Wednesday, 25 January 2012

What have you done for us lately?

It's terrible to be forgot on your birthday!

Especially when you've worked hard and served people well. It's frustraing to be ignored because all of the attention is focused on the "new kid" and you're basically told you're not worth noticing anymore.

Who cares if a Governor-General officiated at your birth? Who cares if when you were new you were told you're "one of the best in Canada?"

No matter how nice, pretty and shiny the new kid may be, don't you deserve some recognition and support as well?

On 21 August 1912 the Minister of Education, the Honourable John R. Boyle, laid the cornerstone for the new Manual Training School here in Lethbridge, and on 10 October, Canada's Governor-General, the Duke of Donnaught, officially opened the building. Today this building is better known as the Bowman Art Gallery.

The school was created to teach night classes as well as manual training classes for grades six to ten. This was Alberta's first Manual Training School (what we would now consider vocational training). The building also accommodated the school board offices and board room.

In 1915, the school's funds and teaching staff were reduced and vocational classes cut. The building was then converted to a high school and used as such until 1928.

(cadets posed in front of the Bowman)

From 1929 to 1963 the building served as the Bowman Elementary School.

(grade 2 class in front of the Bowman Elementary School)

The City of Lethbridge purchased the building from the School Board in 1963. The Civic Museum was first organzed there. The museum soon moved out and into the Galt Hospital.

The City then leased the building to the Allied Arts Council. In this capacity it has to this day served numerous community arts organizations and contains a gallery that features regional artists. Since its conversion into the Bowman Arts Centre, the building has been one of Lethbridge's most prominent and most beloved venues, a showcase for arts and other cultural activities.

The Bowman was declared a Provincial Historic Resource in March 1982. The building, designed by Whittington Architects, is a mixture of design styles -- primarily Colonial Classical Revival but with Georgian influences.

C.B. Bowman, its namesake, was an early Lethbridge businessman who served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of Lethbridge School District 51 from 1905 to 1912. C.B. Bowman was also an alderman for several years and acting mayor when Mayor Henderson died in office. HIs wife, Florence, was one of the first nurses at the Galt Hospital and their son, Paddy, earned an Order of the British Empire for service in the Second World War.

The Bowman turns 100 this year. Doesn't it deserve recognition, support and much more from this community which it has served so well?

Monday, 23 January 2012

Heritage Fair 2012

As many of you may know, the Galt Museum & Archives has worked the past 17 years on the Regional Heritage Fair -- where students in grades 4 to 9 create projects on Canadian history (local, provincial or national) and present them to the public. This is an incredible opportunity for students to develop their historical and critical thinking skills, to research and to explore a topic that they are interested in.

Over the last year, the Alberta Provincial Heritage Fair Council has been working with the Alberta Labour Institute as the Institute and Alberta Federation of Labour are planning the "100 Years of Work: Celebrating the people who built your community" in 2012.

The Alberta Federation of Labour was created in June 1912 here in Lethbridge. "Miners, Farmers and City Toilers Decide to Form Federation"read the headline of the 15 June 1912 Lethbridge Daily Herald.

As part of the Centennial Celebrations, a Celebration of Labour will take place on June 16 at Fort Edmonton Park. One student from each of the Regional Heritage Fairs will be invited to take part in the festivities. This will be in addition to the one student each year who gets to attend and present at the Historical Society of Alberta Conference.

As always, students are welcome to create a project on ANY topic of Canadian history they wish. However, it is hoped that this year students may be interested in creating a project on labour. By labour we are encouraging students to think broadly of this topic. A few ideas that come to mind are: to think of the various industries that helped to build their community and our nation; to consider how industry has changed over the past 100 years; to investigate how women's work is different today than in the past (perhaps within their own family and community or on a larger scale); to look at events such as the Great Depression and building of the railroads; or to see how farming has changed.

As always I am interested to see what students come up with for their projects. Every year they amaze me.

Students may be able to find some resources at: or

The Southern Alberta Regional Heritage Fair booklet may be downloaded at:

I look to see you all at the Regional Fair May 5 at the Galt Museum & Archives.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Lethbridge Historic Buildings On the Map

I love maps. I love historic buildings. What could be better, then, than a map showing historic buildings in Lethbridge?

Over the last number of years the City of Lethbridge has created a number of interactive maps. The maps show you the emergency services, schools, trails, golf courses, skate parks and much, much more.

But just recently a new layer has been added to the map showing all provincially and municipally designated sites in Lethbridge.

You can access this site in several ways. The first link takes you to the Lethbridge Explorer site where you can bring up a blank map of Lethbridge. Under the Points of Interest (the map symbol at the top) you can find a place to bring up historic places.

Or, if you want to know more about what is being done to protect historic buildings in Lethbridge (in addition to the map), use this link below which starts at the city's Historic Building Preservation site. There's a lot of information related to historic buildings so you can learn even more about the processes related to historic designation and look at the 49 sites listed on the city's inventory. An advantage of linking to the map from this site is that it automatically displays the historic sites for you when the map opens.

One of the reasons it was necessary to provide this type of information digitally (rather than through a brochure or written material) is because this is a work in progress. There are always buildings in front of the city's Heritage Advisory Committee being researched, discussed and prepared for Municipal Designation. Look for the number of places on this map to grow over the years as the city's list of Municipally Designated Properties grows.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Take Gert's Road

Names have power. What we choose to call people, pets, things or places says a lot about who we are. Rightly or wrongly, we are judged by our names (as individuals and as communities). If you know why and when a community, family, or person game something a particular name, you have real understanding into their character and how they think. For a historian, understanding the origin of names is integral to appreciating the identity and beginning of the community (which is why my Place Names of Lethbridge book is always close by my desk when I'm researching).

Names are about identity. Which names you use (when there are choices) also provides unique insight.

Some names are used only within small groups. Only someone in my family would understand "take Gert's road, not the old Prairie Trail" and know exactly where I was.

But if you say to someone in Lethbridge "I'll meet you at the Sugar Bowl", chances are most people will know where to meet you.

Many places have several names. Gert's Road and the old Prairie Trail have township numbers (though I have no idea what they are). Names also change over time. Leavings become Granum. Blaney becomes Barons. And so on.

Names may also reflect different people's and different culture's names for the same place. Throughout history, Lethbridge's river valley has had almost 20 different names in several different languages. Each name reflects the time period it was used as well as various cultures and groups.

That's why I was very glad to have time over this holiday to read the Central Alberta Historical Society's latest book: Three-Persons and the Chokitapix: Jean L'Heureux's Blackfoot Geography of 1871.

This book is a translation of Jean L'Heureux's 1871 24 page manuscript written while he was traveling around Alberta with the Blackfoot. The edited book provides English, French and Blackfoot names for some places and geographical locations in Alberta. In addition to names, for many of the places it also gives the origin of many of the names. The map (because of where Jean L'Heureux traveled) has more emphasis on central Alberta than southern but is still interesting for those of us here in the south. It gives a different way of looking at this place we call home and a chance to see it from a different perspective.

Blanche Bruised Head and I have long talked about creating a map of southern Alberta with English and Blackfoot names for places, rivers, towns, etc. About time we stopped talking about it and actually got it done, don't you think?