Wednesday, 28 March 2012

When It's Okay to Touch Museum Objects

This past Monday, one of the Galt's volunteers, Michelle Logue, led a program at the CNIB offices. This program, designed for persons with limited or no vision, included an opportunity for people to touch some objects from our education collection. Michelle shared some stories around the objects but there was also time for reminiscing and for the participants to share stories about their interactions with similar objects.

Our education collection gets used regularly. It is used virtually daily through the school classes and tours that come to the Galt. We will use several items from our Second World War collection in two grade 5 classes today.

We loan items out to groups. We have several items waiting to be picked up by Westminster School for use as props and costumes in their spring concert. Several of our memory boxes (reminisce kits for seniors' programs) are either out at the moment or booked to be picked up soon. Some of our hats may be used as part of a fashion show in May.

Items gets into our education collection through various means. They are sometimes donated. Other times we purchase them. But often the items in the education collection have little "history" or provenance attached to them. We rarely know the story of the past owners of the objects.

But that doesn't mean there aren't some great stories attached to the objects. As I picked out the ones for Michelle to take on Monday, several of them connected to stories that I knew and which I thought I'd share.

The first is this printer's block. The image is reversed but it is a map of the Lethbridge river bottom. This block, and several others that we have, were used in the original printing of the book Boats and Barges on the Belly -- the story of the coal barges and other boats used on the river. This map shows the inclined railway, the saw mill, the coal mines and several other important places in the river valley. The barges only ran a few years before being replaced by the railway. But they (or their machinery) continued to serve Lethbridge for years to come -- the boiler from one of them providing the first hot bath ever in Lethbridge.

This second object is a dray license -- a license issued to a wagon for commercial use in Lethbridge. What made me chuckle was the year "1912". In 1912 Lethbridge's police chief and two police officers were fired (the police chief was later cleared). One of the charges against the police chief was that it was believed he was stealing money that people were paying for license (in reality he just had poor accounting skills and had a habit of sticking money into drawers and forgetting it was there). But I had to wonder, did this license play a role in that 1912 scandal? Was this license properly paid for? We have no way of knowing but this simple license makes a great introduction to a fascinating story.

There's many more similar treasures in our touchable education collection. Who knows what we'll add to it over the next few years or what other stories we'll discover from within it?

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Designing a Heritage Fair t-shirt

I am working right now on designing the t-shirt for this year's Southern Alberta Regional Heritage Fair (May 5 here at the Galt Museum & Archives). This is the 16th year of the fair so we've had many different t-shirts over the years and I want something different for this year. So I decided to go with a quote -- a great Canadian quote about who we are and how we relate to our history.

It was interesting to research and see some of the different quotes. Below are some that I found including the one I used on the t-shirt. Which one would you use? If you want to know which one I picked, you'll have to drop by the fair in May.

Canadians are the people who learned to live without the bold accents of the natural ego-trippers of other lands. - Marshall McLuhan

Canadians have an abiding interest in surprising those Americans who have historically made little effort to learn about their neighbor to the North. - Peter Jennings

The US is our trading partner, our neighbour, our ally and our friend...and sometimes we'd like to give them suck a smack! - Rick Mercer

There are no limits to the majestic future which lies before the mighty expanse of Canada with its virile, aspiring, cultured, and generous-hearted people. - Sir Winston Churchill

Canadians have been so busy explaining to the Americans that we aren't British, and to the British that we aren't Americans that we haven't had time to become Canadians. - Helen Gordon McPherson

Our hopes are high. Our faith in the people is great. Our courage is strong. And our dreams for this beautiful country will never die. - Pierre Trudeau

I am so excited about Canadians ruling the world. - John Diefenbaker.

I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind. - John Diefenbaker.

We'll explain the appeal of curling to you if you explain the appeal of the National Rifle Association to us. - Andy Barrie.

Let us be French, let us be English, but most importantly let us be Canadian! - John A. Macdonald

The beaver, which has come to represent Canada as the eagle does the United States and the lion Britain, is a flat-tailed slow-witted, toothy rodent known to bite of its own testicles or to stand under its own falling trees. - June Callwood

If you don't think that your country should come before yourself, you can better serve your country by livin' someplace else. - Stompin' Tom Connors

It's going to be a great country when they finish unpacking it. - Andrew H. Malcolm

Canadians, like their historians, have spent too much time remembering conflicts, crises, and failures. They forgot the great, quiet continuity of life in a vast and generous land. A cautious people learn from its past; a sensible people can face its future. Canadians, on the whole, are both. - Desmond Morton

Some Americans ruin it for other Americans. You know these Americans: "Oh, we're the best country on earth, and we do this better, and we do that better, and we're better at this than anybody else. Why does anyone want to kill us?" I don't understand. Cause Canadians, we're not like that. We're better than that. - Glen Foster.

Did you make your choice?

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Hurry Hard! Lethbridge Curling History

(Galt Archives 19941051449B -- Unidentified curlers in front of Civic Ice Centre, 1949-50.)

In honour of the Ford World Women's Curling Championship starting in Lethbridge this Saturday (March 17), I thought I would share a little Lethbridge curling history. This is also for my Mom who will be at as many of these games as possible and who wishes her kids loved curling as much as she does.

  • The 1st curling club in Alberta formed in Lethbridge in 1887. A group of sports enthusiasts -- Johnnie Bruce, Duncan Duff, R.C. McClure, Harry Bentley, Manfred Freeman, Tom Kirkham, Norrie McLeod and the Scott brothers -- met at T. Kirkham's store to get the club started.

  • At first the Alberta clubs were affiliated with the Manitoba branch of the Royal Caledonia Club of Scotland. In November 1895, Lethbridge applied for membership. There were 38 members.

  • Also in 1895 the curling rink opened near where Chapters is today. Prior to that games were played on local sloughs. This was the 1st enclosed rink with electric lights in the North West Territories. Early rinks were made with natural ice so Mother Nature decided the length of the season. Bonspiels also had to be times to be flexible because they were sometimes delayed by days or weeks as people traveled between communities.

  • In 1904 Alberta formed its own branch. Lethbridge officially registered with the Royal Caledonia Club Scotland in Calgary January 23, 1905.

  • In 1916, the Ladies Curling Club was organized.

  • Jack Patey claimed to have been the first person to ever colour the curling rings in and to have created the modern bonspiel design. In 1935 Patey was hired to paint the rings for the bonspiel. Up until that time the circles were indicated by narrow, black lines. Patey, who had painted the rings for the bonspiel the previous years, had found the process difficult, slow and tedious. So he got the idea to paint the rings in different colours -- which is still used today.

  • In 1937, artificial ice was brought in. It is believed that the 1940 Shirtsleeve Bonspiel in Lethbridge was the 1st Bonspiel on the prairies held on artificial ice.

You can help us with our local curling history. We have quite a number of photographs of curling teams in which the persons in the photographs are unidentified. If you have been active with the curling community in Lethbridge, please drop by and visit us and see if you can help us complete our records.

Happy curling everyone. I hope you all get swept away!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Happy International Women's Day

Happy International Women's Day

(My schedule is booked solid tomorrow so, yes, I'm writing this one day early.)

I had the opportunity last weekend to M/C an event for IWD and so I had to do some research and put together some information on the history of the event and some fun facts about women's history in Lethbridge and southern Alberta. So I thought I would share some of those here:

The 2012 theme is Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures. What I love about International Women's Day is that it's the one day in the year when women from different continents and different walks of life, divided by national borders, religions, ethnicity, language, religion,etc -- forget those differences and come together to celebrate and support women.

I think one of the reasons that International Women's Day has so much power is that it is a recognition of the hope, wish and promise that women can and will make to make this world a better place for all children -- boys and girls. To make this a world where being equal, loved and supported is accepted as a natural part of everyday life.

There are four colours associated with International Women's Day. The first three colours have their origin in the Suffragist movement of the late 19th and early 20th century where women worked to get the right to vote -- purple, green and white.

Purple was chosen for dignity and represents justice, self-reverence and self-respect.

Green, the colour of spring, is for new life and new hope.

White was chosen for purity in public and private life. Over the past century the connotations of purity have become controversial so a fourth colour was added, gold.

Gold signifies enlightenment and represents a new dawn and a 2nd wave of feminism. Hopefully if you have the opportunity tomorrow you will wear some or all of those colours.

These colours, as I mentioned, had their origin in the struggle to get women the vote. How many know that women were voting in elections here in Lethbridge 100 years ago?

The Lethbridge Herald reported in its 1 November 1912 edition that 303 women had their names on the voting list for the upcoming Lethbridge municipal election (of approximately 3000 voters). Voting was based on property ownership so this gave quite a few women the right to vote. We have no record as to how many chose to vote. What I find particularly fun is that a lot of the madams in Lethbridge's red light district would have been property owners. It's fun to conjecture how many of those voters were from the red light district.

Most people believe that 1916, when women got the right to vote provincially, was the first opportunity for women to vote in Alberta. This is not the case and was different for each municipality (in 1918 voting was extended to women of all municipalities in Alberta). But some municipalities had women voting, as noted earlier, before this date. At the municipal level, the first woman to vote in Lethbridge was a Mrs. W.R. Barker. She was a widow and voted as head of family in 1897's municipal election.

The first women to run for office in Lethbridge was Mrs. Holmes Howell who in 1919 ran for a school board position (she was not elected). Mrs. Howell ran under the Labour party banner and believed in free equipment for all pupils; better medical and dental care for students; and a higher wage for teachers to ensure them a higher standard of life and to enable them and all other workers to combat the high cost of living. She also wanted to ensure a better relationship between teachers and parents.

The first woman in Alberta to be elected to mayor (it was actually called overseer at the time) was Gladys Palmer of Grassy Lake. She was elected in December 1926. Well, Lethbridge, we're only 86 years and counting behind Grassy Lake...

Many people know that Lethbridge's first mayor was Charles Magrath. But few know that his sister also lived here in Lethbridge for a while. Anna Godwin's husband was a bank manager at one of the banks here in town. Anna was a talented musician, pianist and singer and composed a song called the "Godwin Waltz" which was, by popular request, played at most of the early balls here in Lethbridge. I have had no luck trying to track down a copy of the music.

The McLeay sister were early entrepreneurs in Lethbridge. They built the McLeay Block on 3rd Avenue south for their own milliner company as well as to rent out space. The McLeay Block was the only business block in the downtown from the early 20th century built by women. Unfortunately, we lost this building to fire approximately 10 years ago.

Once again, happy International Women's Day everyone and I hope everyone, men and women, take the opportunity to get out to events tomorrow.