Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Music and the Special Event

Lethbridge Legion Pipe and Drum Band members perform at our Robbie Burns event in January 2010

I try to attend as many events as possible in the community so that I can get new ideas, see what didn't work, and generally grow my events based on what I observe.

One of the things that is so important to events, and is often missing or overlooked for its importance, is music! And we know it is important as if you look back at any period in history, much of the focus of events! It is found in every culture and every time period. It is an emotional experience and every event planner knows that emotions are key to your attendee feeling like they had a great experience.

Music can be the background sound that allows conversation to occur over it, just setting a mood for the room; or music can be the focus of some, or all, of the event.

Whether it is a live act or canned music, is important to consider. When an event planner considers the audience, the purpose of the event, the set up, and the needs of those at the event (both hosts and guests), it is usually fairly obvious of which is your best choice (and I am biased because I always choose live music over canned when I can, but budget restrictions can affect the opportunity to use actual musicians).

Sweet Adelines perform at the Galt Museum's Grand Re-Opening May 2006

If an event is going with canned music I always tell people to hire a DJ - don't just pop in a CD or have a friend "spin tunes" for you. There are so many people out there that believe that they can do the job, but really, especially at some events, this person becomes a huge part of whether or not your event is a success or flop - you don't want to have a dance and have a DJ that can't transition from one song to the next, or people won't be spending the night dancing, for example!

The amount of musical choices in any community is usually far greater than most event planners realize. Of course there are the tried and true bands that everyone has seen a million times - you are pretty much guaranteed a great time with these professionals. But don't overlook the local college or university - there are some outstanding musicians who would love to gain experience to add to their resume/portfolio, for example. And if you are looking for a specific theme, this is actually often the way to go because a student or professor is, for example, more likely to know the sounds of the medieval times and be able to perform that, if that is what you are in need of.

If you have enough time before an event, you can even coordinate with a music school or conservatory to have students learn and practice the music and perform at the event, but one should give themselves at least 6-12 months in advance if wanting to find a music teacher to work with to go this route.

Do you know much about a sound board? Do you know what an IM is, or a DI? Probably not....and you probably aren't a professional in acoustics, either. So, if the event is big enough, in a tricky space to work in, or has other challenges that you can foresee, look for a sound man/woman to help you. The last thing you want is for half of your audience to not be able to hear the musicians, or worse yet, the musicians to not be able to hear themselves and therefore struggle with their performance. Most often, the musicians will know if this is something that would benefit their performance based on the size and location of your event, and your expectations of their performance.

Be honest with your musicians - if you want them for background music, most musicians are fine with playing while people mix and mingle and eat, but they like to know to expect that. If you want them to be the stage presence, let them know that their set will be the focus of that time period. Trust them, ask them questions, and work to meet their needs and you're event will be all the better for it.

Oh and please try to find a way to pay them - if it means finding more sponsors, then try hard. Musicians are often taken for granted - being asked to perform for free at many many events. As event planners we have to remember that for many, this is their job and that just as we probably don't plan a lot of events that we waive our fees for, we should not expect that of the professionals we hire. If they are willing to perform at no cost, I recommend offering an honorarium that you can afford.

I have been very fortunate to have worked with many many talented people in Lethbridge and area. For example: Jon Helm, who did perform at my Medieval Feast on some replicas of medieval instruments; canned medieval music that our local Lethbridge Medieval Club performed dances to at the same event worked well for their needs; Herb Hicks Quintet did a wonderful performance at my 1940's Dance Hall just last month - playing some of the hits of that decade for the audience to dance to (and dance they did), while only a few months earlier, the same group did a wonderful job of being background music at our donor appreciation party.

Cave Cantemus - a local choir, performs at the Medieval Feast (May 2008) doing Gregorian Chants and other period pieces. This group found me, I didn't even know of their existence and was excited to have their amazing performances at our event.

I have also recently had one of our volunteers, Tyler Stewart, do some beautiful guitar playing to set the mood at our Wine Tasting fundraiser (and you can hear him on a video of the event posted at halfway down the front page). And for our Beer Tasting event this year, which will be themed on the Galt Hospital, we have approached a band made up of local doctor's, because that would be so appropriate and fun, if they are available! I have had student choirs and senior's groups perform at our grand re-opening in 2006, along with some lighter sounds mixed in with a bit of the louder, faster rock style music - something for everyone at an event of this size with this diverse audience. I have worked with everything from folk singers like Maria Dunn to country music artist Gord Bamford, at Galt events.

Herb Hicks Quintet at our 1940's Dance Hall in May 2010

But I have also made my mistakes and have learned from them (I won't outline them here though am willing to share the stories, like the time we had no power and had rock musicians - we never got our power, they never performed - yikes!) I think the most important thing to avoiding mistakes in this area is to keep in touch with the local music community - watch to see who is performing, check them out, ask around (often friends of friends are amazingly talented musicians who do not necessarily perform normally but may consider it), and support the local music industry with, at the very least, your interest - it is often an evolving industry in each community as people move away or move to the community, places where live acts can perform open and close their doors, and with different people jamming together as they meet each other for the first time.

Music is such a wonderful and important thing and should not be taken for granted when planning an event. Spend some time calculating your needs and then don't drop the ball, carry it through to the end, in this area of your event, and your event will be better for it.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Get Outta Waterton

Last week we had our first bus tour of the summer, and I had a lot of fun on the trip so I'm going to photo-blog the journey. Our bus tours take topics from our exhibits and bring people out into the community to experience the history in an interactive program. My favorite part about the bus tour is the way we get to link past and present.

We gathered at the Galt Museum to start the tour to Waterton and were joined by Wendy Aitkens our museum curator who joined us to talk about the different historical things that we could see from the bus. Waterton is a a unique site because in this area the prairie goes right up to the mountains without a buffer of foothills. The area's first permanent, non-Aboriginal, settlers arrived in the 1870s although the town site was not surveyed until 1910. Waterton Park is a part of an International Peace Park with the American Glacier National Park. Glacier Park is celebrating its centennial this year.

Our first stop was the Prince of Whales Hotel which opened in 1927 and is now a national historic site. Just like our museum it has some ghost stories in its history. The most interesting thing that I learned on the tour of the hotel was that the horizontal beam visible in the photo below are to keep Big Horned Sheep from ramming their heads through the glass, especially in the winter when the hotel is closed.
Our next stop was Cameron Falls which is the site of the oldest rock in the Canadian Rocky Mountain Range. The Precambrian rock is over 1.5 billion years old, and is visible right near the falls.
We watched a herd of deer run down the hill from the top of the falls. This baby deer got separated from the herd and started crying for its mom. Our next stop was for lunch upstairs at the Waterton Lakes Resort where we ate on a patio with a view of the mountains. Park interpreter Juanita joined us to talk about park history, and we learned about the history of the park which was founded in 1895, and is the site of the first producing oil well in Alberta. I learned that some lake trout can be up to 100 years old!

Our next stop was the Waterton Wildflower Festival where we explored the exhibits on display and then went on a guided wildflower walk with a wonderful interpreter! We talked about the different native plants, and the changes in park vegetation including the introduction of non-native plants.

Another thing I found interesting on the wildflower tour was the efforts to save some historical plants. This whitebark pine tree, for example, is a part of a research project that is attempting to save the endangered species.

I also learned on this tour that the park is named after the Waterton Lakes chain which was named during the Palliser Expedition by Lieutenant Blakiston in honour of a British naturalist Squire Charles Waterton.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Competitive? Who, me?

Anyone who knows me knows that I can sometimes be a little too competitive (and, yes, I can hear you all agreeing with that). Often, though, my competitiveness comes in the form of always wanting to do a better job. So I have to admit I'm incredibly proud that in the 1st 6 months of this year we had over 6400 students through on school programs (we had just over 3000 students a year when I started this job so do give me just a moment to bask).

But enough about that. I always find this time of year bittersweet. We have only one last school program of the year (coming on Monday). And then summer stretches ahead. Summer, of course, has a much different routine for me than the school year. I spend a lot more time in my office planning and writing and researching. With an exhibit to develop for next May, a teachers' newsletter to write (to encourage even more teachers to visit us in the 2010/2011 school year), reports to finalize, an inventory to finish, cemetery tours to deliver, presentations to create for upcoming Teachers' Conventions and all sorts of paperwork that's been ignored while students were visiting, it's certainly not that I'll be bored over the next few months. But I won't have the anticipation of watching for the yellow school bus turn the corner; or the challenge of split second decisions when one class arrives early and another arrives late and all of a sudden there are overlapping programs that all need to be dealt with; or the frustration (and, yes, I actually do enjoy the adrenaline of it) of figuring out what to do when an outdoor program gets rained out or a class shows up that's considerably larger in number than expected or a class shows up that's not booked and we need to find something for them to do.

Thanks to the teachers, parents and students who visit. You make my job a lot of fun and I can't wait to see you all again in the fall. And a huge thank you to LA Transit who works with us to bring over 250 buses of students to the Galt every school year.

But don't feel too sorry for me. While the schools are on hiatus until September, summer classes start up for us on July 5. And while there are MANY, MANY less kids here during the summer, I know for a fact that summer will fly by and school will be here before we know it.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Can you act? Want to try?

We are really busy right now, planning a re-creation of what we consider one of Lethbridge's most exciting events in 1910 - the opening of the Galt Hospital.

We will be celebrating this day on September 26th, a Sunday.

But we need actors! Lots of them!

Some will have lines, others will just mix and mingle, everyone will have fun.

So if you have ever taken a drama course or been on stage, or even dreamt of it, let us know. This will require very minimal time on your part and should make for a fun Sunday of volunteering and supporting the museum.

Sound interesting? Give me a call or email! Lori 403-320-4219 or (please change the AT to the proper sign).

Looking forward to hearing from you, your friends, your family, and whomever else you can recruit (and maybe no one is as brave as you are, but that is ok - you'll meet some fun people with this event!)

Friday, 18 June 2010

We Burned Grandma

I led a few classes through the cemetery this past week. We have classes in the cemetery for students in grades 4 and older. During one of the classes a grade 4 girl came up to me and said “we burned Grandma.” She said it so matter of factly and I knew right away what she meant but I said “you mean, you cremated Grandma?” And she said, yes, and then wandered off to keep working on the activity.

A few minutes later the young girl was back beside me and asked “why do we cremate people?” I realized that while she knew her Grandmother had been cremated it appeared no one had discussed what it was or why they did it. I told her that it depended and that different people did it for different reasons. Sometimes the person who died had a personal wish to be cremated. Some people did it for religious reasons. Others did it because they believed that land was wasted for cemeteries. And that there were many other reasons for why people chose cremation. I said, though, that she should go home and ask her family why they chose to cremate her Grandma. She seemed satisfied with that.

I get a lot of strange questions but there are few places where I get stranger questions than on the cemetery classes and tours.

The very first cemetery class I ever did, I had a parent come up after the program and ask if it was legal to come to a cemetery whenever you wanted. She thought that people could only legally enter a cemetery when they were at a funeral. I explained that, no, the cemetery was a public place and that as long as people followed the rules, they could enter a cemetery at any time.

I’ve had questions about why we bury people, about how deep we bury people (one student this week asked if it was true that all people are buried 30 feet under the ground), about the information on the headstones and so much more. They want to know what the symbols on the graves mean and why some people have more than one marker (footstones are not common today but you will find lots of them in the older sections of a cemetery). And it doesn’t take very long for kids to walk through the old part of the cemetery before one of the questions is “why are there so many kids buried here?” Considering that 100 years ago, 1/3 of all deaths were children, there are many children's graves. We often use that as an opportunity to discuss how medicine has changed and how vaccinations are keeping kids alive.

The other thing I can guarantee will come up as we do cemetery programs is that some students will talk, question, worry that ghosts or vampires or zombies will appear. Some say it jokingly but some are actually worried that these are going to appear. The reality is that if children don’t learn about cemeteries, their real purpose and what they are (places of respect for remembering loved ones but also places of history and art and connection that remind us of who the people of our community are and where we came from) then all of their ideas come from popular media. There is a lack of respect that comes then with kids thinking these are places of fear. And kids and adults do not take care of, respect or maintain places they fear and places that they don’t think of as important. The only way we will ever combat the popular impression of cemeteries is to show kids and adults the reality of the cemetery.

Cemeteries remind us that we’re all connected, that life is precious and sometimes all too fleeting and that we should not be afraid but live life fully and leave behind great stories that future generations will tell of us when they come visit us in the cemetery. I hope to see at some point that every community will develop a cemetery tour that will teach the history of the cemetery but also discuss the purpose of a cemetery. Maybe this will also help decrease vandalism in cemeteries.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The To Do List is growing....

Wine Tasting is tomorrow night -the one that The Wine Cavern is putting on as a fundraiser for us! We are very excited, who wouldn't be with 45 wines and over 40 beers! This should be interesting - to pair the drinks with imported cheeses and fruits and have opportunity to see the exhibits. With all the rain we are having lately, I think we will be the place to be tomorrow night (and there will be a few tickets at the door so if you are looking to keep dry, stop by the Galt at 7 pm)!

But beyond that, Kevin, our Katimavik youth, and myself, along with volunteer committee members, are busy putting together all the details on the rest of the events for 2010. And there are a lot of them!

check out the Events page at for all the details

We have just finished up the details on the Oct 28-30 movie screens - vampires, zombies and of course, Rocky Horror Picture Show! Movies have been selected, prices set, and now we just wait for tickets to go on sale in September!

Adopt An Artifact items will soon be pulled and photos taken, and for those interested in a sneak-peek of what this year's items are, we will have some on display in a case in our main hallway sometime mid-summer!

The crazy staff from the Nature Centre at the 2010 caveman/dinosaur themed Beer Tasting event

Of course there is our always sold out BEER TASTING event on September 10th! Reps are booking their spaces, people are asking about tickets, and the little keepsake glasses are being ordered. The theme this year, because of the hospital building's 100th celebration, is, of course, the Galt Hospital!

Galt Babies Birthday Party 2008

And finally, last but not least by any means, is the Centennial Celebration of the building that will also be a celebration of the Galt Babies and the Community Day/opening of the Galt Hospital exhibit officially! This will run all day on Sunday September 26th so mark your calendars. We have some fun ideas that the committee is helping to plan, but I don't want to give away too many details just yet.....beyond the fact that one of YOU will be able to be the person to open the doors of the building at the start of the day, as everyone eagerly awaits for the day to begin! But only if you are lucky, smart and like a challenge. More to follow.....

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Zombies .... and the museum

(Image courtesy of Gin Fedotov, of 2 Galt Museum volunteers at the Lethbridge Zombie Walk 2009 - Robin Foreman and Gin Fedotov)

Every year in Lethbridge, in the spring, we have our annual Zombie Walk. I know this occurs in a lot of cities and well, it is one of the things that so many people that I know are excited about and spend a great deal of time and money preparing for, and I don't get. In fact, it was one of the activities that made me start to realize that I am aging....because I really don't get it, but I wonder if maybe I am looking too deep and there isn't anything to get, that it is just about dressing up for fun and for nothing else?!

Lethbridge Zombie Walk 2009 - Robin Foreman, Chrissy Foreman and Gin Fedotov are all Galt Museum volunteers. Image courtesy of Gin Fedotov

The Zombie Walk in Lethbridge has grown quite quickly. It attracts teenagers and young adults, typically. The make up and costuming is just phenomenal. And these individuals walk from Galt Gardens, in our downtown core, to another location in downtown. I am sure that much attention is attracted by this group, when there are people in the downtown area, but often our downtown is fairly quiet so I am not sure that many people in Lethbridge really even know this exists or have witnessed it.

Lethbridge Zombie Walk 2009 in Galt Gardens - image courtesy of Gin Fedotov

I want to understand, I really really this year for Halloween, I decided to run the very fun and always sold out Rocky Horror Picture Show again for one of our museum events, but I also decided to have 2 movie marathon nights in the nights leading up to it with one being a screening of all the Exorcist movies and the other being a night of zombie movies (and yes, I have the rights to screen all of them, for those who have followed my initial Rocky Horror saga....).

So I am hoping, in October, that I will be able to spend a night watching zombie movies, with fans of all things zombie, and that something about it will rub off on me. Then, in 2011, you may just see me out there in the Zombie Walk in Lethbridge, just cuz I can say I finally "get it" (and maybe even if I don't!)

(PS For those who want more information, the Lethbridge Zombie Walk has it's own group on Facebook called: "Zombies of Lethbridge")

Friday, 4 June 2010

Why? But why? It doesn’t seem fair.

If I ever hear of a group of kids who have taken over a country and are running it, I won’t be at all surprised to find out it was one of the classes who visited the museum yesterday. Every so often, and I’m not even sure how it happens, you get a group of students together in a class who work off each other to create a class that is much better than it’s component parts – a group of kids who make connections and understand things much better than most of the classes of the same age. It’s a rare thing and when a class such as that comes to visit, you better bring your A game because you’re going to need it.

This group of students was not ready to just accept things but wanted to know WHY. For example, our program yesterday was Ukrainian Connections (grade 3). As part of our discussion of Ukrainian clothes we talk about the men’s belt and how it was once used for horse- back riding. And that as women were not permitted in those days to ride horse, the women’s belt was considerably shorter. Usually that’s enough of an explanation for a class. However this class wanted to know much more than that. Why was the woman’s belt different than the men’s? Why weren’t women allowed to ride horse? Why, why why? We didn’t get much chance to discuss this (as the bus was waiting and they had to get back to school) but their considered belief was that it wasn’t fair and that girls should get to do everything boys do. I wonder if we should create a program on women’s history designed for elementary school kids for days like this?

Speaking on incredibly smart kids, last week the representatives of the regional heritage fairs in Alberta presented to the delegates at the Historical Society of Alberta Conference. Imagine it – five students in grades 4 to 9 (representing Southern Alberta, Central Alberta, Edmonton (2) and Grande Prairie) talked about their research and projects to a room full of historians – many of whom have worked in this field for years, many of whom have written several books on history. I don’t know about you but at that age I would have been terrified to speak in front of a group like that. But these kids were phenomenal. Kids can and do love history. And I think we should all do whatever we can to help create and develop these future historians.

And a special thank you to Mikayla Berger for presenting on behalf of southern Alberta. You did an amazing job!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

I am so fortunate.....all of us at the Galt are

In the month of May, I have received many "thank you" emails and phone calls from volunteers. Those are my favourite emails and phone calls - the one where a volunteer takes a moment to tell you how much they loved what they were doing, how they had an exciting and special experience.

I always sit quietly processing the thank you, because I always think, "but it is me who should be thanking you because without you, we couldn't have done...." (insert here: whatever the job was).

But this past month, we had some amazing, one of a kind opportunities that volunteers were quick to sign up for, and they were not disappointed with their experiences.... not at all.

One of these activities was assisting with the opening of the 25 year time capsule that individuals were allowed to add envelopes to, 25 years ago. I have had comments from the volunteers who attended the official removal from the ground as a representative of the museum, and from the volunteers who were distributing the envelopes to those who had one to pick up, that have let me know that this was a very special day for them. To me it is wonderful that we were able to offer something that made a memory for them - remembering the pouring rain as they all stood out there watching the time capsule being lifted, or the memory of the sincere and warm thank-you from someone who received an envelope that was left for them by someone who maybe now is deceased.

The other activity that has caused so much positive feedback in my office is the opportunity to assist with the Blackfoot Shirts workshops. The Shirts have arrived from England, for an exhibit that opens here this weekend. But for 2 weeks the shirts have been studied by invited guests, almost all Blackfoot people, in workshops. They have been able to see them, handle them, learn about them. During the workshop, a Galt volunteer is on hand to assist with information (ie where the washrooms are located); comfort (ie ensuring there is coffee made for the workshop participants); and also, security (ie ensuring that those not invited are not coming into the workshop by accident).

But the volunteers have raved to me about the actual workshop - everything from the information that was being exchanged was so informative to the emotional impact that these workshops had on some participants. They have all kept details to themselves, because what they were part of was pretty special, but some of them have noted that it was the first time they ever experienced the use of Blackfoot language for more than a few minutes - that listening to this language for 30 minutes or more was astounding (the person who shared this with me also told me it was astounding because he thinks it is one of the most beautiful languages to listen to, now that he has had the opportunity to listen to a true conversation in this language - not just a one or two sentence exchange).

Most of these volunteers, I think, feel that they have been a part of something so special that they will treasure it for a long time, if not forever. It has been emotional for some of them, too, with tears filling their eyes as they first lay eyes on the shirts.

I love my job - I really love my job, but it is months like this where I know that the opportunities that we at the Galt can offer our volunteers, are so impacting on the volunteers that they are, to some extent, life changing. We are fortunate to be able to have these types of activities take place and to be a part of so many special things....and I am fortunate because I think that I receive the most feedback in general, as the volunteer coordinator, and, feels great to be me and to be a part of this museum!

Thank YOU volunteers - every single one of you!