Tuesday, 26 April 2011

You know you have a great job when you get to play with toys and games

The Galt Museum & Archives presents three special exhibits a year to the community. The Galt is currently developing an exhibition all about the toys and games we play with. The Toys & Games ~ engage, entertain, educate exhibit will run from October 1, 2011 to January 8, 2012. We have a great collection of toys and games in our Collections but we do not have all that we would like to feature in the exhibit. What is in your basement or attic in the way of commercially and/or handmade toys? Do you have a toy or game which came from another country?

We are limiting our request to a specific list of toys and games - a sample of the list follows. For the complete list please go to www.galtmuseum.com/exhibits-toysandgames. If you have one or more toys and or games from the list (at or near the date shown) and are willing to loan it/them to the Galt Museum & Archives from July 1, 2011 to January 30, 2012, please contact us at wendy.aitkens@galtmuseum.com. We must hear from you by May 31, 2011.

Barbie, 1959 – 1990s or G.I. Joe Action Figure, 1960 – 1990s
Scrabble, 1948 - 1992, Monopoly, 1933 – 1990s, Pictionary, 1985- 2000
Candy Land game, 1949 to 1960s, Operation, 1965 to current
Trivial Pursuit Genus, 1982 to 2000
Slinky, 1943, Frisbee, Hula Hoop
Red Wagon or Radio Flyer, 1910s to 1960s, Tonka, 1947 to 1980s
Etch-A-Sketch, 1959—1980s, Light Bright, 1967 to 1990s
Dress up costumes, 1900 - current
Rhythm band musical instruments, 1900 – 1950s

Many thanks for your help.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

I Make Students Sing

Yes, during one of our education programs, I do make students sing. Now you may think that's odd as I teach local history at a museum. But while I believe students must know facts and data to understand a time period, it is also important to sometimes immerse them into the time period so they can better appreciate that people thought differently and had different experiences than they do today. And, as I constantly explain to students, you don't have to agree with what they thought, but you do need to understand what they thought.

So during our Second World War program students sing the Maple Leaf Forever, a song that would have been very familiar to southern Alberta students during the Second World War.

They also stand and recite the Canadian's Creed. The Creed was issued by the Grand Lodge Knights of Pythias of Alberta and according to the person who donated it to the Galt Archives (who was the Principal of one of the schools in Lethbridge), the Creed used to hang on classroom walls in Lethbridge during the Second World War and was recited daily by all students. The Creed stated at the top who Canadians were and what they believed in. The bottom stated the four duties of every Canadian, including the students.

Over the years the Creed had led to some fascinating discussions with students (grades 4 and older) so I thought I would post it here for everyone.


I believe in the Dominion of Canada as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a sovereign State, being a component part of the British Empire, an association of sovereign States established upon principles of freedom, equality, justice and humanity.

I therefore believe it is my duty to my Country to love it; to obey and maintain its laws; to respect its flag; and to defend it against all enemies.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Here comes Peter Cottontail.....

hopping down the bunny trail......well he would be, if he could find it! Preparing for hundreds of children and their parents to come visit us on Saturdays mean we are currently up to our bunny ears in stuff! Volunteers are working diligently to prepare - at this moment packing all the bags that the kids get to carry their crafts home in with a pencil, a few stickers, 2 handouts (one for younger kids - find the item in the picture in the museum; for older kids - find the answers to clues and enter them on a Discovery Kids website to play a game), and more.

We are very excited this year to have a wonderful partner, Milestone Homes. This company has been so easy to work with and I have thorougly enjoyed getting to know all of their staff - they are creative and fun and very community-minded, making a wonderful fit for this event. We have had a great time coming up with ideas and we surprised 200 or so children at the Children's Festival last weekend with nutty putty eggs from Milestone Homes, and the first 300 children this weekend will also receive one. The children will then be able to use their nutty putty to build their own creation. And for those children who love them, they will have helium balloons on hand, too!

We are also fortunate to be having popcorn on site, courtesy of Servus Credit Union; facepainting by the Canadian Parents for French; kite flying demonstrations (if the weather is right) by the Windy City Kite Flyers; and people can purchase a wonderful necklace with a grain of rice with their child/grandchild's name on it as a special Easter gift with a portion of sales being donated back to the museum!

And of course we have many many crafts; egg dying; the Easter Bunny (bring your camera) who will be handing out Cadbury Twisted bars; draws for prize baskets including one donated by
Bert and Mac's for the sports fans; and if the weather is nice, some spring activities that children might have participated in, during the last century.

We hope you can come out - doors open at 10 am and we start clean up at 2 pm. Parents and grandparents and babes under 1 are free so its a bit of a reversal of the way things usually are - cost is per child and thanks to our great sponsors, we have been able to keep the cost the same as the last 5 years - $4/child (or $3/child if you are a museum passholder).

I promise that by Saturday morning Peter Cottontail WILL be able to find the trail.....thanks to dozens of dedicated and wonderful volunteers!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Of Heritage Fair Projects and Trying to Change A Student's Mind

One of the great things about the heritage fair is that students have the opportunity to choose any subject they want to in Canadian history -- local, provincial or national. For many young students (the fairs are for students grades 4 to 9), this is their first opportunty to see what interests them about history and pursue it. And this week I tried to get a student to think about changing her topic. Let me explain. The student has chosen to do a presentation on the Titanic. I can understand. It is an incredible story. And today, on the 99th anniversary, it seems even more poignant. But I encouraged the student to think about either expanding the topic or changing the topic to be about the Empress of Ireland. How many of you have heard of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland? This sinking, which took place 29 May 1914, was the deadliest maritime disaster in Canadian history. The ship was carrying 1477 passengers and crew; 1073 lives were lost. The Empress of Ireland was departing from Quebec City when it was struck by a Norwegian collier (coal bearing) ship called the Storstad. It took only 14 minues for the Empress of Ireland to sink. And only 4 life boats were launched. Because the ship listed to the side, it was impossible for other life boats to be launched. The Captain, Henry Kendall, has just been promoted as Captain of the Empress of Ireland and this was his 1st trip down the St. Lawrence River in his new position. The Captain survived. He had been thrown clear of the ship and landed in the river. For hours he searched for survivors but many drowned or succumbed to hypothermia. On the Empress of Ireland were ten people from Lethbridge, nine of whom perished that day. Among the dead was the entire Hunter family: John and Jesse and their children Grace (14) and Stewart (11). The children were students at Westminster School. Also on board from Lethbridge were Elizabeth Kitley, Joe Cresswell, Fanny Cresswell, William J. Giles, David Clausen and Emma Hammer. David Clausen was the only survivor. He was initially listed as deceased in a Lethbridge Herald article but David Clausen sent a telegraph to friends in Lethbridge that said he was “Saved – David.” Reports of his death had been in error. There is a display on the ship and her passengers and crew in Rimouski, Quebec, and there are many more stories of the Empress of Ireland than I can tell here. I'm not sure if the student is going to change her topic. We'll have to wait until the Regional Fair on May 14 to find out.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Conference at Oxford

For one week in late March I had the opportunity to visit the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford, England to participate in the Blackfoot Shirts Project Conference. Along with ten Blackfoot people from the Siksika (Blackfoot), Piikani (North Peigan), Kainai (Blood) and Amskapi Pikuni (South Piegan or Blackfeet) and Gerry Conaty, Director of Indigenous Studies from the Glenbow Museum, I attended study tours and the two day conference. We shared what we learned through our participation in the Blackfoot Shirts Project with delegates from museums across the United Kingdom.

The Blackfoot Shirts Project involved the loan of five 1830s men's shirts from the Pitt Rivers to the Glenbow and Galt Museum for study and exhibition. During two weeks of workshops at Glenbow and two more at the Galt some 550 Blackfoot people studied the shirts first hand. The shirts were then exhibited to the public in both museums. Dr. Laura Peers, Curator at the Pitt Rivers, Dr. Alison Brown, Community Liaison from the University of Aberdeen, and Heather Richardson, Head Conservator also from the Pitt Rivers will work with people from the four Blackfoot communities to publish all that they learned in a future book.

The intention of the conference was to help the UK curators and conservators understand the importance of connecting indigenous people with historical objects that reside in distant museums. Representatives from the British Museum and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery in Exeter were in attendance along with many others.

The Elders, ceremonial leaders, educators and artists from the four Blackfoot Tribes eloquently and emotionally described how their people responded to the sacred power and skillful construction and beautiful quill work on the shirts.

Elders talked about the revitalization of their culture through exposure to the shirts. A teacher shared her students' written reactions to the shirts and showed samples of their artwork that clearly described the depth of their responses.

Gerry Conaty and Allan Pard, a Piikani ceremonialist, talked about the protocols museums have with the care of artifacts and the Blackfoot have with regard to the sacred shirts and the compromises the both had to make to made the project successful. I spoke of the Galt's experiences with the workshops, exhibits and programs. Relationship building was an important part of the project as we planned and implemented all that we did with Blackfoot partners.

It became clear over the two days that the British museum professionals gained valuable insight into the significance this project had on Blackfoot people and the three museums involved. Several expressed interest in developing working relationships with the Blackfoot people at the conference and to continue the dialogue initiated by the Blackfoot Shirts Project.

Travelling with our Blackfoot colleagues, attending the conference and visiting the Pitt Rivers Museum was a wonderful experience for me. I also enjoyed walking through historic Oxford and the daffodils, tulip and lilac blooms, tree blossoms, green grass and warm spring days (sorry - but I do have to rub it in a bit!). It can't be far behind now that I'm back on the prairies.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Why I Love Museums -- The Galt Version

Meant to do this earlier this week (it's been a crazy week) but gathered below are a few reasons some of our staff love museums...

I love museums because of the diversity of people who meet, volunteer, work, participate in them. ~ Anine, Marketing

I like museums because I am intrigued by the objects they are housing. It fires my imagination to see what was used, how people dressed, lived, socialized. I also find the workmanship of the artifacts amazing - it shows the creativity of humans. I especially love to see the ancient materials - the work of the artisans is wonderful (no words to explain how I feel when I stand in front of a case full of intricately carved ivory objects). I love to see the museums in small towns (we used to take our kids to these) because the small town museums show you what the community thinks is important about itself. ~ Michelle, Visitor Services

I like museums because, more often than not, you encounter the story of something or someone that you never knew before, and that person or thing provides an insight into your own story or the story of someone you know that you never thought about before. But I still like archives better. ~ Greg, Archives

I love good museums because they are so incredibly powerful. They help you experience new worlds. They portray and showcase the most sublime and beautiful things created by humankind. They challenge your perspective. They teach, they amuse, they explain, they captivate and they allow us to be immersed in another time, another place, or in another person's ideas and thoughts. They show us all that has been done and all that is possible to do. And best of all museums belong to the people -- they are part of our shared heritage; part of the educational, cultural and social gift that we get from our ancestors and that we are allowed to pass on to future generations. ~ Belinda, Education