Thursday, 22 December 2011

Community Ideas Guide the Museum

Earlier in 2011, the Galt Museum & Archives asked the community in and around Lethbridge, “What exhibit could the Galt do that would bring you to the museum?” Seventy five people responded through direct contact with staff and through Web 2.0 options. Posters and tabletop cards with QR codes were distributed to coffee shops around town, staff hosted a booth at the local Farmers’ Market and asked people at many different gatherings to participate, the Galt Website invited people to leave their ideas, and paper forms could be filled out in the museum.

The Galt develops a three year plan of exhibits to be shown in its 1300 sq. ft. Discovery Hall Special Exhibit Gallery and in two smaller Hallway Gallery spaces. The current plan will end in December of 2012. The new exhibit ideas were gathered to guide our choices for the 2013 to 2015 schedule.

A broad range of ideas poured in and over 100 were recorded. In the fall, all the ideas were discussed with the staff and through an in-depth brainstorming session, they were reviewed and organized into possible exhibit themes. Some of the ideas included topics such as Diversity and Immigration in southern Alberta, Awesome Pets, Swimming, Energy use and concerns, local Entrepreneurs and Innovators, the influence of Children’s Literature, Ukrainian Weddings, Women’s Stories from Legacy Ridge, Beauty Products, the history of the Fire and EMS departments, Gardening, and the celebration of the Galt Museum’s 50th Anniversary. These were presented to the Galt Board of Directors for their responses.

Sifting through the distilled themes produced a draft three year schedule of major and smaller exhibits that all the staff will once again review. Travelling exhibits will be booked and In-house exhibits will be developed all based on the community’s ideas.

Children Welcome -- Over 10 000 and Counting

On any given day when you visit the Galt Museum & Archives, you will see children in the museum (well, okay, not at the Beer Tasting).

As of 10:50 am this morning, for the first time ever, the Galt broke the 10,000 student visitors in a calendar year mark! This represents approximately 450 school groups at the Galt in 2011. Or, another way, 1/9 the population of Lethbridge. And there's one more class coming in about an hour.

But we also get a great many children visiting with their families. In order to help families make these visits as fun, educational, relaxing, interesting and useful as possible, the Galt has put together two resources for families.

The first is a booklet titled "Visiting a Museum or Historic Site with Children." The book, which can be downloaded from the Galt Museum on our Visitors page.

The booklet includes ideas to do prior to the visit, activities or suggestions to make your visit more enjoyable, and things to do back at home to extend your museum visit.

For those dropping into the Galt, we have a shortened version of the book in a brochure form which can be picked up during your visit.

Hopefully you'll make use of these resources as you visit the Galt and other museums and historical sites during the upcoming holidays. Remember, the Toys and Games exhibit closes January 8 so the next two weeks make the perfect opportunity to check out the exhibit and the Galt's newest resource. You may also wish to come by for the Family Program Top 11 of 2011 (more information on our web-site) which are family activities each day throughout the next two weeks.

I'd love to get your feedback on the booklet and brochure. Let me know how they work. Do you have ideas that would make them even better? Is your favourite game or activity missing?

See you all in 2012!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Criss Cross Writing

I love reading old documents. It's not only what they say. It's also how they're written. The penmanship, the formality of the language, the cadence of the words -- and when the writing goes in multiple directions!

In an homage to writing from earlier times where writers wrote the text criss-crossed across each other in various directions, I have put today's Blog message in such a letter attached below. For those having difficulty reading it, I have also typed the message below the letter (recognizing that it is sometimes difficult to turn your computer screen to read the message).

In the 19th century paper was expensive. Postage and mailing were also very expensive. In order to save money, when people wrote letters they would often write in several directions across the page. The reader would have to decipher the letter by figuring out which order to read -- across, up and down, or diagonal -- first. Fortunately, most of us can afford paper today.
Today, though, we want to reduce the amount of paper we use because it's better for the environment. We try to use both sides of the paper. We use it as scrap paper.
People of the past also did a lot of other things that often helped the environment.
A lot of people in those days used grey water. This is wastewater from household use that is then re-used. It could be from your laundry or the dishes. You then use it in the garden or some other way. They would also darn or fix their socks. They made quilts out of old clothes.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

When Voting Became a Game!

The Galt Museum & Archives developed a fun exhibition called Toys & Games ~ engage, entertain, educate which opened on October 1, 2011 and will run until January 8, 2012. We decided to invite visitors to vote for their favourite toy once they reached the gallery exit. The Galt’s Exhibit Designer and Fabricator created an imaginative voting station and each visitor was given a single marble when they arrived in the museum which they could use to vote.

The voting station included nine ‘ballot boxes’ each with a number that corresponded to one of the display cases in the exhibit. Each ‘box’ was unique and involved holes through which a marble was dropped. Putting the marble into a variety of tubes and steps and even a stainless steel bowl with a hole in the bottom were part of the fun. The marbles were to be counted each week and posted to the Galt’s website so people could follow the voting.

What we quickly discovered was that our visitors were so delighted with the voting methods that the station itself became a toy. This created a whole series of unexpected challenges. Firstly, we found the station was subjected to some pretty rough handling – as toys do – and this required several repairs. Secondly, we discovered that no matter how we secured the catch basins for each station, some were constantly being raided by small hands. The marbles taken from those boxes were used over and over again. Thirdly, we found that visitors were often choosing to put their marble into the ballet box that appealed to them rather than the one reflected the display case which held their favourite toy. And lastly, visitors were also dropping other small objects into the stations like dice, tiddlywinks, dominoes and even pick-up sticks.

So, the voting became secondary to play and with so many people having such fun with the marbles and the clever stations, we have decided to treat it as a toy and abandon the voting. After all, the exhibit is all about toys and games.

PS Visitors will still get a marble when they arrive but will be invited to play rather than vote.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Old-Fashioned Toys and Games to Enjoy

Looking for some ideas for what to do over Christmas break? During classes and tours, I often mention old-fashioned games and toys that kids could make at home or that kids from the past enjoyed. So I thought I would provide instructions and information for families to even better enjoy the upcoming holiday break.

Yarn Dolls
During our Christmas program at this time of year, we make a version of the small yarn dolls (or action figures). But I know many kids would like to try their hand at making the larger, more traditional version. The link below is one of the best ones I've found on the internet for instructions for yarn dolls:

Fox and Geese
Fox and Geese is a fun outside game that makes use of snow. It is an active game of tag where half the fun is making the pathways in the snow. While the link I've provided below shows a nice organized playing area, I don't ever remember playing on anything that neatly set out. Just be certain players know they're not allowed to make their own pathways when the fox gets near.

Kick the Can
Back through Lethbridge and southern Alberta history, Kick the Can was one of the favourite games played. You will need a large area that provides a lot of places to hide.


Thursday, 1 December 2011

History on the Dust Heap

The first Chinese business in Lethbridge started in the 1880s. Considering that the Galts started their first mine in 1882 and the town-site of Lethbridge was surveyed in 1885, this makes the Chinese among the first settlers of the new community -- here even before Lethbridge attained town status.

Many more arrived over the next several decades. In the 1890s railroad buildings was occurring around southern Alberta - the Galt railway to Great Falls and the Crowsnest Railway among them. Several Chinese arrived to work on the railways. In the early 1900s, 75 Chinese were brought to Raymond to work in the sugar beet fields. Some of these men stayed in the area to work in laundries, restaurants, domestic work and market gardening.

The Chinese often faced discrimination and prejudice and had limited job choices. Chinese, Japanese, East Indian and African American immigrants were considered "unsuitable" and faced racism and occasional violence. People calling for tolerance were rare and usually ignored. Despite the challenges, these groups came to southern Alberta, some looking for a better life and hoping to make it rich so they could go home; some choosing to make a home in their new country. Around 1900 approximately 100 Chinese lived in Lethbridge. In a town of only a few thousand people, this was a significant portion of the population.

Lethbridge's Christmas Day Riot of 1907 provides considerable information about ethnic relations in Lethbridge. But the details are clouded by 3 distinct written versions and many rumours and legends that don't agree on any of the details. Also, no written version telling the story from the Chinese community perspective has been found.

The Lethbridge Herald reported that Jim Lee and John Lee committed assault and bodily harm to Harry Smith during a disagreement in a restaurant. Jim Lee hit Smith on the head with a hammer while trying to remove him from the building. A rumour started that Harry Smith was dead and 500 people went to Round Street (5th Street South today) looking for the waiter. They damaged the restaurant and were beginning to damage other Chinese businesses when Mayor Galbraith showed up with the RNWMP and City Police, read the riot act and sent everyone home.

An anonymous written report by an "Old Timer" said that Smoky Lee and Irish made a nuisance of themselves in Mah Wong's Restaurant. The two men were drunk and shooting at tomato cans lining the walls of the restaurant. The waiter used a cleaver to get the 2 men to leave. Later friends looking for Smoky Lee were told "oh, they're dead." Hearing the news and being intoxicated themselves, the men started a riot and were destroying the cafe and other businesses when Mayor Galbraith, the city Police and Mounties showed up, arrested people, and ended the destruction.

According to the Herald, Jim Lee and John Lee were both charged and found guilty. According to the anonymous account, apologies were made to Wah Wong, reparatations made and Lethbridge settled down to the normal tenor of its ways.

What is true? I'm not sure. Maybe neither. Maybe both have some points of truth.

What is known is that anti-Chinese feelings led to the City of Lethbridge passing By-Law 83 in 1910. The By-Law had an innocuous title - A By-Law Respecting the Erection and Removal of Buildings, Fire Limits and Prevention of Fires..... - but the by-law is best remembered for ordering that all laundries had to be within a specific geographic area of Lethbridge. The true nature of the by-law became apparent when all laundries, except the one owned by white residents, was forced to move into the area.

The By-Law was repealed in 1916 but by this time Chinese busineses and residents had moved to the area that became known as Chinatown. Chinatown developed a strong sense of community which it retained for decades.

Around the same time, many people complained that immigrants were taking jobs from Canadians. Discriminatory hiring practices were used. In January 1909 Lethbridge City Council ordered its engineers to employ English-speaking workers in preference to "foreigners." Some businesses, often hotels, restaurants and cafes, promoted that they only hired white help. One restaurant, White Man's Cafe, even expressed its hiring policy in its name.

The Chinese community learned very early on that they had to rely on each other in order to survive. Organizations - such as the Chinese National League and Chinese Freemasons - supported members of the Chinese community. They established roomed for their members to meet and socialize, libraries where they could read Chinese newspapers and classes for children to learn calligraphy and Cantonese. These organizations sponsored many celebrations including the Chinese New Years. Through the Great Depression no member of the Chinese community in Lethbridge went on relief as the support came from within the community and not government.

I have researched the Chinese community in Lethbridge for exhibits and books. There is very little documented history on the Chinese community in Lethbridge. There are few photographs and records. Even individual Chinese residents who operated businesses for 40 years in Lethbridge may only show up in the Lethbridge Herald 1 or 2 times. This is not a story of Lethbridge's past that is easy to tell or easy to find.

Sadly, earlier this week we lost a very tangible part of our Lethbridge history. The Chinese National League Building was built between 1909 and 1920. Not surprisingly this corresponds to the time By-Law 83 was being promoted. The building was originally a restaurant. Likely the owner found it prudent at that time to move to where the other Chinese businesses were being located because, of course, there is safety and support in numbers.

Many people have said there was nothing remarkable about that building. The story of that building was not in its bricks and mortar. It was in what it represented about Lethbridge history and about the Chinese story in Lethbridge history. This building told us about our community 100 years ago and over the past century -- who we were then, who we are now and who we would like to become. Now, sadly, the story of that building has been relegated to the dust heap.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Lethbridge's Potato Tragedy

This is the story of how a potato got a man arrested in Lethbridge in 1914.

"A Potato Tragedy

Arthur Doe and Charlie Van Marion of the Lethbridge Hotel staff were out in the yard the other day in connection with their work and got into trouble. There was a potato lying on the ground,and picking it up Doe threw it with the intention of making the garbage can but instead he threw it crashing through a window of the city offices. When he was what he had done, Doe skipped into the house and left Van to be caught by a policeman who happened to be in the offices at the time in connection with his pay cheque. He saw Van and without investigation had him charged with breaking the window by throwing a 'dangerous missile.' The case came up in court this morning and the police said that Van Marion threw the potato. Asked by the court if he had any explanation of his conduct, Van Marion said he had. He wasn't guilty. 'The man who threw the potato is standing over there,' said Van, pointing at Doe. This rather confused the policeman, and on Does admitting that he was the candidate for the pitcher's mound next summer, the information was changed, the word "dangerous' struck out, and Doe fined with costs, $5.25 in all. He now wants to know how much it would cost to throw a cabbage through the window."

Maybe I found the story funny because I've been spending a bit of time lately with potatoes -- well, Mr. Potato Head, to be exact. If you haven't had a chance yet to see the 1952 Mr. Potato Head in our feature Toys and Games Exhibit, you should. It's not often that you get to see a Mr. Potato Head smoking a pipe, or with legs, or learn how to make a potato head out of a pepper...

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Be Your Community’s Somebody

"Somebody" should do something about it.

This statement used to completely frustrate me. Who is this magical "somebody?" Who are "they" that we keep expecting will come in, do the hard work and solve the problem? Why don't people stop complaining, step up and do the work themselves?

Then I realized this statement is often a call for help. There are a lot of people out there who care, who want to preserve and protect history, who want to make their community better. But they usually do not have a clue what to do to achieve these goals. Because of this lack of knowledge, they are subjected to relying on some vague, hopeful "somebody."

So I thought I would jot down a couple of ideas of how you could get more involved. I'm sure you can think of many more.

Volunteer at a museum or historical site. Your time and dedication can make a world of difference for a lot of organizations. And, yes, everyone is incredibly busy but many organizations have programs where families can volunteer together. Or you can do something from home. Give what time you can.

Recognize that you are likely the keeper of some incredible history. Whether it's your family history or memorabilia or something you have that showcases the history of our community and province, chances are you are responsible for taking care of something that is part of our shared, irreplacable history. Take it upon yourself to ensure that it is well stored and well take care of. Speak to your local museum or archives and find out the best way to ensure its longevity. Document your family history. Identify your photographs. And, if the time comes when you can no longer care for these items, speak to a museum, archives, or other organization about whether or not the best long term place for your items is in such a institution. Museums and archives cannot and should not accept everything but whenever you're in doubt about whether it should go there, talk to them and find out. Once something is destroyed or thrown in the dump, it can never be replaced.

Join a historical society, museum, heritage group or related organization and add your voice. See what advocacy can be done. Write letters. Speak to your politicians. Sign pledges. Don't be a voice in the wilderness wondering what can and should be done -- help make a concerted effort to show that heritage issues have a loud, active, concerned voice represented by many people in our community. Rather than fighting each battle on our own, let's do it as a group and really make something happen.

Start a blog or other message board in your community and share information on social media about the heritage issues and share these issues with as many people as possible. All too often, there are a few people who know what's going on and a large group of people who would like to help but haven't been told or invited. The more we talk and share, the more that can be done. Offer real solutions. If you are good at sharing information, contact a local group and offer to help them with social media or publicity. Help get the message out.

If you're fortunate enough to have the money, donate to support your favourite causes and help the work get achieved.

There are already many, many incredible people in your communities and across the province working, volunteering and donating to keep our history safe. But we can always use more help. Let's all be the "somebody" who does something for our communities and province.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Little Man

"There is in this country a curious fellow, with baggy knees, who has the faculty of meeting you everywhere you turn. He never has his name in the papers except for the birth and death notices, he is seldom more than a jump ahead of the sheriff, he has done nothing notable. And yet he is the greatest man in the nation. This is your neighbor, your corner grocer, your friend when you need one. The chances are he drove to town for a doctor when you were born; he'll be one of your pall-bearers when you die. As long as you live you will not be separated from him.

I give you the most plotted against, the most known and the least understood character in the land, the mighty atom who, in his millions and in his mercy, holds human society together."

This is a quote from the book Little Man (published 1942), written by G. Herbert Sallans. The novel won the Ryeron Press Award for best Canadian novel (prize $500). The book dealt with the experiences of George Battle, the representative of the 'little man' or 'everyman,' in the time following the First World War and into the Second World War.

The author, G. Herbert Sallans, served in Lethbridge's original 39th Field Battery in the First World War, and was among the first draft of reinforcements to serve with the unit in France.

Sallans states (in the voice of George Battle, the protagonist) that it is the 'little man' who is the only one who can stand up and win the war.

"For all the known things of his life were massed now to help him in that distant, uncharted frontier. There stood his Little Man, transfigured, supreme and sublime, who will win the war -- the only man strong enough to win it."

I have not yet been able to track down a copy of the book (though I would love to) but even this little bit of information that I was able to find reminds me yet again of our incredible debt owed to people on Remembrance Day (and throughout the year).

Thank you to all of the Veterans for their sevice to us and our country.

Thanks for their families who carried on throughout the war.

Thank you to the coal miners and farmers, many of whom wished to serve but often weren't permitted to because they were deemed indispensable labour.

Thank you to the nurses who served.

Thank you to all who sacrificed, worked and fought for us in so many ways.

And an eternal thank you to those who didn't make it back home.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Who wants to write a novel?

November is usually a bit of a slow month for me compared to October and December.

October is all about Flashlight Cemetery Tours and Haunted Hospital Tours. In October I get to spend several late evenings in the cemetery regaling people with strange stories of Lethbridge past. We run several of our Downtown Lethbridge Treasure Hunt programs and school cemetery programs in October hoping to catch the last of the good weather before winter comes.

December is about our Christmas program where hundreds of kids come and participate in Christmas activities. Many of our volunteers are busy right now wrapping doll bodies in anticipation.

But what about November? Well, I have an idea. November is National Novel Writing Month. Participants are challenged to write 50,000 words of a new novel. Who's with me?

I think, though, I'll have to change it a little. I have several writing projects on the go and my goal is to write at least 50,000 words between them.

So I make it my pledge before the end of November to have the Cemetery as an Educational Resource book done and available to the public. To finalize (after how many years?) the grade 5 Immigrant Voices Archives kit. To research and get together the last of the reported haunted places I'm researching. To have available to the public (in anticipation of museum visits with your family during the holidays) the brochure and booklet on How to Visit Museums with Children and Families. To check off all related To Do List items from my list.

Now, you'll just all have to check back in December and see how it went. And if you're on board to write your own novel (or some similar project), be sure to let me know. And also sign-in with the official National Novel Writing Months web-site. Can't wait to see what comes out of a creative, ambitious month ahead.

A Special Exhibit about Local Sports

Next summer, when the world celebrates sports in London, England during the Summer Olympics and Lethbridge hosts the Alberta Summer Games, the Galt Museum & Archives will explore sports through a special in-house exhibit and a series of programs.

Sports has been an integral part of society since ancient times. The Olympics in Greece are thought to have started as far back as 776 BCE and the Mayan people played the first team sport over 3,500 years ago. Blackfoot people in this area played games that focused on learning and improving survival skills such as archery and running.

Early settlers enjoyed sports as a break from the hard work of surviving on the open prairie. Community gatherings almost always included games that pitted individuals or teams against one another. Mounted Police and ranchers played polo and cricket, games coming out of British traditions. Baseball, a mixture of many older games, eventually replaced cricket as a favourite. Horse and foot races, boxing, wrestling, pitching horseshoes and children's games such as the potatoe sack and three legged races meant the whole family could participate. Winter sports like sledding, speed skating and hockey developed from a wide variety of countries and were formalized in the late 1800s.

When we think of sports we often focus on athletes but many other people work in and/or enjoy sports. Coaches and managers, trainers and therapists, sponsors, Zamboni drivers and grass keepers, family members, sports equipment suppliers, skate sharpeners, and, of course, the fan are all critical to the success of athletes. Sports in Lethbridge has produced many heroes from all of these catagories in the past and currently.

Many things influence sports today that have changed the nature of the games from events like spontaneous shinny ball games. Things like players' high wages, television coverage, expensive tickets, performance enhancing drugs, subjective judging, serious injuries such as concussion and high profile sponsorships have altered how we look at and participate in sports. It will be interesting to explore the stories surrounding sports and sports heroes in the upcoming exhibit and the associated programs. If you have any ideas you feel would enhance the exhibit please contact me as I would love to hear what is important to you in the realm of local sports.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

How To Be Creative

I'm not sure about you, but every so often I fall into the habit of doing things the same old way. With no new ideas on what to present or how to present it. It's at times like this when I try to sit down and be creative. Unfortunately, when I most try and force myself to be creative is when I am least likely to be creative.

So I went out and picked up a few things.

I bought the Walls Notebook. This notebook is exactly what it sounds like. Each page has a photograph of a different wall. It's for those who would like to have the creative outlet of graffiti but recognize both the illegality of the act and the damage it does to a building. This notebook is for creative expression of ideas, pictures and concepts in safe, indoor, legal fashion. I'm not sure what it says about me but even though I've had the book for several weeks, I have yet to write or draw anything in it. It's such a beautiful book, I just don't want to mess it up. But I will. Soon. I promise.

I also bought the book 344 Questions: The Creative Person's Do-It-Yourself Guide to Insight, Survival, and Artistic Fulfillment. This book takes you through various questions and scenarios (on a guess, I'd say there's 344 of them) that are supposed to help you unlock your potential and figure out what you're searching for. As you might expect, I haven't started that yet either.

But I did get a big burst of creativity from two different areas. One was a conference I attended in Victoria earlier this month. The second was from a class Anine Vonkeman and I taught last weekend.

Anine and I were once again asked by the Alberta Museums Association to teach the class on Public Programming and Marketing. There is nothing like spending two days with other creative, expressive museum people to stimulate ideas and help you see new ways of doing things. What made this even more amazing is that we were at the Leighton Centre in the foothills south west of Calgary. The view and setting were fabulous. Both during and after the class I jotted down a lot of new ideas for ways to revamp some of my programs and new ideas I want to try out.

Now I just have to wait for November and a bit of quiet time (now that Flashlight Cemetery Tour and request for hospital tours are winding down). I can't wait...

Friday, 7 October 2011

The Best Reward!

A little boy came into the room and looked at the floor. His eyes got as big as dinner plates as he looked at the brightly painted canvas. I asked him "Do you know what this is?" and he answered with a nod, "Snakes and Ladders." After a pause he then said, "but where is the thing?" I thought for a moment and asked him if he meant the dice. "Yeah!" was his answer. I went to get the die and when he saw it, if it was possible, his eyes got bigger and his mouth opened in a wordless "Wow!" The die I handed him was a 16" foam cube that was almost more than he could hold in his out stretched arms.
Photo above: Volunteer Kelti Boissonneault and game designer Wendy Aitkens

Fawkes and his Dad Roger played the game undisturbed for the next half an hour. The delight we saw in Fawkes' eyes and the pleasure his Dad had playing with his son was the best reward we could ever ask for. By we, I mean the 12 people who had completed the game after some 117 hours of drawing, taping and painting.

Photo to left: Fawkes and Dad

The people who helped create the snakes, ladders, colourful squares and 100 numbers included three students from the University, two artists from the Lethbridge Artists Club, three family members of one of the artists, and 3 Galt staff and a spouse of one of the staff memebers.

We started with a blank piece of raw canvas measuring 18' by 18'. A pencil grid was layed out and then snakes and ladders were sketched onto the canvas. Exterior flat paint diluted 20% with distilled water (to help the paint soak into the canvas) was used to paint all the features. The only place to work on this size of canvas was the floor and there were many sore backs and knees before it was completed. We found the most challenging part of the job was getting the numbers on the squares accurately - don't look too close at those numbers - as several of us made some minor goofs.

Photo above: Volunteers painting snakes

The snakes on the game are artistic representation of local snakes including Red Sided, Plains and Wandering Garter snakes, a Bull and Rattle Snake.

The giant Snakes and Ladders game was created to add to the fun and laughter surrounding the Galt Museum & Archives new special exhibit Toys & Games ~ engage, entertain and educate. It will be available in the Viewing Gallery whenever that space is available so come and challenge friends and family to a game. Throw the huge di and count off the squares, find the ladders and avoid the snakes.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Gravestone Preservation Workshop -- Things I Learned on the Road

This semester I am taking on on-line university class on Historic Conservation and Preservation of Historic Sites and Monuments. For the course I had to watch a video on the restoration of the Ta Reach statue at Angkor Wat. The techniques, material and ethical questions that the restorers faced were ones I could relate to because I had just recently been introduced to these through a Gravestone Preservation Workshop in Butte, Montana.

This was the reason for my September road trip -- to attend this course. I am so glad I did. Many of our historic cemeteries, monuments and headstones are in need of work. But it has to be done in a way suitable for historic structures and respecting the authenticity and heritage of these places.

The course was six hours long and I can't believe everything we learned in that short time. The instructor was given carte blance by the cemetery owner to work on any headstones he saw fit. The first one he chose was a marble piece that, while standing, was actually in six pieces.

By the end of the day our group had the base lifted out of the soil and balanced and all of the pieces rejoined (this picture shows the end result). As you can see we also started the process of filling missing gaps in the stone with mortar.

Look carefully at the base of this next headstone. When we started working on this monument, the base was buried up to the top of the stone along the front side. Because the monument was leaning, gravity was enough for the top of the cross to break off (you can see the line). The monument was leveled (with copious amounts of gravel and sand placed under it) and the cross re-attached.

Following the course, I had some time to walk and drive around some of the historic cemeteries in Butte. There are some incredible monuments here.

As you can see, this section in split in half. The people on the left have white table headstones. The persons on the right have large black granite headstones. Why the division? Nuns are buried on the left; priests on the right.

I was struck not only by the beauty of this one but by the sculpture of the dog at the bottom. This person wished to ensure his family pet was always with him.

There are many different ways that family areas are denoted in a cemetery. Sometimes they are fenced. Sometimes they have monogrammed stones to show the area. Or you could create a monumental wall such as this one, adorned with two angels, to mark the family's area.

Or maybe something subtle like this to delineate your family's section of the cemetery?

The course gave me a new respect for the work being done to care for our historic monuments (buildings, statues, headstones and all). Thank you to everyone out there doing this work and doing it well.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Cody, Wyoming -- Things I Learned on the Road Part 3

To start, two random thoughts (though some of you may think my whole blog is nothing but random thoughts).

First, Buffalo Bill Cody’s dad was Canadian – born in Ontario. One of the many fun facts I learned on my road trip

Second, why on earth aren’t we using more of these ladders here in southern Alberta? As a child I could have saved many of my shirts and clothes from being ripped on the barbed wire if we had these . They're brilliant. They're also part of the reason I love exploring back roads on road trips. I saw these along side of a country road as I was looking for a historic school marked on a sign post on the highway. [ps. I did find the school]

Now back to museum stuff.

I visited the Buffalo Bill Cody Centre in Cody. I did not spend as much time there as I would have liked. I intend to go back some day and spend more time.

I also know exactly who I would like to have with me on my next trip because I know the people with whom I could enjoy a lively discussion and debate in the galleries. There are five museums under one roof. I visited four of them and found them all extraordinary.

I was very impressed with the displays in the centre. When I first walked up to the cabin below I thought it was a wooden wall (which it looks like at certain angles) but quickly realized that I could see through into the cabin. While it was also possible to enter the cabin, this ability to peek through the walls was a fabulous way to connect the visitor with the display. It sparked my imagination and curiosity and I felt compelled to walk around and see how the structure looked from different angles.

A similar design was used to incorporate large scale archival photographs such as that show below which brought the grandeur of the scale of the landscape. Great use of space and design. I greatly enjoyed how the designers made use of the whole space in some areas using banners and photographs such as this.

While I don't have photographic examples (I realized after I got home), I was very impressed with the labels and displays throughout the centre. They invited the visitor to become part of the experience. For example, in the Yellowstone natural history area, the exhibits were designed to be viewed one way and then another. Further, the exhibits were formed around a sloping ramp so that as you went down, the elevation under discussion changed.

Very glad I added an extra day to my trip to go to Cody. But wish I had spent even more time there.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Fort Benton – Some Thing I Learned on the Road part 2

I love Fort Benton. It’s an incredible place. Everyone was friendly and welcoming. You're surrounded by history.

As the “birthplace of Montana” Fort Benton has incredible history in its own right.

Fort Benton also played a pivotal role in the early history of southern Alberta. The Whoop-Up Trail started in Fort Benton. Fort Benton supplied the fur/buffalo/whiskey trade. Many of the early stores in Lethbridge were operated from Fort Benton. The Mounties re-stocked and organized themselves in Fort Benton. Fort Benton is where everyone met and traded.

It would be impossible to put into this blog everything about Fort Benton. But here’s a few that I especially wanted to share.

1. You can spend hours in Fort Benton going through all of the museums and sites. The tour of the newly recreated Fort was well worth attending. The tour guide was informative and humourous.

2. I found information I wasn't expecting but which may help to answer a question in my own research. I'm researching the southern Alberta sugar beet industry. When the industry started in 1903 one of the groups working in the sugar beet fields were Chinese workers. But there’s virtually no information. How were they recruited to southern Alberta? Were they people who had worked in the railroad building and who remained? Were they a different group? Where did they go after their time in southern Alberta? Did any of the families stay in southern Alberta? In Alberta? Was it just young, single men? I have been looking in numerous archives and books trying to find the answer.

Then I found this panel in one of Fort Benton’s museums. There may be no connection and it may just be coincident but at least it gives me another possible source to research.

3. We are linked historically to northern Montana. We are also linked geographically. Our farmers share common concerns and problems. And they also share some of their answers and solutions.

Marquis Wheat was so important to the people of Lethbridge that we named one of our major hotels after it (Marquis Hotel built 1928). This wheat could be farmed in more diverse climates then previous wheat, had high yield and made a good bread.

I do wonder how many people know that strip farming is a southern Alberta invention. First recorded mention is in the Lethbridge Herald in 1915.

4. I stayed over night in the 1880s Grand Union Hotel. The restoration work on the building is wonderful. The ambience is great. The hotel is right on the Missouri River and the walk along the river – with all of the interpretive panels and artwork – is time very well spent.

I did spend the night in one of the rooms that is supposed to be haunted. But I'm sure none of you want to hear about that.

Next time -- Cody, Wyoming, and the question of ladders over barb wire fences.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

3 Dimensions Art Show

Each year for the past four, the Galt Musuem & Archives has presented an exhibit of 3 dimensional art work created by artists in Southern Alberta. The exhibit is a part of the local Art Walk scene and is free to visitors.

All the exhibits featured a surprising variety of media, style, colours, size and genre and 2011 will follow that trend. This year artists have submitted wheel thrown and handbuilt clay pieces, carved and turned art made from exotic woods, a copper and wrought iron bird bath, mixed media pieces that incorporate clay and found objects, acrylics and wood, textiles and jewellry, and a cardboard and tape space ship.

The quality and depth of these pieces will engage and challenge visitors as they view 3 Dimensions. Visitors will explore artwork stimulated by diverse subjects such as a child's pet gecko, the health care system in Alberta, and dance.

Artists who create 3 dimensional art will provide demonstrations such as wood turning on a lathe with the Chinook Wood Turners Guild, wheel thrown pottery by members of the Oldman River Potters Association, and handbuilt monsters by Andrew Martin.

3 Dimensions exhibit and demonstrations are a wonderful way to celebrate and enjoy Southern Alberta's art community.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Some Things I Learned on the Road part 1

I was out of the office the past few days as I was lucky enough to attend a Gravestone Preservation Workshop in Montana as well as take a few days for sightseeing/visiting museums. Over the next few blogs I plan to share some parts of this trip.

When I travel I love to stop and read signs -- highway signs, signage in museums, interpretive signs, plaques -- I stop and read them all. Some are confusing. Some are humourous. Some are educational. But only a very few have that perfect mixture of education and humour that make them highly readable and memorable.

This sign stands out as my favourite road sign of all time. It contains an incredible amount of information but also has an irreverent humour that immediately made me know that this was a fun community. It's from Shelby, Montana.

Since I'm not sure how the photo came out here's the text:

"The Oily Boid Gets the Worm

A narrow gauge railroad, nicknamed the "turkey track" used to connect Great Falls, Montana and Lethbridge, Alberta. When the main line of the Great Northern crossed it in 1891, Shelby Junction came into existence. The hills and plains around here were cow country. The Junction became an oasis where parched cow-punchers cauterized their tonsils with forty-rod and grew plumb irresponsible and ebulient.

In 1910 the dry-landers began homesteading. They built fences and plowed under the native grass. The days of open range were gone. Shelby quit her swaggering frontier ways and becmae concrete sidewalks and sewer system conscious.

Dry-land farming didn't turn out to be such a profitable endeavor, but in 1921 geologists discovered that this country had an ace in the hole. Oile was struck between here and the Canadian line and the town boomed again."

While in Cody, Wyoming, I was able to visit the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. With five museums under one roof, it's an incredible organization. Two signs, though, quickly caught my attention. This first sign is outside as you walk up from the parking lot to the entrance. Note the last item that they ask you to leave in your vehicle. I can honestly say in all my years working in the museum, I've never had to request someone not bring a weapon into the Galt.

This next sign was inside the museum. It's an incredibly powerful interpretive sign about why touching of artifacts is not permitted. The top row (behind plexi-glass) shows untouched materials. The bottom row shows the same materials and people are encouraged to touch. The wear and tear on the materials is very evident.

This next sign is a ghost sign on a building in Butte, Montana. It's a little difficult to read but in the white writing you can make out the name Owsley's. I couldn't resist taking this photograph as our Facility Booking Clerk is Lea-Ann Owsley. Maybe there's a family connection?

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Where are they now?

I don't know about you, but I'm a sucker for those "Where are they now?" segments that are regularly run on TV. I love to hear the rest of the story.

But this doesn't just apply to people, it also applies to buildings. One of the fun things while doing history or traveling around southern Alberta is to find buildings that originated somewhere else and learn the story of their movement and transformation.

Here's just a few:

In the late 1930s, houses from Coalhurst and Commerce were moved to Picture Butte.

In the 1930s the Hardieville Hotel was moved to Coaldale where it became a hospital.

In the 1950s houses from the Lethbridge river valley were brought up and put in various locations but several in north Lethbridge.

Several buildings in Del Bonita were brought over from Whiskey Gap.

The railway building that forms the heart of the Galt Historic Railway Museum is the Coutts Station.

Several schools and teacherages were moved to new locations and re-used on various sites.

Both the mainframe (tipple) and water tower at Galt 8 were dismantled and moved in from other southern Alberta mines.

These are just the ones off the top of my head. If you know of others, please pass them along.

I challenge/invite someone to create a document/web-site/article that lists the origin and final resting spot of southern Alberta buildings. I don't have the time (though I'd offer whatever support I could) but I think it would be a fun and fascinating study.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Tunnel Stories are Mostly Myth

This morning I disappointed a visitor. I didn't mean to but when he asked me about the tunnels of Lethbridge, the tunnels that are reported to be like the ones in Moose Jaw, I had to be honest with him and tell him most of the hype around the tunnels are not true.

Don't get me wrong. There were tunnels in Lethbridge.

Under Lethbridge and area (from Magrath to Picture Butte and under Coalhurst, Diamond City, etc ) approximately 3200 km of coal tunnels were dug. This was done over 90 years of coal mining. Many of these tunnels went under areas of Lethbridge. There was even a rumour that in one of the tunnels they had a sign saying City Hall with an arrow pointing straight up. While City Hall was a closer to the coulees in those days, there were a great many tunnels.

There have also been reports of secret entries into the mines for illegal workers to get down into them. These are certainly possible (and likely) but there would not have been many.

Other tunnels were supposedly built during the prohibition years as a way to smuggle and hide alcohol. I do know of "secret rooms" -- rooms where the entry was covered -- and there were underground hallways connecting some buildings. The basements of many of the buildings had warrens and small rooms and isolated areas. There were not, though, all of the connecting tunnels that people claim.

Bootlegging seems to have been a rather open secret in Lethbridge. Alcohol appears to have been transported in grain trucks (as one way to get it across the border). I've heard stories of various businesses downtown that everyone seemed to understand had a side business. While alcohol was hidden there were not a large number of raids. So I don't believe elaborate tunnels were really necessary. And most good businessmen will not build unnecessary (and expensive) tunnels that aren't truly needed.

Even the Galt's "tunnel" was really an underground cinder block hallway connecting two parts of the Galt Hospital (the power plant and the hospital building). The tunnel description was just way more fun to use, especially at Halloween and on ghost tours.

I wish the romance of these tunnels stories were true but over time they have become highly exaggerated. My favourite tunnel story was when I was on a guided tour of a downtown business and the tour guides had the audacity to tell us that not only was there once numerous tunnels under Lethbridge but there had been a tunnel built from Lethbridge TO Moose Jaw! The guide would not believe me when I said that was patently false (and I have no idea how many tours he told that story to). Really, people? With all of the backroads and prairie fields and with too few police to search everything on the trains, you really think you would have to do something that elaborate in the teens and twenties to smuggle alcohol?

Again, sorry to disappoint you but don't believe everything you hear whispered and reported about the Lethbridge tunnels.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Snakes and Ladders

A game developed in India hundreds of years ago is still a popular game today although the original intent has changed substantially. Snakes and Ladders was first developed by Hindu spiritual leaders to teach children the positive results of doing good deeds (moving forward by climbing ladders) and the negative results of doing bad deeds (sliding downward on the backs of snakes). Today, the game is simply a race from the first square to the final 100th box.

The Galt is creating a new supersized Snakes and Ladders game for children to play on Community Day on October 1, 2011 - the day we open the Toys & Games exhibit. The playing board is an 18' by 18' piece of canvas and the playing pieces will be kids! The design of the game will include the colourful and dramatic patterns of local snakes such as the wandering garter and bull snakes. Ladders will come in a variety of styles and sizes.

Once the design is complete, staff and volunteers will be invited to help paint the game board. A large foam die will also be created to add to the fun of the game. Children will throw the die and they will count off the number showing on the die as they move from one square to the next on the board. Once they encounter the head of a snake they must follow its length down to a lower numbered square. If they are lucky to stop on a square with the base of a ladder then they will jubilantly ‘climb’ the rungs to a higher numbered square.

Children playing on this huge board will be fully immersed in the action of rolling the di, counting off the squares and following the paths of the snakes and ladders to their destination. Those watching the action will be cheerleaders and photographers!

Gonna Get Me a Gopher

Last week we had the first week of the Coulees & Culture Day program where kids aged 6 to 10 spend the week at different venues around Lethbridge.

On Friday they were at the Galt all day. Michelle, Galt summer staff, spent most of the day with them but I was able to drop in for some of the fun activities (hiding dinosaurs for them to find, making ice cream – it’s a hard life, but somebody’s got to do it). I also gave Michelle a break at lunch and was out with the kids south of the museum during their free time.

The kids were using sticks to try and dig out gopher holes (and, yes, I know they’re Richardson’s Ground Squirrels but I’m going to keep calling them gophers). Watching them, I had a major case of déjà vu. I remember doing the same thing during my early elementary days. We could often be found behind the school with small sticks determined (and positive) that we were going to dig the gopher out of the hole.

We planned it like a military expedition. We had people at various holes each digging away at the same time. And with our sharp pointed branches (because we never had so much planning that we had shovels or anything) we would dig and dig.

I was amazed watching the kids how little things have changed. Just as it had when I was young (more years ago than I care to admit) – a stick, a hole and friends to play with were captivating these kids. I remember being that captivated, certain that with perseverance and a little more time, we were going to dig the gopher out of its hole.

Watching them, though, I had the advantage of seeing it as a child and an adult. I knew that no matter what they did or how much they dug, they were never going to get the gopher. I could imagine the gopher in one of probably a dozen other holes popping her head up and looking at the kids and thinking to herself, silly kids. Or maybe the gopher was resting from the heat in a deep, dark place in the hole comfortably away from the hot sun (it was a really warm day), laughing at the silliness of humans.

As an adult, I knew the gopher was never in any danger from us. But watching the determination on the kids’ faces, hearing their excited discussion as they planned where to dig and how best to dig and observing them as they tried to make certain they had all of the hole covered, it was priceless. I realized, for those kids (and myself, too, as a child), it was not about catching the gopher – it was about digging for the gopher.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Ode to Whimsy

For various reasons I have needed to make several trips between Lethbridge and Calgary in the recent weeks. There are a few things on the way that never fail to make me smile and make the trip seem a lot shorter. This is just a quick thank you to the farmers who take the time to add these whimsical notes to their buildings and fields. They are appreciated.

Probably the best known one is the "Face Barn" at Cayley. I love this building. All the people I've talked to who drive Highway 2 know it and mention it. And they always do so with a smile.

I apologize for the quality of the next two pictures. I meant to take my camera along on my last trip to Calgary but only had my cell phone. Next trip, I promise myself I'll take better pictures.

This painted building is on the highway between Granum and Nobleford on the south side of the road. The pictures doesn't do it credit and the west side of the building is also painted.

This is from the highway between Barons and Claresholm. There are a set of these kinetic sculptures along the south side of the road. Simple, elegant and joyful.

The routes to Calgary are the ones I know best since I have to take them so often. Are there other whimsical elements along our southern Alberta highways that you recommend I check out? What are your favourites?

Friday, 22 July 2011

When "To Do" Becomes "To Done"

Summer is a very odd time for me. I go from super busy in May and June (up to 5 classes in a day) to summer where we have 2 classes in a week. I go from May and June where I have numerous phone calls and emails every day to summer where there’s only a few a week (well, July at least – I know a lot of teachers will be back in the schools planning in August).

So in the summer I get to catch up on all the ideas and writing and planning that I’ve had in the back of my mind for the past year (or more). It’s a time when many of the long term things on my “to do” list get moved over to my “to done” list. Now, that’s a wonderful feeling.

Yesterday I was able to pick the dates for the Galt’s flashlight cemetery tours this fall and get the tickets made. Tickets go on sale September 1.

Finished the rough draft of the fall teacher’s newsletter. Just a few final edits and it will be sent to the printer to be mailed out to teachers at the end of August.

The 2012 Regional Heritage Fair booklet is updated and ready to be sent out and also ready to be uploaded to our web-page. If you’re wanting a copy emailed or mailed to you, just let me know. We’ve also finished a brochure that we’ll use to better promote the heritage fair to schools, teachers and the public.

Also finished (it’s just now being prettified – I know it’s not a word, but it should be) the Archives kit we’ve been promising for the last few years. Lindsay Van Dyk, who did the bulk of the work on it as an Applied Studies student, is starting her Masters in Public History program in the fall. She should be incredibly proud of the work she did on this kit and I know teachers will love it.

Another thing I’ve been talking about for a few years is creating a document on how to visit museums with kids. This idea came from talking to parent groups (especially parents of toddlers and pre-schoolers). They want to bring their kids to museums but they find that museums are often not very welcoming and they don’t know how to make the experience enjoyable for their kids and fun for themselves. Many parents find a visit stressful because all they seem to do is keep their kids from touching or running. Many museums are creating better environments for kids but this book is designed to give parents ideas that will help them at any museum or historic site. This is also being prettified and should be available to pick up at the Galt or downloaded from our web-site this fall.

Next projects? Getting started on another project dear to my heart – a mural for the entire west wall of the classroom that will have a timeline of international, national and local events so that context will be provided for all of our schools programs. Also a booklet on using the cemetery as an educational resource because I’ll need that for a couple of teachers’ conventions I’m going to next year. And…

Well, I better get done this blog so I can get back to getting more things on my “to done” list. Yeah for summer!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Farewell Galt.....

Lori and volunteer Shelby - winner of a Leader of Tomorrow award

The time has come for me to move on. An amazing opportunity has come my way and so this is the last week of my time at the Galt Museum & Archives, and so this will be my last blog (though other staff will, of course, continue).

I remember starting here in 2003 - my friends thought that only "old people" worked at museums and so were surprised by my excitement for this new job. However, I learned quite quickly that most of us were in fact in our 30s and though I was the youngest, it was only by 6 months!

From the start, I was thrown into a fun and busy work life - my first week of work had my first event - a car show called Memories in Metal. Within a month of that I was helping co-ordinate an Alberta Museums Association conference, planning the museum's first ever sleepover (for Halloween), overseeing turning the museum into a Haunted House, and running a sold out week of bus tours visiting "haunted" locations. This was quickly followed by the museum's first year partnering with the hospital for the Christmas Tree Festival! By the time Christmas came, I was ready for a breather!

In the years that have passed, it has continued to be that busy. My favourite thing has been that I have always been able to try new things so that my ideas aren't just something that stays in my brain, I can create and bring them to fruition. I have created/invented some successful events - Taste of Downtown and Rocky Horror Picture Show in particular; and I have had some flops - our Late Night Friday Night program, especially Unlucky in Love (a Valentine's program for singles - great idea, not so loved by the singles out there!). I have been able to grow the events that existed before I started here - Scotch and Burns, Beer Tasting and Eggstravaganza.

I have enjoyed starting up Wine Tasting (which is now annual), and loved the Feast of the Black Knight - a Medieval Feast (a one time sell out event). I am grateful to my colleague, Kevin, for sharing a youtube video that led to the creation of our VIP/Donor Party event theme - (Arti)fact or Fiction! I remember dealing with so many regulations trying to do a Guiness World Record attempt at the Lethbridge Air Show - dealing with police, air regulations, Guiness' rules, and this all shortly after September 11th, well they considered our attempt a risk as people had to wear "disguises" to participate, as it was for the most people wearing Groucho Marx glasses at one time. That was a hard one to convince the powers-that-be that we could do it and made the regulations of Beer Tasting seem like kindergarten.

Aerial photo of Guiness World Record Attempt for the most people wearing Groucho Marx Glasses at one time (we were unsuccessful at setting the record) - 2005

I have planned the Grand Re-opening of the museum after the expansion and the Centennial celebration of the building.....have organized a Blackfoot Blessing of the building and also a black tie donor party.

Hoop dancing and other entertainment took place all around the building and inside - Grand Reopening May 2006

The official ribbon cutting after the official ceremony

The closing ceremonies of the Tibetan Monk tour, where they swept up the sand mandala and gave some to everyone in the audience

But with all of this, one thing stands out in my mind the most, and to this day I still get people who talk to me about it when they see me - the Tibetan Monk tour. In 2006 I hosted a group of Tibetan monks for a week in Lethbridge. I organized all their meals (donations), billetting, and then opportunities for them to perform, speak, share their stories, as well as a location for them to create their mandala. Over 3000 people participated in that experience and daily, people were moved to tears watching (the monks did not speak English so if their translator was not close by, there was no verbal communication but the experience was still that powerful for some). I took the monks to the hospital where they chanted and prayed for those in need, and we went to Brocket to talk to the kids and compare the experiences of the natives in Alberta and the Tibetan refugees. That week was the highlight of my time at the Galt - nothing I have done has changed and effected so many people, I believe, and in such a positive and wonderful way.

Blessing the Galt Museum & Archives a few days before the public opening (along with my sons, Seth and Levi)

What mostly stands out is that I have had these opportunities and met so many people as a result!

And the people....

Galt staff at Frisbee Golf - June 2010

The staff - so welcoming, kind, and truly a family. I felt so welcomed and to this day feel a part of a truly special group - those who were here before me and continue to be here - Greg (only has 1.5 weeks left before he retires), Kevin, Brad, Belinda, and Michelle! In time were very lucky to add more people who have since joined the family - Anine, Lea-ann, Evelyn, Wendy, Leslie, Beatrice, Susan, and most recently our new archivist, Andrew.

Toshiko - sweet, wonderful Toshiko

And the volunteers - starting here with about 60 volunteers in total, doing a few thousand hours/year, to now over 300 volunteers putting in over 12,000 hours/year.....well its like the events - it has grown so much and so amazingly. I am always honoured to be able to introduce the museum to these people who have time to give and have chosen us as the recipient of that. Time is so very precious these days and so every hour these people do, every task they complete, means a lot to me! I know that this museum would be very little without the volunteers - offering much much less than we do, and helping so that most of us can go home at 4:30 (most of the time anyhow). Their love for history, for the future, for the artifacts and photos, and for each other and the staff, is something that I will truly truly miss.

Tom, the epitome of dedication!

Ellie - wonderful event intern!

But now, I will move on....not leaving the City, as I am just moving over to City Hall, but the best thing about this is in my new job I will provide support to organizations in the areas I have developed so much skill, passion and knowledge about in my time here at the Galt. This will only help to enhance the whole community for all of its citizens. I look forward to the challenges and will continue to always put in 110% to my job to make this community the best it can be, but you can bet, in time, you'll see me here attending the events and volunteering my time at the Galt!

Thank you....all of you!