native Plants for Prairie Gardens, will be coming to the Galt to do two photograph-filled programs on creating the garden. Unlike me, who squatted in the dirt with my iPhone during today's windstorm to take this photo, Yvonne Bruinsma, June Flanagan, and other members of the Horticultural Society used proper cameras to carefully document the creation of the garden from start to finish. It's really fascinating to look back through the images to see the whole process of designing and planting the garden unfold! Her first presentation is on April 21st at 2pm during our senior's program, the second presentation is on May 19 at 7pm during our Cafe Galt program.

We'll be doing other programs in the garden during the summer. On May 29th, at our family program Saturday at 1, children will get to explore the garden and plant some native plant seeds to take home. In the summer we're planning another tour of the garden and a podcast tour.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Communists in Lethbridge

I have been researching the role of the sugar beet industry in the development of southern Alberta. For various reasons I have focused of late on the union and strike in the sugar beet industry here in southern Alberta in the 1930s. The sugar beet workers, whose wages had been severely cut, formed a union and worked to negotiate en masse with the growers to achieve a better payment per acre. While successful the 1st year, the strike failed miserably in 1936. As there have not been many unions (or strikes) in agriculture in Canada, this story greatly intrigues me. However, as many researchers know, it is all too easy to get off track when you research and this has happened to me this past week.

From looking specifically at labour in the sugar beet industry (which has to still be my focus because I'm presenting on it in September and I have lots of work to do), I have found myself all too often wondering about broader issues.

One of the accusations thrown at the union was that it was communist. The only full time organizer of the union Bill (William) Repka was later interned by the Canadian government as a Communist during the Second World War.

So that started me thinking about communism in Lethbridge in general. A lot has been written and discussed about communism in the Crowsnest Pass and there was a lot of interaction between the different mining communities so it comes as no real surprise that there was communism in Lethbridge. Also, as I’ve written earlier in this blog, Lethbridge had the 1st labour person ever elected to the legislature of Alberta. Workers and workers’ issues played an important part in the development of Lethbridge. (Certainly, though, not all labour organizers, unions or workers were communists.)
Lethbridge even had a “Red Square”. This was the name given to a meeting place between 1st and 2nd Avenue South behind the Arlington Hotel (later Bridge Inn). Protest meetings and speeches were held here. The workers had marches. Regular May Day meetings were held. This photograph from our Galt Archives (20011020734) shows one of these meetings in "Red Square" in the 1930s.

Very little of this did I find surprising. But what I did find surprising was a mention in one of the papers about the work the union had to do to get a Diamond City miner released from prison in 1919 for possessing banned literature. This was something I wanted to know more about. And what I found was that, including Diamond City miner Thomas Shannon, several people in Lethbridge in 1919 (and across Canada) were arrested for having banned literature. In Lethbridge -- Several Bible students were arrested. A piano player at the Empress Theatre was arrested. And several Mennonites were arrested. Interestingly, it seems banned literature could be that considered Communist/Soviet or, oppositely, in the case of the Mennonites, also that written in German. Punishment for having banned literature could be a fine, prison time or deportation.

I’m going to have to do something quite difficult for a researcher – file the articles and information I found on the 1919 banned literature cases and get back to the research I need to be doing. Hopefully, though, either someone else out there will take the opportunity to look more deeply into these banned literature cases (and, if you do, let me know and I can send you the newspaper articles I’ve found to date) or I’ll add it to the list of one more interesting thing I’d like to research when I get the time (or when I win the lottery and can devote my life only to research).

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

What is the value of volunteer time?

I often get asked what an hour of volunteer is worth, in dollars and cents. This is a very tricky question....

There are formulas done on a national level that put a dollar amount based on the average from across the country. The last time I investigated it, it was around $17/hour! That is very significant, especially when one considers that Galt volunteers donated 9000+ hours in 2009....easily being valued at $133,000.00!!!

There are other ways of computing volunteer hours as well. A volunteer coordinator can look at the job the person is doing and value the hour by basing it on what a similar working paid employee is doing. In our case, that is very hard to do as none of our volunteers do exactly what our staff do, 100% of the time....in fact, most of our volunteers do things that complement and support our staff so there is tie-in but little actual overlap. If we did use this method at the Galt, I believe that the volunteer time for 2009 would be valued at well over $150,000.00.

Either way though, this is proof of a few things:
The Galt Museum & Archives would not be the Galt Museum & Archives without volunteers

We would not be able to do most things that we do, especially to the caliber that we are able to, meeting and exceeding standards in most, if not all, areas

Volunteers truly are priceless!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Archival Greeting Cards

Did you know that I used to be an archivist at a convent archives? I loved the Sisters and my coworkers and getting to work with all the interesting records. However, a corporate archives is a lot different than a public archives like the Galt because even though corporate archives support public research in some contexts they don't have the freedom (or mandate) to do as many public programs as we do at a publicly funded institution. For example, this week we used photos from the Galt Museum & Archives to make greeting cards in our Saturday at 1 program.

We started the project by choosing some photos from our public database. You can search for photos online or you can come into the archives and talk directly to our archivist. I mostly picked photos of places that people would still recognise such as the Galt Hospital, Galt Gardens, the bridge, etc. One of our volunteers has a more creative imagination and dug up photos from the old Lethbridge Zoo, street fairs, public events and more. Our archives can provide a print or a digital file. You can also buy some pre-printed photos in our gift shop:

Our volunteer program leader, Teresa from Creative Memories, brought wonderful supplies including punches with different designs, elaborate paper cutters, fancy adhesives, stickers, and more. All of her supplies are of archival quality which means they won't deteriorate as quickly as other supplies. We use similar items - acid-free file folders and so forth - to store the original documents and photographs in the archives to make sure that they last for a really long time.
Teresa not only volunteered her time to lead the program and teach the guests interesting card making techniques, she also took the time to make some fabulous samples: Even the insides of the cards are cool:

My personal favorite is this card because my office is where they used to do surgeries in the Galt Hospital.

We had so much fun with this program that we're going to do a similar project with holiday cards in December.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Limburger Cheese and Barley Children

Last week a grade 7 student asked to interview me for a project she was working on. She needed to write a speech and chose weird history of Lethbridge as her topic. Her Mom said, well, then, I guess we’ll have to go and talk to Belinda at the Galt. Now, what could possibly have made her Mom think of me in connection with that subject? Certainly it couldn’t be my interest in cemetery research or the ghost stories of Lethbridge or that I love to collect and share weird, off-beat stories? Well, yes of course it is.

And if you, too, enjoy hearing such stories you have a chance next week. I have been invited to speak at The View on Thursday, March 25 at noon. My presentation is titled “So, you think you know Lethbridge?” and it’s a collection of my favourite fun tidbits of Lethbridge history. Everything from the “barley child” born here in Lethbridge in 1886 to the details of the 1st appendectomy in western Canada will be shared. I’ll even share why I’ve chosen to put a picture of limburger cheese as the photo for this blog. Let’s just say, that no one really thinks how history would have smelled….

If you’re interested, you need to RSVP to The View by 23 March at 403-320-1395. Seating is at 11:45 am and my presentation starts right at noon.

And I’m certainly not the only person who enjoys the quirky and idiosyncratic. The Museum 2.0 blog this week spoke eloquently on why museums need to keep and embrace their idiosyncratic elements. I think, though, that not only should museums do this but so, too, should communities. While Lethbridge (and southern Alberta) is similar in a lot of ways to other areas of Canada, don’t forget what makes her special and different – we have always had a distinctive way of doing things – and our history certainly bears that out… Speaking of bears, remind me to tell you one day about the Lethbridge zoo (yes, we did actually have a zoo)…

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Top 10 Reasons to Come to Galt events

10. Meet other fun people

9. Our view is breathtaking

8. You usually get to see the exhibit without paying the exhibit admission fees!

7. We know how to throw a party

6. Most of our events sell out so you get to be part of the "exclusive" crowd

5. You always learn something.....like how to eat with your hands (Medieval Feast); where beer was brewed in Lethbridge (Beer Tasting); or how to play African drums (Eggstravaganza....in just a few weeks!), etc

4. Our events are always affordable

3. You support the Galt with every ticket purchase

2. The experience is unlike anything you can get elsewhere in Lethbridge

1. What other museum lets you throw rice and encourages people to dress in drag? (Rocky Horror Picture Show) - we're innovative and fun, in fact extremely so!

Monday, 15 March 2010

Upcoming Adult Programs

In the next couple of weeks we have some exciting programs coming up at the Galt which are provided by wonderful volunteers. First, on Wednesday March 17th at 2pm, we have a line dancing show and lesson by the YuTuKanDanz group. In honour of St. Patrick’s Day we’ll see some Irish dancing as well as some country music-style line dancing.

On Wednesday March 24th we welcome two professors from the University of Lethbridge for our programs. During the Wednesday afternoon program at 2pm, Professor Heidi Macdonald will use excerpts from 1930s diaries to examine how Canadian Youth experienced the Great Depression.

During the Wednesday March 24th Café Galt program at 7pm Josephine Mills, Director/Curator of the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, will speak about the Looming Crisis in Public Collections. She’ll examine the issues at stake for public collections in Canada today and how can these issues be addressed. There is an assumption that collections, and the individual objects, will always be there - the reality is that without adequate support and attention, public collections are at risk.

The cookies and coffee during the March 24th Café Galt program were donated by Round Street Café. We will open the exhibit at 6pm for viewing, and have the program room ready with the refreshments so that you can visit before the program starts at 7pm.

Rounding out our month of programs is the Wednesday March 31st program at 2pm provided by the Textile Surface Design Guild. The Guild will teach the art of card making.

All programs are free with admission or with your annual pass.

Friday, 12 March 2010

A Prairie Schooner?

Kelti Boissonneault, who worked here at the Galt last summer, sent me an interesting email this week. While doing research for a paper she is writing, Kelti found an article from the 1911 Lethbridge Daily Herald. In 1911, this statement was presented to the American Statistical Association: "There will be no children in the United States under 5 years of age in the year 2020. Babies, accordingly, will have disappeared from this country by 2015. " Professor Walter F Wilcox, of Cornell University, went on to say that the United States should import children from France as France would continue to have babies 80 years after the United States had quit. It should be noted that Professor Wilcox did suggest paying families an income because, in his view, families who took care of children were public servants. He said this "would make the mother the ruler of the household." How will our predictions about the future be viewed 100 years from now?

I have been doing some research this past week (following on work done by Irma Dogterom) about a house in Lethbridge that was built in 1909 and, apparently, built without the use of any nails. The builder had been a ship-wright prior to moving to Canada and used his ship building skills in the construction of the home. Some of us here at the museum have nicknamed it Lethbridge's Prairie Schooner. More research certainly needs to be done but if it can all be confirmed, what a find this will be. This house is on the north side.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

We have a title; welcome Katimavik; good-bye Disney!

So, we have a title for our event (the one I wrote about a few weeks ago). We actually have had a title for a few weeks now but I wanted to wait until the invitations were mailed before I revealed the big secret.....

For those who have no clue of what I am talking about, I had mentioned awhile back that we are having a Donor Appreciation/VIP party (all of our donors are VIP's, whether they have donated to Archives, Collections, to a mail out, helped with an event or program, etc). We were looking for a FUN name, not just "The Galt's Donor Recognition Party" or something similar. We had a great fun game idea that our Collections guru, Kevin Maclean, had pointed out to me some years ago that another museum does at their annual fundraising supper, we had music and food booked, but we had no title!

After much humming and hawwing, google-ing trying to find ideas, and chatting with each other, it was one of our staff's husbands who had the brilliant brainwave that was soooo fitting! This year, our donor appreciation event is called ArtiFACT or FICTION. This fits in with the game we will be playing (which is along the lines of Fact or Fiction using artifacts) and it's fun, interesting and different - something that should get people's curiosity when they open their mail!

This is definitely going to be a fun night! We would love to have YOU receive an invitation for our 2011 event - all you have to do is donate in some capacity in 2010, to some area of the Galt. One cannot weigh the value of a donated artifact or letter, so we invite ANYONE who donates anything/any amount to attend! You could be a part of this event next year....and I'm sure you'll be anticipating just seeing the invitation and what name we come up with at that time.

On another note, we were excited to have our two newest Katimavik placements start yesterday. Danielle comes to us from Halifax and Nadia is from Quebec City. They will be here until the end of May and both are very fun, nice women! Nadia wants to learn more English and we are hoping her French will rub off on us a bit, too!

And finally, I am sad to say that the Disney program to promote volunteering has ended! We received an email just last Friday, March 5th, stating that 600,000 of the 1 million passes were now spoken for (not necessarily earned but 600,000 volunteer positions had been signed up for since January 1st) so they knew the program was going to close earlier than December 15th.

Low and behold, last night I went to their site to check out some volunteer opportunities we had posted and to make sure they were current, and I found out that last night the millionth opportunity had bee signed up for and the program is done! Wow, talk about an amazingly successful program - it was planned to run for most of the year and it had to conclude in early March because it was so popular! Sadly for us though, that means many people who were planning on earning passes later this year to use for their trip to Disneyland, will not be able to participate in this program. We will still gladly accept them for a volunteer opportunity if they are interested, but we won't be able to issue them a Disney pass for their time.

Maybe if we put the pressure on Disney, they will release more passes or do this program again annually or every few years??? If you thought it was a great idea, I recommend picking up a pen or typing an email and letting them know how much it was appreciated and how great it would be to promote volunteerism this way on a regular basis!

THANK YOU to all of those who earned Disney passes by assisting us. We gave away around 150 passes and about 30 of those were actually donated to Dreams Take Flight Canada! You helped make a difference to the Galt Museum & Archives and we hope you enjoy your free day at Disneyland/Disneyworld.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Do you know where your Grandfather is?

This past week our Galt Archives donated copies of photographs to a fund-raiser silent auction. Money was being raised to send a class on an educational exchange trip.

As this was a small, local community we chose a few photos from the community. The photos were a huge hit and earned the most money of all of the silent auction items.

Why? One photo turned out to be a picture of the Grandfather of several of the people present that evening. It was a photograph that none of them had ever seen. It's a fabulous photo showing the Grandfather and another relative standing in front of a sod house.

And this is not the only picture of this man we have in the Archives. Indeed, the family has already been in to get more copies of this picture and others from the Archives. They have also provided information about the family and have added to the Archives' knowledge.

There are currently over 300,000 photographs in the Galt Archives and they represent many of the communities around southern Alberta. Are there pictures of you, your family or your community in the Archives? If you want to know what's there, you can visit the Archives on weekdays between 10 am and 4:30 pm or check out the database on the Archives page at http://www.galtmuseum.com/. You will also find on the database thumbnails of over 60,000 of the photographs (and more are being put up ever year).

The vast majority of the Archives' photographs and documents have been donated. Think about what you have at home (or in your business or your organization). Should it (or a copy of it) be in the Archives so that our shared history is preserved?

For more information on what's available or if you have questions about donating photos and documents, don't hesitate to contact the Archives at 403-329-7302 or click on the Request Form on the Archives web-page.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

National Volunteer Week is coming!

National Volunteer Week is traditionally celebrated in mid to late April, so at this time of year, all of us Volunteer Coordinators are busy planning a celebration of some sort for our volunteers.

This is one of the few chances we get each year to bring a large group of our volunteers together to say THANK YOU! Thank you for the 9,000+ hours you donated in 2009; thank you for your time, sharing your skills, your smiles, your support in so many ways!

I cannot fathom the museum without our many many volunteers (about 60-70 are regular, coming in weekly or biweekly; and another 200 or so help with events or sporadically throughout the year). We are also lucky to have a wonderfully diverse group with ages ranging from about 6 years of age - 90 years old! We have students, people who are retired, and people who are working every day. We have people from all over the world and people with many many skills who don't want to use those skills here, they want to try something new; as well as people who are working on building their skills and experience.

To each and every Galt volunteer, THANK YOU for making the museum and archives what it is today. From those first volunteers who started up the museum, to the ones who we see once/year at their favourite event - you all are so important in the history of this museum, and in preserving and sharing the history of our region.

I hope to see you all (even if we haven't seen you for a few years!) at our volunteer party in April - RSVP to Lori if you can come.