Friday, 27 August 2010

Back to School -- Yeah!

I love school and I particularly love back to school time (yes, you can call me a nerd). I think it's the newness, the sense of possibility, the undiscovered potential of another school year -- and all of the cool new supplies you can buy.

So it has been great this past week getting all of the phone calls and emails from teachers booking for the year ahead. The plan and outline for the year ahead is starting to come together. It's fun to think of all that's going to be done in the next ten months.

My first class of the school term is a cemetery tour in September. Who knows what the weather will be like but I'm hoping for gorgeous weather (and preparing for anything). And we already have several of the Downtown Lethbridge Treasure Hunt programs booked (some for October, some for June). It's incredibly rewarding and fun to observe grade 2 students exploring and discovering their downtown and the fabulous history and stories located there. And several classes have already booked for the Christmas program in December. It's a good thing we're sending out an invitation to our Galt volunteers to help create hundreds of doll bodies to get ready for the program.

And that's even before our school newsletter has gone out. The newsletter is going in the mail today so I'm hoping it will get to schools and teachers sometime next week. If you want a newsletter but don't get one, let me know and I can either ensure one is mailed or emailed to you. Or you can download it from our site.

Here's to all of the students, teachers and parents. And here's to another fabulous school year.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Psychometry, Halloween, and museums

So last November, our Collections Technician, Kevin Maclean, told me about a story he had just heard on CBC Radio about a museum in Calgary's Halloween event. At this event, a psychic went through their Collection and "read" the instruments. I was very interested in this and the possibilities, and knowing who was telling me about it, I knew that though he may not be a believer, but that he was acknowledging that he wouldn't put a stop to this lightbulb in my head, as long as the Collection's safety was kept a priority.

Very excited, I began to have our different Katimavik volunteers over the last year, look more into this. I had them call the museum in Calgary a number of times (the Cantos Music Foundation for those in Calgary who want to check this event out) and learned from them and their research that there is a term for the reading of objects - psychometry.

It has been challenging in some ways, and easy in others, to find information on this topic. We finally found enough that the volunteers and I became quite excited about the possibilities but still had some logistical things to consider - how do you do this and keep the artifacts safe? where do you find a psychic with this ability?

I decided to put the latter question out to my world of Facebook friends and sure enough, a friend of a friend was recommended. We have met a few times and this woman is not someone whose career is using her abilities to do readings for people, in fact she has a wonderful professional career in our community. She explained to me the history of psychometry and she talked to me about how everyone has abilities but most of us are taught to ignore and turn off those feelings that we get. That first meeting though, she wasn't yet sure that this is something she wanted to do.

We met again last week, so she could try to read artifacts, as my last question to her had been, "can you read an object without touching it"? as of course, this goes back to the concern of the artifact safety and museum's rules of touching and handling artifacts as minimally as possible.

She came into this meeting and admitted to me that she did not understand why I was soooo excited during the first meeting, why people would care about this or be interested, but then she went and saw Body Worlds, a travelling exhibit that is currently in Calgary, and she said that not only did she want to read about the parts of the body that were explained in the labels, but she wanted to read about WHO each person was and their life.

Not coming to the museum world as a historian or a museum person, that is EXACTLY what I feel - often when I go into museums I am very disappointed in labels because I don't care that this object is "Jane Smith's hat that she wore when she lived in suchandsuch town from 1902-1918." I always wonder "who was Jane Smith? What was her life like? Would I have liked to have experienced her world?" etc etc.

So there we were, in the Education Collection room - a room filled with artifacts that are allowed to be touched, in fact we use them as much as possible to teach with because these are things we encourage people to touch and try......and she began to read the objects. I cannot tell you how exciting it was - even though we have nothing to prove what she was telling me was correct, and she noted frequently that she was telling me what she "felt" or "believed" but it could be wrong, especially because many people have handled these objects since the owner has, but there was sstill something interesting to put a face to these items, and to hear stories of these supposed individuals - if they were nice, mean, married or single, working or not, etc. It opened my eyes to museums and artifacts in a whole new way! Much of what she said was likely to be accurate, based on what we know, according to our one staff who uses the Education Collection the most and whom I brought into the room to help with this "test".

I, in fact, loved this so much that I would love to take her, or someone with abilities, to museums with me in the future.

I am very excited for Halloween - this will be such an interesting way to see and hear about our exhibit, and some Education artifacts that we will pull without showing her in advance, to get her to do readings to the audience. We have a lot of other things planned for that night, with the assistance of Trap\Door Artist Run Centre who is doing this event with us.

If you are curious to see this, tickets will go on sale on October 1st for the evening activities and will be $10 each. If you have similar stories or experiences, I'd love to hear about them and maybe include them in that evening, with your permission! Please share!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Metis Jigging

For someone who personally does not really love to dance (I think I can count the number of times I’ve willingly danced on one hand), I really do love organizing dance programs at the museum. Even if I mostly participate as the cheering section (always an important part of a program, I think) I really love learning about the dances, and watching the audience dance, and listening to the music. I think it’s actually equally as fun for the audience sitting and watching the dancing as for the brave audience members who get up to try the new steps. Back in the spring we did line dancing at my Wednesday adult program, and recently we learned Métis Jigging as the third and final family program for the summer. I think that these programs are a great way to experience culture and celebrate heritage. In fact, I have so much fun at these programs that I’ve already booked a family barn dance program for the May long weekend in 2011, and plan to ask the line dance and Métis Jigging instructors to return in the new year as well.

The line dancing program in the spring was presented by YuTuKanDanz, a local dance troupe. They did several fun demos and then invited the audience up to learn to dance. There was even a special dance that was mostly hand/arm movements so that people who were confined to their chairs could participate. Here is a sample of one of their dances:
The more recent Métis Jigging program was the third program in a series of family programs linked to our Blackfoot shirts exhibit. The first two programs were the Napi Plays and Napi Puppet stories that I blogged about last week . The Métis Jigging program was also brought to us by volunteers from Aboriginal Council of Lethbridge (ACL). Métis Elder Rod MacLeod (left in photo) is a board member for ACL and works as an Elder at Lethbridge College helping Métis and Aboriginal students. Roy Pogorzelski (right in photo), Aboriginal Diversity Support Coordinator for ACL, has been dancing for seven years and is a Métis Citizen of Saskatchewan.The program started with an interesting (and fun!) presentation on Métis history and culture from Rod who also brought a very cool hands-on display.
I learned that the distinctive noise made by the Red River Cart is because they couldn’t use grease on the wheels since it attracted dirt which caused a sandpaper-type reaction which destroyed the wheels. The audience had a great time talking to him – laughing and asking questions. We could have actually kept talking for hours but we had to make time for the dancing.

The dance portion of the program was led by Roy who taught the group several dances including the Red River Jig. In his article in the Lethbridge Journal Roy describes the dance as: “a traditional dance of the Métis people that was created in the Red River homeland of the Métis, which is now present day Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Red River Jig is danced at parties and community gatherings and has become a strong symbol of Métis identity. The dance is a combination of Scottish/Celtic reel dancing, French jigging and First Nations dancing, which makes it quite unique to Métis culture/identity.” The Red River Jig is danced to a fiddle song with the same name.

During the Red River Jig dancers start with a basic step that everyone does. Dancers can dance in a circle and then when the fiddle music changes it signals the start of a fancy step. There are a number of fancy steps, but once a dancer runs out of steps they usually sit down and another dancer joins the group. The volunteer dancers also learned the “Rabbit Dance” which is a group dance.
Roy started with a demo, followed by a lesson:
And then they danced:

Friday, 20 August 2010

The Life of a Building -- Share your memories and stories

Greatest Years You Never Knew
Collecting Memories of Historic Buildings

We need your help.
The Galt is working on an exhibit (to open April 2011) on the years 1906-1913 in Lethbridge.

Exhibit Summary
Greatest Years You Never Knew
Lethbridge changed forever between 1906 and 1913. These were years of incredible population growth and many new businesses and industries made Lethbridge home. It was a time of wild optimism as fortunes were made. In many ways, these were the greatest years in Lethbridge history and were vital in shaping the Lethbridge we know today.
But not everyone shared in the good times. For many people these greatest years never happened. Experience the boom and bust, joy and despair of the lives of Lethbridge residents in The Greatest Years You Never Knew.

How you can help
One of the themes in the exhibit is Buildings and Development. But we don’t just want to provide the history of the building. We want to know about the LIFE of the building. Your memories of the buildings. Which buildings are your favourites and why. We want stories, remembrances, ideas, questions, thoughts about the buildings of Lethbridge that were built between 1906-1913. Please don’t forget to include your name with the quote. And don’t forget to mention the name of the building.
These statements will then help us create the exhibit. In the exhibit, the labels for these buildings will start with a quote or statement.

Some we've already had in:

St. Augustine's Anglican Church: I always get a sense of awe and peace whenever I enter this building. I was confirmed and married in this church. I attended the Young Peoples group here. We used to play a game in which all the lights were turned off in the hall, and it was really scary!

Bowman Art Gallery: These are the ones I will make my most profound statement about. These are the buildings that I am willing to lay down in front of the bulldozer for. One of these buildings is the Bowman Art Centre.

Post your comments or email your comments to or drop them off at the front desk attn: Belinda.

Below is a list of some buildings built between 1906-1913 but certainly not all. If you want a more complete list, let me know. Or if you need addresses, let me know. Castle Hotel, Chinese National League Building, Galt Hospital, Lethbridge Post Office, Southminster Church, Galbraith School, Bowman Art Gallery, York Hotel, Alec Arms Hotel, Hudson Bay Building (360/Yo Yos), Express Coffee (Union Bank), Big Brothers & Big Sisters, LDS Church/Red Cross Building, Oddfellows Hall, Union Train Station/Health Unit, Whitney Block (was O’Rileys), Acadia Block/Dove Christian, Hick-Sehl Hardware/Cat Walk, Wallace Block/Round Street Café, Masonic Hall, St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Conservatory of Music/Crazy Cakes, Burns Block/Shanghai Chop Suey

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Creativity and logic or Right Brain vs Left Brain as an Event Coordinator

On Monday, I did an orientation with 8 potential new volunteers. Often I do orientations one-on-one and so I find the group dynamic to bring up new thoughts and conversation that is not the typical orientation questions when you are only talking to one person.

One of the things that I realized that I have overlooked for awhile, though have been very aware of off and on for the many years I have worked here, is the very different work all of our staff do. There is very little overlap in any one person's job, and each person is (almost) a department unto themselves, but many of us rely on each other to get our jobs completed and deadlines met. This becomes very apparent when people are asking details about volunteer jobs and you realize that certain skill sets and personality traits are very obviously favourable for one area and not necessarily other areas.

Some things that were said, and questions that were asked on Monday made me very aware that some people considered themselves potential volunteers looking for creative work (right brain thinkers) and others seemed to be looking for something else, which seemed to be more logical work (left brain thinkers). I am not sure that all museums operate the same way as ours, as I have never worked for any other museum, but after mulling this the last few days in the back of my brain, it seems very true, that some of us have to be very creative people and some of us have to be very logical people, to get all that we do done in the museum - we couldn't probably be successful without a mix as people would get bored of events, programs and exhibits that had no creative component to them, but the logical people help bring in the ideas of the creative people and provide a different perspective and the creative people help the logical people see that there are many sides to a coin that could be looked at (and potentially thrown away, but "let's brainstorm that first" <--- true to the right brain mind haha). I am the type of person who likes to see both sides of the coin on things before making a decision, but I also have a fine arts degree and most of my free time is spent around creative pursuits, so I was curious to think about where I, as a Special Events Coordinator, fell, because I require both logic to make good business choices (which each event is - basically a tiny business), but creativity so that people want to come back to my events again and again and think highly of the event that they attended - I need it to be memorable and logic doesn't make an event memorable, creativity does!) So I began to read.....and have decided that I am definitely a right brain (creative) thinker with some logical, left brain thrown in for the basics that require it. Some examples: I first found this article about the habits of creative people . It struck true in so many ways - for example, in the first statement, I am very much a question asker and I think it is important to be someone who can throw out a question for others to mull over - it is how I make good event decisions by finding out the why's, what's, and how's that other people come up with when I throw out a question. I can then mull over the many responses and use my logical side to make the best decision for the event. I love to ask a wide range of people so that I have a good perspective, too - I do feel that I can brag and say that I do make good choices because I excel in this area - asking coworkers, sponsors, ticketholders, friends, etc about so many things, ideas are awesome!

I also think that I am a type of person who likes to "roll up my sleeves" when problems arise, instead of running away. I might have a few seconds or minutes where I feel overwhelmed, but then I like to think about things and find a solution and move forward! It is a sense of accomplishment that I love! It is the challenge in this (also something mentioned in the article, the love of challenges) that makes me excited and pushes me forward - don't ever tell me something is too big, too crazy, or too much to do - I will climb that mountain and every one behind it, if allowed to do so! And I stick it out, as mentioned in the article - how many events or programs in the community get cancelled or smalled down because people don't want to stick it out through the hard times in planning and organizing? I am stressed at times but I know that in the end, it will all be great so I keep thinking of that and move forward without waivering.

I think every event planner has to have most of these skills, and the skills listed in this article. Planning a great, memorable event requires this type of personality and skill. But then I saw the word "environment" and it made me wonder if my working environment is so different from other creative people. I look around right now and what do I see???

4 coffee mugs, one Coke can, one pile of very old papers not looked at in the last year, a 4 shelf filing system that is used to hold things but they don't ever move from that to somewhere else, a pile of papers with information that needs to be "input" or "data entered" at some point, my rolodex with so many cards that they are falling out everywhere, the card holders for the rolodex that I ordered to put the falling out cards in that have yet to be used, one pile for August events papers, one pile for September events papers, one pile for October events papers, and 2 file holders that have files for ongoing projects that I am working on. Oh and sticky notes - everywhere! I LOVE sticky notes to write down ideas, thoughts, messages, and more! And a pen! And no room to actually write with the pen unless it is on a sticky note because that is how much desktop i can see - a sticky note size! And I have SO MUCH event stuff piled up in my office and in the common area - my office used to be huge and it was wonderful, but with the changes to the building I am now in a cubicle sized office and well, every event planner will tell you that that isn't going to work and be neat. I remember walking into offices of other event planners and fundraisers right before an event and not being able to actually go IN to the office. I am proud to say you can walk into mine - for about 4 feet! That is pretty good considering....or it means I am not working hard enough?! Depends on how you look at it!

So I wanted to read about creative people and their work environments. I think about the people I consider creative type at work and they mostly fit into having a similar scenario as mine, though to differing degrees, and I wondered if I could .... clump us messy people into one group This site most definitely says YES! And according to this article we are more highly educated than our peers and make more money....hmmm well that doesn't totally fit but I can dream ;)

This is my favourite quote from the above article: "The study also relates that your coworkers may be judging you based on your messiness; if you take three people sitting around you, for instance, one doesn’t care about your messiness, one will judge you for being messy and the last would say it depends on who you are." I find it interesting that anyone has time to judge anyone based on the appearance of their office, but then that is probably a creative trait - I realize that that is the lowest priority on the scale - I am a get 'er done, my events better be great, watch out I am full speed ahead kind of person. What am I supposed to do with the things that I will need many times in the next 2 months for the 12 event days that I have coming up? And I have much better things to be doing than worrying about better organizing the stuff on my desk - I know where it is and I'm the only one who works in here. There isn't even need for anyone to come in here to look for anything since everything that my coworkers may need from me is on our shared hard drive! So this made me laugh, and partly made me wish I had time to have opinions on other people's workspaces that are not in public areas. Ah well - I'll just keep working on my job instead ;)

The comments that follow that article are quite humorous - both supporting and refuting the messy desk idea. If I worried about my desk (and office and common area), I'd have to cancel doing about half my workload each year, I I say "on with creativity" because THAT is what brings people to events (and thus into the museum), not the state of my desk or work areas.

(ohhh ironically I just got an email about an event in the community that was to take place tomorrow being cancelled...hmmm now I want to see that organizer's office out of curiousity lol)

Finally, I wondered what I need to continue to be able to do what I have done successfully for all these years, if I am in fact a creative type. I found another great website about nurturing a creative environment I should add here that I do not believe that you can google a topic and thus become a pro and totally knowledgable on a subject, these are 3 sites that I enjoyed of about 20 I have skimmed through, and while most all do have the same information and support the same opinions, there are a few others out there that state other things, such as how one website links the traits of creative people and right brained thinkers to being close to psychosis - interesting read! I wish I had kept the url because I'd have shared it here but google "creativity and psychosis" and I'm sure you'll find other articles and studies that maybe say the same (at least I am almost-psychotic with at least 3 other staff here at the museum, but I won't name names so as to not hurt their feelings, but look around their offices and you'll figure out who they are :).

In this article, it suggests that encouraging brainstorming and letting it get wild, will encourage new, great ideas. Well that fits with the creative personality that I mention at the start - my love of seeking feedback and talking things out with all the people around me. I will probably get 100 ideas and have to bring it down to 1 or 2, but don't stop that ball - let it play out and remember that every person's idea is equal to every other person's idea, at the start! If there is an impending deadline on the topic being brainstormed, well then I can understand it requiring some guidance and encouraging 25 new ideas instead of 100, but usually museum people are planning and talking about things a year or more away so let's let it play out, we have the time!

Encouraging questions is also mentioned and I love that - I love being allowed to ask "why", not to be a trouble maker but because I want to understand WHY, wrap my head around it and then look at all sides of the coin to ensure that the best choices are being made and that there is not better way to do things. I may have no input or feedback or suggestions or I may get excited and give you more ideas than one person can ever handle, but I promise you, the ideas that I give will include at least one "gooder" if you allow me to share and listen to what I have to say! But all creative people need to feel safe because we know we are going to throw a lot out, and it is completely deflating and discouraging when you are stopped almost from the start. I do believe it is possible to "pop" the creativity bubble and turn it to apathy and well, in a museum it is important that the creative people are being creative people because otherwise the museum will just offer "ok" exhibits, programs and events, and well, that isn't ok, in my opinion! You can see who the "popped" people are - they look deflated - they have lost their energy, vigour and excitement for what they are doing and instead are apathetic or on the other hand so overwhelmed that they can't make a decision about anything without needing support.

This article also mentions allowing space for visual thinkers - that is so me! I like to draw out EVERYTHING! For example, I was at a meeting last night and if people saw my minute taking from that meeting they'd wonder how I ever get from my notes to a document that everyone can read and understand - I have squiggles and lines and circles but you know what, *I* understand it and I don't fail at making sure that my language is interpreted for the group when it is time to bring it to the group! So don't laugh at me if a one hour meeting has 7 pages of rough minutes because I am visual and I draw it ALL out! :) Once typed and interpreted for the world, it will become a normal sized document (that the right brain thinkers can then doodle all over! haha)

Wow, I could just go on and on and on reading these articles and seeing myself in them. It actually makes me feel good to know that I am not alone in the way that helps me find the successes that I am able to find - that others thrive in the same environment and have the same needs. I am now, more than ever, grateful for all of these traits and needs of being a right brain thinker because if I didn't have them, I do believe I'd be pretty awful at my job.

And to end this with a little bit of love for the logical people (left brain thinkers) that I think are in museums - the Collections staff, the Archives staff, etc, well I found lots of great things about you - you are the ones that help me, when I get my 100 ideas and I have brought it down to 5, when I come to you, you help me bring it down to the final 1 or 2 (but please do it without judging because you risk popping that bubble); and your focus is on accuracy (oh how true this is- it is a word I use to describe a very necessary trait for volunteers in these areas - the focus is on accuracy!) when sometimes my focus is on the quantity - you help me to remember that at some point, the accuracy will be a benefit to the others who will intersect with my world so that it is important to always look to ensure I have included this in the work that I do.

Wanna see where you stand? Take this test According to this quiz I am 62% right brain - not really a surprise! So with that, I'll be proud of me, who I am, how I work, and the work that I accomplish because according to all of this, I am doing something right!

Any Event Coordinators out there that are more left brain? I'd love to hear from you! Could be an interesting discussion about the pros and cons of your traits and skills in the work that you do!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Napi Stories Puppet Program

For most of July everything was coming up puppets for me. Nearly everyone who talked to me during that time was subjected to my questions about puppets they might have had as kids, their thoughts on puppet shows, and asked to review prototypes of puppets in development. This recent puppet obsession started with a wonderful program suggestion from Tanya Harnett from the University of Lethbridge. Tanya (above right) volunteered with Doreen-Williams Freeman (above left), a local artist and business owner, to create a puppet show program based on the Napi Plays produced by Doreen earlier in the summer. Napi is a Blackfoot trickster character and there are many wonderful and educational stories featuring him. Doreen took three Napi stories and wrote, produced, and directed the plays that were performed at the Galt Museum as a program in June. All of the actors in the plays were from Southern Alberta, and some were from Aboriginal Council of Lethbridge. Doreen made the costumes and narrated the action, while the actors performed brilliantly. The action was lively and they managed to engage the audience so much that I could hear the laughter and cheers all the way down the hall! Cast photo by Marie Gomez:
These plays were the inspiration for the puppet show program. The idea was to have children make puppet versions of the characters from the three Napi stories and then, following Doreen’s narration, act out the three stories in separate puppet shows. Kids who didn’t want to act were asked to be the cheering section (always an important part of any show!)

We began planning for the program by identifying which characters we should make from the different plays. Tanya and Doreen spent a fun, for me at least, morning going through the plays with me and identifying which characters we should make, making sketches of the sorts of shapes we could use, planning for the decorating of the puppets, and planning the puppet show part of the program. Doreen volunteered to make the puppet Napi, and to act as him as well as the narrator in the puppet shows, and Tanya volunteered to make the Rock puppet and also to help the kids act in the shows.

Then some of my wonderful program volunteers set to work creating patterns for the puppets, cutting out the pieces, sewing the puppets, and assembling the donated supplies needed for decorating the puppets. We decided that in order to keep the program to two hours we should pre-sew the puppet bodies. We picked three main patterns (plus a no-sew gopher, and some paper puppet patterns for younger children) that could be adapted to make the different characters in the plays: Napi and the Gophers, Napi and the Two Ladies, and Napi and the Rock. Here are Tanya, Kelti, and Susan sewing:The puppet-forms were left unadorned so that during the program the kids could decorate them however they wanted. The photo below by Marie Gomez, another local artist and Galt Museum volunteer, shows sample puppets she made using the bird form on the left, the “lady” form in the middle which we also used for bears, and the “coyote” form which we used for snakes as seen in this photo as well as any other animal the kids wanted to create.
We made a few prototypes in case we needed to pitch in at the show ourselves. Marie on the far right in this photo is holding up my attempt at making a gopher. (Above photo from Marie Gomez. Back: L-R Kelti, Susan, Tanya, Marie. Front: Brad)

On the day of the program the children were welcomed and asked to pick a character and decorate their puppet. Here is a gopher in progress: and a lady:Then the kids acted in the shows: and took a bow:This was one of my favorite programs of the whole year – I loved doing the prep work (who knew that I would come to love puppets like this?!), and I think that the program itself was such a fun way to learn about Blackfoot culture. I can’t thank our volunteers enough for helping prepare and run the program: Tanya, Doreen, Barbara, Marie, Brad, Del, Susan, Kelti, Jill, and Janell. I’m looking forward to a chance to do the program again.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Do museums ALWAYS need to be objective?

I’ve been mulling this over in my head for a few days. Do museums always need to be objective? I’m not suggesting that museums do not have the responsibility to show different perspectives. There is no one historical truth and it’s important to show how different people/groups perceive the same event or experience.

What I’m talking about is if there is something that 99.9% of intelligent, educated people believe and there are one or two lone objectors out there (and, yes, I know I already have a built in bias), is it necessary to give space to the one or two objectors? And, if you do give space, do you have to give equal space? If you do present this alternate position, can you editorialize (for example, say why this position has been discredited)? Or can you just completely ignore it and not include it at all? I guess what I’m actually asking is can you just sometimes ignore the kooks no matter how loudly and often they repeat their point of view?

I work in a history museum but I started thinking about this while reading Unscientific America, a book that looks at how scientific illiteracy is hurting American society. The book looks at ways to bring scientists and the general public together. One chapter deals with the media and science. The media sees its role as an objective purveyor which has to show both sides of an issue (and showing “both” sides isn’t a bad way to increase debate and viewership, either). When the media presents a scientific story, they usually bring in someone who can speak to both sides of the issue. But this can distort the story if 99.9% of scientists are on one side and 0.1% are on the other. When both sides get similar and equal air time, it looks to the general public that both sides are weighed equally and that both points of view are equally valid alternatives. Sometimes there are no shades of grey – just black and white.

So that started me thinking about museums. Do we sometimes try so hard to show that we’re objective and to show both sides of the story (even when sometimes there really is just one side of a story), that we only confuse the issue to our visitors? Do not museums sometimes have the responsibility to get off the fence and take a side?

Or do our visitors just want the facts, stories, objects and all of the possible alternatives and have the option of making up their own mind? Certainly, no one wants to visit a museum and only get the curator’s opinions. And history has shown us that there are occasions when 99% of people believe something and it isn’t true.

But human nature has also shown us that if you give people an alternate solution (no matter how unsupported it may be), there will be many people who will believe and give credence to that other story. And do we try so hard not to offend anyone or any group, that we create presentations and exhibits that are too wishy-washy? And nothing is more difficult than to un-teach incorrect information.

I would love to hear your opinions. If you’re a museum visitor, what would you like? If you work in museums, have you faced this same dilemma?

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

What supernatural experiences have YOU had at the museum??

On Halloween, the Galt Museum and Trap\Door Artist Run Centre, are excited to being putting on the first ever, Macabre Museum event.

Because we have so much demand for people wanting to experience the supernatural, or hear stories of local ghost sightings, especially in old buildings like ours, we decided to try this new event out in 2010 and see what the public thinks.

This event will include an opportunity to see our exhibit through the energy of a psychic, who will explain to us a bit about the history of psychometry and then see if they can tell us anything about some of our artifacts from a psychic point of view.

Trap\Door will have some booths exhibiting some of the fun and more serious psychics who will be participating in their large psychic fair fundraiser in February - come and get a taste of the fun that that includes!

We will also be doing tours of our building but from a paranormal perspective, and this is where YOU come in! If you have had an experience in this building, we want to know about it so that we can maybe include it in our tours that night....and quite possibly, it may even end up being a part of our normal "hospital tour" offered year-round!

So if you have had an experience while visiting the Galt, that made you go hmmmm, or was unexplainable, we do want to hear from you!! You can remain anonymous so don't be shy! To share your story email lori.harasem @ (without the spaces) or call her at 403-320-4219. A volunteer will then get in touch with you to interview you and find out more about your visit(s) to the Galt! OR you can choose to reply here but be sure to tell us approximately when your experience occurred, what part of the museum you were in when it happened, and what happened! You can include your real name if you will let us use it, or an alias is fine, too.

And tickets for this fun night will be $10 and go on sale October 1st at the museum or through Trap\Door Board members. So book your Halloween - 7 pm - here, at the Macabre Museum!!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Do you know the answers?

I love some of the questions that I get asked. Sometimes the answer is easy. But every so often you get a question that stretches your knowledge – not just your knowledge of the material but also your knowledge of where to even look for the material. This past week I received two of those types of questions.

One of the questions that I received last week was how common, painful and risky were c-sections in the 1940s? We couldn’t find much information on this. It appears that Dr. Mewburn performed the first c-section in Lethbridge in 1903. The surgery was said to be successful. But we could not find records of how many c-sections were performed in the 1940s. The person who emailed us was hoping to find out so she could include the information in a memoir about her Grandmother.

[As a strange side-note, a few days after I received this email, the Archives received an email from a genealogist in New Zealand who was looking for information on a family in Lethbridge. By some strange coincidence, the name he was looking for was the same last name as the person who emailed me regarding the c-section. Now we’re trying to find if it is all actually one family (especially since it is not a common family name).]

I also was contacted by someone wanting to find information on Hazel LeRoy Wallace. Don’t let the name fool you (it did fool quite a few people because in 2 of the 3 censuses I found, Hazel was reported as female). Hazel Wallace, born in Lethbridge in the 1890s, was a World War I ACE. The person who contacted me was trying to get more information on him. We know Hazel lived here with his family from his birth through the First World War (we have some great pictures of him with his church group and the like). Unfortunately, it seems that Hazel only lived in this area for 4 or 5 years following the war and then moved (possible to B.C.?) so we were only able to provide some of the information. We could not find an obituary or place of death. Hopefully the researcher will have more luck in B.C.

If you can add to our knowledge on either of those two questions, please get in touch with us and we’ll pass it along to the researchers.