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.