Friday, 21 January 2011

Sorry If I Distract You

In just three months the Greatest Years You Never Knew: Lethbridge 1906-1913 exhibit must be completed and open to the public. There are so many things that need to get done (by many, many amazing people). I’m hoping that when people visit the exhibit there will be many layers to the exhibit so people will have lots to do and will be encouraged to visit several times in order to experience all of the aspects of the exhibit (seems like a great idea in my head and we’ll see how it works in real life).

We have the colouring pages, the brochures, the interactive parlour, the games and activities, the dug out, the zoo, the large architectural details to move, the music to work on with the Lethbridge Community Gold Band, and on and on and on. Labels need to be done ASAP and edited so the design of the panels can proceed. Object choices have to be finalized. Mailing list needs to be confirmed. Invitations need to go out.

So it’s probably not a good thing that I’m getting a little distracted by minor things. But they do say that a problem shared is a problem halved – I’m hoping the same thing applies to a distraction. Maybe if I tell you about what’s distracting me, that’ll get it out of my head and I can get back to serious work. I’ll apologize now if it does distract you from your work for the day.

To promote the exhibit we are creating a small display to go over the door in the Viewing Gallery. Look for it next time you visit (going up Monday). The display is based on photographs showing how Lethbridge was decorated for the 1911 coronation. This photograph (showing the Alberta Railways & Irrigation Office -- Galt Archives 19760209214).

The distraction? I was doing a tour the other night and I mentioned that Lethbridge had the highest per capita enrollment of any Canadian city in the First World War. The visitors were surprised and wanted to know why. At this time Lethbridge had an incredibly high percentage of residents with a British background. This surprised the visitors. They thought the majority of southern Albertans were Dutch or another European background. This led to an interesting discussion that night and it reminded me once again about how people perceive history.
In the 1906 to 1913 period many Lethbridgians saw themelves as British and not Canadian (the Canadian identity would develop over the next century). This got me thinking about how to show this identity and so I started looking on the internet (always a major distraction) and here’s some of what I found and quite enjoyed and thought I would share with you.

This is the Nelson Shield – it says on it “England Expects That Every Man Will Do His Duty” – In 1907 these were given out to Canadian schools including schools in Lethbridge. Nelson, the British admiral who was killed at Trafalgar in 1805, was presented as the embodiment of duty and honour.

The Alexandra Series of Readers, named after Queen Alexandra, consort to King Edward, were introduced to the Alberta School system in 1908. The readers, which remained in use for years and in some places remained the only grade 4 reader until the 1940s, were very British. The readers contained very little Canadian content and highlighted the importance of the Empire and the citizen’s role in the Empire. Think of the students (from all the various countries moving to Alberta at that time) entering a school with the Nelson Shield on the wall and the Alexandra Readers as the textbook?

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