Over the past two years, history has been revitalized thanks to Alberta Museums Association (AMA) grants which enabled the Galt Museum Collections’ Department to employ a term Collections Assistant. The museum’s online database has been improved and grown thanks to the investigation of “Jane Edmundson, who came to us via the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, primarily to help us analyze our collection,” says Kevin MacLean, the Galt’s Collections Technician.
One of the artifacts Edmundson conducted new research into is a late-19th century photoengraving called ‘Blind Nydia’. Limited information was recorded at the time of donation, so Edmundson interviewed the donor John Campbell Peat, grandson of prominent early Lethbridge resident William Stafford, namesake of the major local throughfare. Peat said: “I grew up with these pictures… They were in our house [and it] was previously owned by Grandmother [Jane] Stafford, after she moved up from the ranch [in the river valley] after the flood. This print was hung on one side of the stairwell.” Further research into the artwork lead Edmundson to Edward George Bulwer-Lytton’s fictional book ‘The Last Days of Pompeii’, published in 1834. The character of Nydia was a blind flower seller, caught in Pompeii during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Nydia was revered as a tragic, romantic figure during the Victorian era, when interest in the destruction of the city was high (the site was unearthed and opened to tourism in the late 18th century). An enthusiastic Edmundson. “Finding new information about artifacts and the people who cherished them is endlessly interesting and really rewarding.”
Fortunately for community members in the here and now, Jane will offer behind-the-scenes insights in her presentation at the Wednesday’s at the Galt program on Wednesday, October 7 at 2pm.