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Artist Within: History Under Construction

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

JU 060810-13

Penny Lane Mall

Judith Umbach Photography Collection, JU 060810-13

We have a number of very significant photography collections here at the Calgary Public Library. We have our Postcards from the Past, the Alison Jackson Collection and the Judith Umbach collection. Judith, who is a former Calgary Public Library Board member, a ‘Living Book’ in our collection, a heritage buff and a beloved customer, will be giving a talk about Calgary’s built heritage using pictures from her own photography collection (which lives in the CHFH Digital Library). Inspired by another great advocate of heritage preservation, Alison Jackson, Judith has been taking pictures of Calgary’s changing landscape for a number of years. Her photos of the implosion of the General Hospital and the building of The Bow, to name just two, are an important record of Calgary as it grows and will be a vital historical collection in the years to come. So, we would like you to join us for “Artist Within: History Under Construction” at the Louise Riley Library on Monday October 3 at 2:00 PM or at the Village Square Library on Friday October 7 at 1:00. The program at Louise Riley is a drop-in so you don't need to register in advance. We would like you to register for the one at Village Square, however, and you can do that by clicking here

You can also view the Judith Umbach Photography collection through the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library, which you can find under "Books & More" on our website or by clicking here

York Hotel before facade removal

Judith Umbach Photography Collection


Brace yourself!

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)


My mother always cautioned me about looking too closely into my family history. She was sure I would find one of them buried on Boot Hill. This was a long time ago, of course, as evidenced by the reference to Boot Hill, but her caution was well intentioned and, for the time, when everyone wanted to be like everyone else, it didn’t do to have family “buried on Boot Hill.” Well, I ignored my mother and plowed headlong into family history research and turned up some very interesting things, none of which were particularly shocking, since I have a great tolerance for peculiarity and pecadillos.

I also have been working as a genealogy assistant for a very long time and have encountered the family stories of hundreds of people, so, in comparison, my family is boring. This is perhaps a privilege of my occupation – that I get to hear the stories of so many different families but one thing I have noticed and want to pass on to anyone interested in starting their family history is brace yourself. You are going to find information that you may not want to know. You know the Ancestry ad, the one about the grandfather’s multiple marriage certificates, that is tame compared to the grandfather who had about eight different families. There was only one marriage certificate, however, which meant that gramps was a bigamist. In one family, it turned out that grandmother was purchased from her father for a horse and buggy. And I can’t tell you the number of people who never married yet had children, who went to prison, who were found floating in the river, and on and on.

Many people accept these family stories with aplomb. There is actually a subset of genealogists who celebrate their black sheep (although the definition of a black sheep varies from family to family – in my family it was someone who married outside of the church) But every now and then I encounter a genealogists who is truly shocked and unable to come to terms with what they have found. There is a belief that people in the past were more moral and disciplined, that they followed the rules and, with a few exceptions, behaved in a much better manner than we do now. What I have found is that this is simply not so. Our ancestors swore, cheated, drank, cavorted and behaved badly. And I think that when we start our family stories we need to be prepared for the eventuality that our ancestors may have feet of clay.

It's This Weekend: THE Heritage Weekend

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)


Calgary's Sight Seeing Car

We are hoping to see millions (well, hundreds, maybe) of people out this Friday and Saturday for our annual Heritage Weekend. I have decided on the movies I will show for our Reel History lunch break. I will show a disc of slides from the General Hospital nursing school from 1956, a short featurette of the Midnapore Cycle, a play performed about the history of the area around St. Mary’s College and a short presentation on the history of the CPR and one of the six dvds from the Family Tree Narrative series, this one on the Hungry Wolf family of the Blood Tribe. This will be a nice break from our other programs and will allow you to rest and eat your lunch.

The other programs I am especially excited about are the one on the Heritage Resource evaluation system at 1:00, the medical history at 2:00, the panel discussion about social media in a heritage world at 3:00 and the tribute to Hugh Dempsey at 4:00. To be honest, I am excited about all of the programs but I won’t be able to come to the ones in the morning since I am running the Family History Coaching program in the genealogy area from 10:00 to 12:00. All you genealogists out there, pop on down for the coaching and stick around for the rest of the day. It’s going to be fun. The morning programs that I will have to miss are the British Commonwealth Air Training Program and the lantern slides of Mary T.S. Shäffer. Both of these look great and I’m sorry I will miss them.

You can register for these programs (or at least the ones that require registration, some are drop-in) through the Programs link on our website ( or by calling 403-260-2620. We’d like to see lots of you down here. These programs are always fabulous and sometimes we even have goodies (not that I’m promising anything)

Oh, and don’t forget that we are having a Heritage Matters program on the evening of Friday the 23rd. Matthew Siddons, a graduate of the U of C’s Urban Studies program will talk about the legacy of five different cultural groups in the heritage of our city. It starts at 5:30, after the library has closed for the evening. We always have a lot of fun and learn a lot at these programs so I heartily encourage you to register and come on by.

Heritage Weekend

It's Heritage Weekend Time Again!

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Heritage Weekend 007Stephen Avenue Then...and Now

It is once again time for our Heritage Weekend. We had a wonderful turnout last year and are looking forward to seeing even more folks down here on Friday September 23 and Saturday September 24. This weekend features a great line-up of people who are involved in the heritage community in Calgary and the talks and programs promise to be interesting and thought-provoking.

We are going to start the weekend off on Friday evening at 5:30 when we will host another Heritage Matters program on the main floor of the library (and after-hours, too, so you can see what happens after the customers go home!) The topic will be “The Convergence of the World in the Last Frontier” by Matthew Siddons, a recent Urban Studies grad. He will discuss the contributions of several different cultural groups to the heritage of Calgary.

On Saturday, join us in the Dutton Theatre for displays, discussions, films and more. We will be hearing about the British Commonwealth Air Training Program, Calgary’s historic resource evaluation system, medical history and how heritage groups are communicating in the age of Twitter. We are also hosting Reel History at lunch time. We will show short documentaries relating to the history and heritage of Calgary and Southern Alberta. Although this year we won’t have the clack-clack of the actual film projector, this still promises to be a diverting lunch time pursuit so bring your brown bag and join us. As part of the "festivities" we are also launching a new season of Family History Coaching. Volunteers from the Alberta Family Histories Society will be on the 4th floor in the genealogy area from 10-12 on Saturday to help you with your genealogical challenges. (This program is a drop-in so you don't need to register in advance - but we ask that you register for the other programs, please.)

The final program of the weekend will be a tribute to the great historian Hugh Dempsey, on the publication of his memoirs Always an adventure. In the heritage community Hugh Dempsey is an icon. He has been a great author, advocate and mentor and there will be many people at the Dutton Theatre who want to congratulate him on his exemplary career and his latest publication. Please drop by and offer your best wishes to this legendary historian. (This is also a drop-in program so you really can just pop on by).

Always an adventure by Hugh Dempsey

You can register online at or by calling 403-260-2620.

We hope to see you there.

The Heritage Triangle

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Heritage Triangle

Part of the reason we are so happy to be staying in the East Village is that we will still be smack dab in the middle of a very important group of heritage partners. Some years ago we formalized our association with our near neighbours and history colleagues, the City of Calgary Archives and the Glenbow Museum, Library and Archives. We call ourselves the Heritage Triangle, because within the radius of a couple of blocks there sit three very valuable repositories of information for researchers. (Once we move, the triangle may need to be renamed – maybe we’ll become the Heritage Line or the Heritage Ellipse) In the few years we have been actively collaborating, our affiliation has been very productive. We never hesitate to take advantage of our partners, in the best way of course. Each of us has wonderful and unique stuff and while we may covet just a little, we have also gotten to know the people and the collections so well that we know where to send researchers if we don’t have what they need. This is a very efficient and effective way to operate and it provides a very good service to our customers.

Each of the organizations involved in the triangle has its own different and interesting stuff. Among the Glenbow’s many strengths are an amazing collection of personal papers from individuals and families in Calgary and area, extensive data on Metis genealogy and an unrivalled collection of historic photographs of Calgary and Southern Alberta. They also have an outstanding map collection as well as directories from many different locales. You can visit the Glenbow site and see some of what they have to offer at

Next door to us is the City of Calgary Archives (officially, the City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives.) Their mandate is to acquire, preserve and protect civic documents. Civic documents are the papers of people and departments of the City and its predecessors and organizations and individuals that have a close affiliation with the City. These can be of great value to researchers as they are the primary source materials for the administrative history of the city. The strengths of the City Archives collection include records relating to building research, such as records of tax assessments; records of official representatives of the municipal government such as mayors and aldermen/councilors and a whole swack of documents relating to the Calgary Winter Olympics. You can find the City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives online by going to the new, user friendly City of Calgary website ( and searching for Archives.

We here at Calgary Public Library are the last (but not least) leg of the Heritage Triangle. We have a wonderful collection of material in our Community Heritage and Family History Collection that is just waiting for you to explore. There is great material for historic research in other departments as well, such as our government documents collection on the 3rd floor. Some of the items in our collection are a complete run of Calgary Henderson’s Directories and telephone directories, an extensive collection of local histories of Southern Alberta towns, historic newspapers, a complete collection of Canadian Census on microfilm as well as three great photograph collections, available online through our website. We also have a great staff who are always available to help you – and I can say that for our partners as well, having worked with them as a colleague and as a researcher.

You can see the Heritage Triangle brochure through the link right next to this posting or by going to Do come down and visit us – ignore the construction – we would be delighted to see you.

8th Avenue SE

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1331

Stephen Avenue