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Galt Museum examines engraving stamps and currency in new exhibit

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Engraving has become a lost art in Canadian currency and postage so the Galt Museum  is reminding  the public of the artistry involved in their new exhibit “Voices From The Engraver, which opens, Feb. 8.
The Galt Museum is the first to host this traveling exhibit  produced in partnership with  the Bank of Canada  Museum.Robert Budd, Jonathan Dean and Galt Museum curator Wendy Aitkens are excited about Voices of the Engraver. Photo by Richard Amery
 It features rare stamps and currency as well as engraved plates for bills and an explanation and description of the processes used to make  currency and stamps as well as information about some of the artists involved in the process.

 There are also a couple of interactive components including a photo booth where patrons can put a picture of their own face on  a bill or stamp of their own design.
 There is  also a guillochis ( similar to the children’s toy Spirgraph) table where patrons can design their own intricate designs similar to those used  before the government switched to polymer bills instead of engraved paper.

“It’s a great exhibit. It’s a very complicated process,” enthused curator Wendy Aitkens adding well known artists were originally commissioned to design the first stamps. She noted a beaver appeared on one of Canada’s very first stamps.

 She was surprised to learn that since the post office became more automated, stamps aren’t officially cancelled when they go through a machine, while they used to have to be cancelled by a physical stamp or else they could be steamed  off an envelope and reused.
Now the post office usually uses stickers.

“ You actually have to ask for stamps ” observed Robert Budd, a 11-year member of the Lethbridge Philatelic Society (stamp collecting club).
“ I think it’s wonderful,” he said of the exhibit. He noted engraving art on stamps and bills  was done to make them more difficult to counterfeit.

“ It was a very expressive process,” he continued adding it was also very difficult as the artists had to first complete the design, then painstakingly engrave  the same design on a plate before a bill or stamp could be reproduced.


Galt Museum examines favourite curiosities and treasures

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The Galt Museum is revisiting the past even more than usual with their latest exhibit Curiosities and Treasures: the Sequel which runs Sept. 26-Jan. 11.

Wendy Aitkens examines a cimbalom. Photo by Richard Amery
“It’s the sequel. We did it for the first time back in 2010,” said curator Wendy Aitkens.

 As before, they invited 72 people from Lethbridge and surrounding area to participate in the exhibit by exploring the Galt Museum collection and choosing over 140 items which had personal significance to them for the exhibit.

“We found the people we invited to be part of it and visitors who saw it last time enjoyed it as much as we did, so we thought it would be really nice to redo it as part of our fiftieth anniversary this year,” she continued.

 She noted the Galt Museum collection includes 20,000 items, so staff helped participants narrow the process down to basic areas which most interesting.

The result was a spectacular collection of items  including a n R2 D2 Star Wars toy, a Hungarian hammered dulcimer called a cimbalom, quilts, paintings, several vintage cameras, numerous military items including medals,  coal mining lamps, a bell which was not only used on one of Lethbridge's first steamboats shipping coal to Medicine Hat, but was later used as one of Lethbridge's first fire department bell and even a jar of preserved pickles.

There are items to be expected including an RCMP uniform, Commissionaires uniforms and an old Lethbridge Police Services uniform, a First Nations head dress and more unusual items like as Lethbridge College beanie from  the early ’70s.


Galt Museum helps Lethbridge Handicrafts Weaving Guild celebrate 65 years

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The Galt Museum and the Lethbridge Weaver’s guild are working together for the Galt Museum’s new exhibit “Woven In Time: Celebrating 65 years with Lethbridge Weavers” which runs June 7- Sept. 14.

 We started this because the Handicraft Guild of Weavers celebrates 65 years, so we partnered with them to bring them this exhibit,” said curator Wendy Aitkens, who found creating the exhibit a learning experience.Judy Hasinoff explains  the weaving process to Wendy Aitkens while setting up the loom on display  for Woven In Time. Photo by Richard Amery

“ I never knew there was so much that went into weaving,” said Aitkens who learned the vocabulary.

“ We have a Lethbridge tartan and I didn’t even know there was one,” she said, indicating a display case including the tartan, the history, the meaning of the colours it includes and a sample of it in one display case.

Other cases include items dating back to 1866 and 1875,  a wedding dress created on a loom and a history of the Weaver’s Guild itself.

 There is even a case including  the many different types of yarn.
“You can make it out of steel, silver, soy, corn and even recycled pop bottles,” Aitkens enthused.
 Members of the Guild will also be doing displays of weaving periodically throughout the exhibits run on a loom they set up in a side room. When they aren’t there, a video will be shown outlining all of the many steps it takes to weave.

“The Guild has helped preserve the art of weaving that was getting lost during the Industrial revolution,” Aitkens said.

 The Galt Museum provided items form their collection while the Guild provided most of the others.
 There is also an interactive component to the exhibit, which allows people to help create a giant community weave by threading multi-coloured ribbons through an exaggerated loom on  the west wall of the exhibit.


Fort Whoop Up excited to focus on being a historical site rather than a flood zone

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After a couple of tough summers due to flood related damage, Fort Whoop Up is optimistic about another season of spreading the word about southern Alberta history. While the Fort is already open, the official opening is June 1.

Doran Degenstein looks at therefurbished exhibits at Fort Whoop Up. Photo by Richard Amery


“The biggest thing is we’re not as focused on doing flood related work. We’re able to work on training our staff and focussing on being a historical site instead of a flood zone, said Fort Whoop Up executive director Doran Degenstein.

 Last June,  rising flood waters forced an army of volunteers to relocate and safely store 40,000 items and staff to completely refurbish the fort.

Fortunately the  floods only destroyed two of the exhibits — a covered wagon exhibit which has been replaced with  a new First Nations exhibit featuring ceremonial headdresses.

 Degenstein said there isn’t much they can do to prevent floods and flood damage other than to ensure they have quick access to moving boxes and supplies.
“ We have a flood plan for the society, but we have limited resources. But we have a lot to learn from the events of the past two years. We looked at improving how we protect our collection,” he continued.
“ We have had a great amount of support form the 200 people who helped us to move 45,000 items that all needed to be boxed,” he said.
 “ Now we have a cargo trailer dedicated to holding emergency supplies,” he continued.

 Fort Whoop-Up covers several aspects of very exciting time in Southern Alberta and early Canadian history— 1870-72, which included a lot of American traders  coming north to seek their fortunes in the lucrative buffalo robe trades with the Blackfoot people.

“ Principally we’re about the robe trade. And yes that included alcohol. Independent traders moved north into the British Possessions after the Blackfoot moved north after the  Baker Massacre (Jan. 23, 1870),” he related.

Historic Lethbridge Festival celebrates the ’70s

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Historic Lethbridge and several Lethbridge organizations are going back to the ’70s for the annual Historic Lethbridge Festival with several events happening in the next couple of weeks celebrating the styles, music and movies of the 1970s.

Things begin on Friday, May 2 at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery with a 1970s happy hour from 5-7 p.m. There will be live entertainment, ”70s themed cocktails, frosty craft beers and a costume contest for best dressed  1970’s outfits, so dig out that old polyester suit and wide tie or your favourite disco outfit on and come out and dance.

Brian Black, Bente hansen and Mwansa Mwansa are excited about the Historic lethbridge Festival this week. Photo by Richard Amery
“We decided we wanted to  cover what was important,” said Brian Black, chairman of the  Historic Lethbridge community who is also teaches at the University of Lethbridge in the music department.
“It was an important year for building in Lethbridge.  The Whoop Up Drive bridge was built in the ’70s. It is difficult to imagine  Lethbridge without it and the University of Lethbridge was being built as well,” he continued.

He observed the tumultuous 1970s were an important time in North American history, with the Vietnam War, the Kent State shootings, Richard Nixon, freeing hostages in Iran and in Canada beginning with the FLQ October crisis, though the era of Pierre Elliot Trudeau and ending with the NEP and the Quebec referendum.
 So there is a lot of ground to cover for this year’s festival.

“We wanted to capture the vibrant and exciting culture happening,” said Black who remembered being a young adult in Montreal during the  FLQ crisis.
La Cite des Prairies is  exploring the darker side of the ’70s with  their first contribution — the film ‘La Maison du pecheur.”

“ It’s the first time we’ve been involved,“ said Marie Hélené Lyle, of CineImagine, one of several French cultural organizations operating at the  La Cite des Prairies, and who all will be contributing.

The film is about the FLQ crisis, which sparked Pierre Elliott Trudeau to  implement the War Measures Act.
 The film will be screened at  7 p.m., May 7.

“ I remember there was troops all over the place. it seemed so arbitrary. But it made everybody just take a step back,” recalled Black of the  October Crisis.

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