Sunday, 31 January 2010

Lizards and Things

On Saturday January 30th we had our last dinosaur-themed program of the year. The programs over the past few months have been so much fun that I plan on bringing some of then back next year even though we won't have a dinosaur exhibit. This Saturday at 1 program was called The Reptile Connection and we learned about how all dinosaurs were reptiles but not all reptiles were dinosaurs. For example, the much-loved flying Pteradon was an awesome flying lizard who lived at the same time as the dinosaurs, but was not a dinosaur.

The guest speaker, Jolene from Petland, brought some bird friends to the program so we got to review the bird connection with dinosaurs. Some scientists say that birds are basically modern dinosaurs.

The other things we've done in public programs at the museum in the past two weeks are related to movies. The family program, Dinosaurs in the Movies, was brought to us via video conference. The technology we used for the program is a new type of internet-based video conference loaned to us by RISE. Our IT people worked with the team at Chinook Arch Regional Library System, to use web cams and the internet to link our audience in the Galt Museum to the Royal Tyrrell Museum. A more traditional video conference features fancy cameras and TV screens.
We, however, broadcast the program using a projector onto a big screen in the Viewing Gallery. The program was very interactive with the audience talking to the Tyrrell interpreter, Colin Regamy, and the Tyrrell team bringing out fossils and animations to answer spontaneous audience questions. In addition to the fabulous movie clips and interesting information provided in the program, I think that the ability for the families to interact with the interpreter is what made the program so engaging and fun. It was clear that the adults had at least as much fun as the kids - which makes this a great family activity.

The other dinosaur-movie program was our January Cafe Galt with Cory Gross. Cory presented his research on the history of the first full length dinosaur movie The Lost World. We have a podcast of his talk that I'll upload in the future.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Ode to a Dung Beetle

I have an appreciation for dung beetles and, perhaps surprisingly since I work in a museum devoted to southern Alberta history, I have talked about dung beetles with a lot of students in the past year.

We had an exhibit on ancient Egypt last year and discussed why the dung beetle was considered sacred. The Egyptians observed the beetles' practice of rolling a ball of dung across the ground. And they compared this with the sun being rolled across the sky. The dung beetle thus became equated with eternity and creation. (also because they thought the young beetles appeared out of nowhere and believed the scarab was a symbol of spontaneous creation)

And then, ending this Sunday, we had an exhibit on Dinosaurs (and other animals) who roamed Alberta 75 million years ago. One of the favourite pictures of many of the students was a picture of coprolite (fossilized dinosaur dung). Students were amazed at how large the dung was and it led me to remark to the classes on more than one occasion that I truly love the dung beetle. Just think how different the world of 75 million years ago and today would be without this interesting little insect cleaning up after dinosaurs and elephants and the rest? If you haven't had a chance to come and see the picture of the dinosaur pooh (and, of course, the rest of the Dinosaur exhibit) make sure you do this weekend as it closes Sunday at 4:30 pm.

I don't think I'll have much opportunity to talk about dung beetles in the upcoming year as our exhibits are on (respectively) unique objects from our collection, Blackfoot shirts and the history of the 1910 Galt Hospital building. But I'm sure there will be lots of other interesting discussions with students in the months to come. Especially since I know the morgue of the hospital will have to be part of my discussion/tour of the hospital (at least with the older kids). And cemetery tours start up again in May.

But, as always, long live the dung beetle.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Adopt An Artifact begins again

Schweppe's Bottle, 1920's
Tonight is a special night for me. There is one night each year where I get to go into Collections and snoop around 17,000+ artifacts and this is the night!

We have very few staff and volunteers who are permitted to do this on a regular basis, and those who do, do so because it is part of their job here. For the rest of us at the Galt Museum & Archives, it is a rare thing, as it is for the public (though with an appointment, any staff and member of the public can access this area for research, enquiries, and many other reasons).

Being an Event and Volunteer Coordinator, I at first did not understand this high level of security for these areas of the museum, but over the years our Collections Technician, Kevin Maclean, has taught me about the importance of the environment that artifacts are kept in to ensure their longevity. With that understanding has come a respect for this large storage area in the lower level of our building.

But for a few hours each year I get to spend time opening doors, pulling out shelves, looking in the database, and being intrigued by the many many things in this area. Tonight is the night where I will do so, with the assistance of one of our Collections volunteers and former staff members, Terra Plato (with security as it is, I would not do this alone).

Terra knows the Collection very well and so the two of us will, for a fundraiser that will take place this November, wander around and try to pick a variety of items, approximately 30, that well represent the different themes in Lethbridge and area's history (ie coal mining, the military, the brewery, etc). We want to have "something for everyone" so that no matter who you are, you will see one of these items and become curious and fascinated by it.

We will have Collections volunteers take photos of the chosen items. Other volunteers will take the information from our database on these items and rewrite it as more of a story and without the technical information that our database holds, that most of the public would not be interested in or care about. These items will then become part of our annual Adopt An Artifact fundraiser.

In November we will showcase these items on a website created for us, as a donation, by Lethbridge Web Design. For 30 days, the public will be able to view the images and their stories and for a minimum of $20, start bidding on an item! The artifact remains our property, but the high bidder gets a tax receipt, a photo of the item along with the story, and a chance to go into this well secured area with our curator to see the artifact they bid on, as well as some of the thousands of others in our care.

All in all it is great fun, and a neat way to raise some needed money for our Collections areas, but on top of that, it is a good chance for the public to see some of the artifacts we have - some are exactly as you'd expect, but others are maybe a bit more....umm.....weird (sorry Kevin).

With this fundraiser only being in our third year in 2010, we are hoping to grow it by leaps and bounds, so we invite you to participate at the end of the year when it goes live. In the meantime, you don't have to wonder for too long about what types of artifacts we have.....come see our Treasures & Curiosities exhibit that opens on February 20th. This exhibit will showcase about 200 artifacts that were selected by people like me and you - members of the community invited to do exactly what I am doing tonight, with each of them picking 2 artifacts for exhibit. It is sure to be an exciting, eclectic mix of "stuff" and you WILL be amazed or awed or weirded out by something, I am sure!

In the meantime, we'll be working behind the scenes for the next few months preparing for our Adopt An Artifact fundraiser, so that those of you who fall in love with Treasures & Curiosities can become more a part of the Galt, in the fall, by helping us to preserve some of the amazing, awe-inspiring, or weird artifacts that need preservation and attention to ensure that they will be around for many generations to come, by bidding away!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Scotch and Stewart and Burns

In only 2 short days, we will be having our annual Robbie Burns celebration. This event is your typical celebration of Scotland's greatest poet and Scotland's son - we include haggis sampling, bagpipes, dancers, singers, odes, and toasts and more! We also add Scotch sampling at our event where people can try 5 or 6 different whiskies and talk to Kyle Baines from Andrew Hilton Wine and Spirits, and learn about the different varieties. Kyle is the local expert on Scotch, and has travelled to Scotland to see the many different places that the Scotches come from and to meet the makers. He can explain to anyone - from the person who has never tasted a whiskey to those who are passionate about their Scotches - what it is that makes each product unique.

This year, when starting the planning of the event, I was informed that my partner in the planning, Stewart Christie, was quite ill with leukemia and so would not be able to participate this year. I was very saddened by this news as Stewart was instrumental in starting up many of the Robbie Burns events in Southern Alberta and has MCed, played accordian, led the sing-a-long, and more from the USA border to Calgary, from the BC border to the Saskatchewan border. His love of his culture and in particular, of Robbie Burns, was catching. You couldn't know Stewart and not learn something new that made you appreciate this gentleman that the world celebrates the birth of on January 25th each year. For a few years, we weren't sure if Stewart would make the event because of illness, but he had always been there MCing and singing away!

The committee decided that we would honour Stewart this year, for all of his work and his contributions for over a decade (and probably many decades that I am just not aware of). The Galt's marketing staff, Anine Vonkeman, found a wonderful photo of Stewart and put it on the poster. Stewart and his wife had a chance to preview the poster and Stewart was "very pleased", I was told. We had plans to share fun stories of Stewart at Robbie Burns' celebrations at our event, to show the audience how much of an impact this gentleman has had. Some photos of Stewart at past events were pulled out and we made a short slideshow of him MCing the Galt event in the museum before the expansion, at the mall where we had the event while we were closed for renovations, and then finally in our new event space. We were excited to honour this wonderful man while for the first time, he'd be able to sit in the front row and just watch and enjoy the activity.

Sadly, early in January, I received a number of phone calls asking me if I had seen the obituaries - Stewart passed away on January 1st. The committee was devastated, as was I. But we knew that more than anything, Stewart would want us to celebrate Robbie Burns in a BIG way, as BIG as we could, and keep celebrating. We will pay tribute to Stewart that night and I do think there will be a lot of tears in the audience as we listen to a special song on the bagpipes that is being played just for him. As well, the choir he conducted will perform his favourite song.

In fact, since he has passed, I have received so many phone calls from people, like his choir members, asking if they could pay tribute to him by participating in our program on Friday night. I cannot say no because he would have wanted this - he always wanted the event to be even bigger than it was. So, I have agreed and our program has become longer in a way that would have made Stewart so proud - we have so many new performances and activities this year and we have even had a local artist do his family crest, which is now framed, for display that evening.

This Friday night, I hope you can join us as we celebrate Scotch and we celebrate Robbie Burns, but moreso, as we pay tribute to a man who has touched so so many people in this area, Mr Stewart Christie. Bring a few tissues but more than that, be prepared to smile, laugh and celebrate with us - it is how he would have wanted it!

A Stewart!

(Tickets are $3/person or $1/person for annual passholders. Children 6 and under are free. Tickets are on sale prior to the event at the museum store, and any available tickets will be at the door. Scotch tasting tickets will be sold at the event only)

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Jr. Paleontologist

Yesterday, the museum was filled with Junior Paleontologists. Over 70 kids, 50 parents, and 8 volunteers, joined in on our weekly Saturday at 1 program. This program was brought to us by Devil’s Coulee, which is the site where the first dinosaur eggs were found in Canada. Until January 30th, in the lower level of the museum, you can see a display about Wendy Sloboda who found the eggs, and see some real life examples of dinosaur eggs.
Devil’s Coulee designed the program to help kids learn how to find and identify fossils and how to grid a dig site just like a paleontologist. This is the Devil’s Coulee staff and volunteers setting up the program in the Community Savings Learning Studio at the museum:
During the program the kids explored three stations. At the first station they learned to grid a dig site and record their findings just like paleontologists do when they are doing their work.
At the second station kids found marine fossils and identified and recorded their finds in a pass-book/journal. During the time when dinosaurs were alive there were lots of other animals sharing the earth – including marine reptiles and flying lizards. You can learn more about what animals lived with dinosaurs in our Dinosaurs and Company Exhibit until the end of January.
The third station allowed the kids to find and identify different dinosaur bones. As our exhibit also shows, paleontologists make new scientific discoveries all the time based on the fossils they find. For example, we now know that some dinosaurs cared for their young instead of just laying eggs and abandoning them. Next week, on January 23rd, at our Saturday at 1 program we will learn more about how science has changed over time and how it impacts the way dinosaurs are depicted in the movies.

In other programming news, our Wednesday January 20th program will talk about the history of the first full length dinosaur movie, based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book The Lost World, and then we’ll get to watch the movie. Museum doors open at 6pm and the program starts at 7pm.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Katimavik volunteers

Today is a sad day for the staff and volunteers of the Galt ~ today is the day we say good-bye to our most recent Katimavik volunteer as she heads off to Smith Falls, ON to do her next Katimavik placement.

We signed up with Katimavik last summer. This meant we had a one year commitment where we would take a volunteer or two for Sept-November full time, and then when that group left to go to Smith Falls, a group from Surrey BC would arrive and we would have a ft volunteer (or two) for Nov-January. Finally when this group leaves, a new group comes for the month of February and works as a group ft for 3 weeks on a project to better our community. This cycle then repeats starting in March.

Katimavik takes youth who are just finished high school and have maybe done a year or two of university. It gives them a chance to explore three very different communities across Canada and volunteer full time to gain work experience, but also learn about themselves and set and work on personal and professional goals.

I don't know if this program existed when I was in high school, but if it did, I wish I had known about it because it seems like an amazing way to grow and learn and have very unique experiences. One of the neat things is each group, of about 10-12 youth, is made up of youth from across the country, and some are French speaking, some English and some bilingual. Spending 6 months together they get to know each other very well and I assume grow life-long relationships.

So today we say good-bye to Monica, as we have to Ben, Sarah, Raphael and Nathaniel (all from ON) and Guillaume (from QC). Monica has done so many odd jobs for us ranging from data entry to public family programs to currently helping build mounts for artifacts for our upcoming exhibit. She has been a wonderful addition to the Galt family and we will miss her cheerful nature! At the same time, we are excited for Smith Falls to get to grow as a community because of this group, and we look forward to our next Katimavik volunteer (or two) in March!

THANK YOU Monica! And all of our past Katimavik volunteers!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Fossil Casting Family Program

One of my jobs at the Galt is to organise the weekly family program called Saturday at 1. We do a variety of activities linked to the permanent and special exhibits. Families bring their kids, ages 3 and up (younger kids are welcome of course, but usually don't participate in the hands on portions), to the program and work together on the activities of the day. During the past three months we’ve built a model dinosaur skeleton, created international festival of lights crafts, made homemade bird feeders, explored the exhibit in an interactive tour, made papier-mâché dinosaurs and more.

This last Saturday at 1 program featured fossil casting from the Royal Tyrrell Museum. This program links to our special exhibit on Alberta Dinosaurs. For the first time since I’ve been on the job, we had more kids than we could accommodate at the program all at the same time – so we ran it again at 2pm, and again on Sunday at 1pm to try to make sure everyone got a chance to make a fossil cast.

During the program 40 kids made fossil casts using two different processes. Some used pre-made molds, and some created molds of shells using a casting medium and then created casts using their new mold. While waiting for the casts to dry, the families went to two stations run by three of our dedicated volunteers: Cam, Shelby, and Marcus. At the first station they searched for micro fossils and identified them, and at the second station they got to handle larger fossils and casts and learned about what characteristics define a dinosaur.

This week’s program is brought to us by Devil’s Coulee and is called Junior Palaeontologist. Children and their parents will search for fossils and learn how palaeontologists set up and grid a dig site. Don’t forget to check out our exhibit on the lower level of the museum which features finds from Wendy Sloboda who found eggs at Devil’s Coulee back in 1987. The exhibit also features a real dinosaur’s egg nest that she found in China.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Heritage Fair is Coming

I can't believe it's already 2010. But now that it's January it means it's time to start gearing up for some fun projects ahead. And one of my favourite projects in spring is the Southern Alberta Regional Heritage Fair that takes place every May.

For those of you who don't know what the Fair is, it's an opportunity for students in grades 4-9 to explore and experience Canadian history in an engaging and fun way. Students choose their own topic and find stories about heroes, legends, milestones, events and achievements that interest them. Students aren't told what to study -- it's their decision.

The project above was on the Lethbridge City/Regional Police while the one below was on Blackfoot history and culture. Others choose to tell personal stories such as the history of their family’s farm, their family's business, the story of their family during the War, and many more. Some tell of the larger Canadian stories — such as the Mounties, the Halifax Explosion, Canadian politicians, sports heroes, and actors and actresses. Some students interview community heroes. Others learn how to access the primary sources held in Alberta’s Archives and Museums. All learn how to research, question, and compile information.

This is one of my favourite days of the year. When the kids of our area become the historians who, with a passion and a knowledge that is incredible, pass on the stories that make us unique and that bring us together. If you know of a student in grade 4 to 9 who would like to participate, check with your teacher to see if your school is involved or, if not, contact us here at the Galt and we can get you out the information needed to participate. You can also download the information from our web-site.

And, if you truly want to see what a fantastic experience this is, be certain to stop by the Regional Fair in May or, better yet, get in touch with us and volunteer to judge at this year's Regional Fair.