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!

Friday, 15 July 2011

The COOLEST story is....

I took this past Wednesday and Thursday off work so I could go away and do research for a couple of projects. I found a lot of great material but the BEST thing I found was a document hidden inside hundreds of letters and reports and telegrams related to the sugar beet industry in southern Alberta. It was a form that contained names and gave the price each of these men paid for their land in Coaldale in 1926. The document also showed how much they were paid for their work in the sugar beet fields for each year from 1926 to 1930.

How could this be such an important piece of material? Because I recognized the name of my Great Grandfather and Great Uncle. Immediately that piece of paper went from "oh, that's interesting" to "I have to get a copy of this and my Mother is not going to believe it and who knew information on my family was in the Glenbow and..."

Earlier this spring I also found a written record from a Great Aunt about working with my Grandmother and her other sisters in the sugar beet fields when they were kids. Her description was so in-depth that I could actually picture my Grandmother, about 12 years old, working to thin the beet that grew (and this was written in German so I'm translating) as thick as rows of lettuce.

I enjoy doing history but I LOVE when I see where and how my family fits into the larger stories. To me, these family stories are the COOLEST ones of all.

But you probably disagree. You may well think your family history enjoys that designation. But that's okay. It's these family stories that often get us started as historians and make us look into the bigger stories. And everyone should have a little bias about their own history.

So what have you found out about your family that was your best find? What makes your family history so intersting? Why is your history so fascinating?

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Both Agree -- Hostess Provides Towels

While researching a while back I came across a 1918 Lethbridge Herald article titled "How to Be a Model Guest" that outlined rules for houseguests. Out of curiosity, I then looked up some modern articles that provided rules for house guests in 2011. About the only similarity I found was that both agreed that the hostess should provide towels (but that the guest needed to bring along everything else they required).

The 1918 version is in black and then I have tossed in a few things I picked up related to 2011.

Here are a few important do’s and don’ts for all who strive to be model guests, the kind who are always urged to “come again.”
Do arrive at the time agreed upon as far as the matter lies within your power. In these days of late trains and annoying storms, hostesses are growing very lenient, but beware lest your tardiness be due to your own carelessness.

Do bring all the necessary clothes and small accessories for which you will use (washcloths and towels do not come in this list, as they are provided to you by your hostess). Also be sure to pay for your own laundry, telephone calls, and other small things and to supply your own postage.

Don’t accept Invitations, however informal, without consulting the friend whom you are visiting; and await a confirmation of an invitation (if you are one of the fair sex) by your hostess before accepting one given by a male member of the family. Most of the modern articles firmly suggested making plans on your own for some of the time (though also doing things with the host). One article actually suggested that you ensure you get out of the host's hair at least some of the time.

Don’t stay so long that you “wear out your welcome,” nor so short a time that you seem cold and unappreciative. Enjoy everything that is planned for you and be careful to let those about you know you are having a good time. Nothing so warms the cockles of a host’s heart as to know his efforts are recognized and liked. Most modern articles suggested that a 3-day visit should be your limit.

Do not expect the maids to do “odd jobs” for you. Your hostess will doubtless offer their services when she knows they are needed but even then do not ask too much. Unless requested not to tip the servants, leave a small sum of money with each one who has served you. Nothing about maids was mentioned in any of the new articles. But that's not really surprising.

Do send “pp.c’s” to all the friends of your hostess who have entertained you or called on you. These are your calling cards with “p.p.c.” written in either of the lower corners. These letters stand for the French words “to take leave.” The cards should be mailed the day you leave town. Do send a bread and butter letter immediately after your departure. Modern articles suggested leaving a gift -- probably because no one even knows what a calling card is anymore and certainly don't have any to leave behind.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Toy's Stories

Humpty Dumpty Circus created by Albert Schoenhut, ca 1920s

The Galt is developing an exhibit focusing on Toys & Games that will run October 1, 2011 to January 8, 2012. We asked people in the community to share some of their play things with us and we have some gems to add to the exhibit.
We are collecting stories along with the borrowed toys and games and these will become a significant part of the exhibition. There is the story of the brother and sister who both wanted the Clue game and, even though the brother scrawled his name on the box, it is in his sister's possession.

Another family loves to play Pictionary at Christmas. The competition is keen and they have found that the scribblers with stick people are often more successful than the more talented artists.

A Japanese game has a playing board with 9 squares along each side and playing pieces that move in unique ways, much like chess. The game was a gift from a guest from Japan. To help his Canadian hosts play the game he drew an instruction sheet showing which way each playing piece moved.

Barbie dolls first came out in 1959 and they continue to be popular toys with children today. Speciality dolls were created for the 1988 Olympics in Calgary and the one we have borrowed never left its box because it was purchased as a souvenir. Another donor brought in a circus pattern printed on fabric. There is a trapese dress for Barbie, a clown outfit for Ken and a striped tent. But the mystique of the circus didn't appeal as much to the young owner as she much preferred sewing glamorous evening gowns for her doll so the circus pattern remains intact.

Another toy offered to the Galt for the exhibit was a two story tin doll house complete with plastic furniture. The doll house was a gift from Aunt Mary and the donor and her cousin spent many hours playing house. I remember owning a similar doll house when I was a little girl. When my sister and I no longer played with it, my mother asked if we would be willing to give it away to a family in our neighbourhood. It was Christmas and our parents learned of a family who were really struggling to make ends meet. We cleaned up the doll house and the furniture and on Christmas Eve we put it, some toys from our brother, food and some socks Mom had knit into the car and we drove to a tiny old miner's shack. Dad took all these gifts to the door and knocked. When the door opened he offered everything to the tired woman who answered. Dad returned to the car and with a lump in his voice he explained how grateful the woman was to receive the gifts. If not for our gifts she would have had nothing to give her children on Christmas morning.

What stories do you have about your favourite toys or games? Share them with us!