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Heritage Matters with Mayor Naheed Nenshi

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Clock tower

Well, it is a New Year and boy what a year it is going to be. One hundred years ago Calgary was riding the crest of a boom that would make us the city we are today. Many organizations are celebrating their 100th anniversaries and heritage is really on people’s minds. That said, we are proud to once again be hosting Heritage Matters. Any of you who have attended these programs, offered jointly by the Calgary Heritage Authority, City of Calgary Land Use, Planning and Policy and the Calgary Public Library, will know how valuable these meetings can be. We have had a wide range of speakers at these programs and every last one of them has given their audience something to take home and mull over.

Our first Heritage Matters program of this year is going to be no different. It will feature our own Mayor Nenshi. We will meet in the John Dutton Theatre on the second floor of the Central Library at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday March 8. It looks like it is going to be a very interactive kind of meeting so bring your questions and your opinions and join us. We always have fun at the Heritage Matters programs and the networking opportunities are unrivalled (and we serve refreshments). So drop in and see us. No need to register in advance.

King Edward School

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

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King Edward School (with the west wing intact) 1967

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 0458

One of my favourite places is in the news again and I am so happy to hear that not only is the building going to be preserved, it is going to be turned into an arts incubator and community groups. The building was purchased by cSPACE (the art space development arm of Calgary Arts Development) and will be transformed under the guidance of cSPACE president Reid Henry, whose presentation on the Wychwood Bus Barns project in Toronto at the Lion Awards in 2010 was an inspiration to all of us. Have a look at what can be done with some inspiration and innovation. http://www.torontoartscape.on.ca/places-spaces/artscape-wychwood-barns

The idea of an arts incubator is rather cutting edge for a city whose culture was once unfavourably compared to yogurt (What is the difference between Calgary and yogurt? Yogurt has a culture!) Many of us who have been here our whole lives always knew that there was an exciting and vibrant arts scene in the city; it was just a question of giving it a home. And the new King Edward development will do that by providing live, work, studio, and gallery space for artists, groups and community organizations

King Edward school is one of the plethora of sandstone schools that were built in the heady times just before the first war (1912, again!) The influx of people into the city had strained the school system to the breaking point. King Edward was built on the west edge of the city to accommodate what would surely be the huge population that was going to grow into the newly annexed lands. No one could have known that expansion would halt and it would be well into the 50s before the city grew much farther to the west.

The school was built from locally quarried sandstone – the quarrymen’s kids would have been some of the students there. The first principal of the school was William Aberhart. And, I must add, that one of the last teachers there was my mom, who taught junior high there at the end of her career. It was fitting, in a way, because King Edward School was actually one of the first to offer a special ‘junior high school’ program in 1931. It was so successful that it became standard throughout Alberta in 1935. Until then students were either in elementary or high school. The second floor of the school was turned into a Normal School during the war, with many teachers being granted emergency teaching certificates after four months of training, a measure designed to address the urgent need for teachers.

I am delighted that this beautiful old school will be preserved and turned into something marvelous. I am anticipating great things for this development.

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Some (Other) Calgary Schools, ca 1910s

Postcards from the Past, PC 853

Research for Writers

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Filing cabinet

To my surprise and delight I was asked to present at our annual Writers’ Weekend which was held on February 4. I presented “Historical Research for Writers” to a very surprising (to me, at least) crowd of 125 people who were all eager to find out where all the good stuff is stashed. As is usual with me, I was set off on a tangent thinking about the authors who have worked in our Local History room.

I remember when Will Ferguson, author of a number of books (all available at the Calgary Public Library) had his first “office” in the local history room. While working on Canadian History for Dummies, he stored his computer (kind of a joke to call it a laptop) in the Local History workroom. He tells the story in a Swerve magazine article. You can read it here and see a picture of him in the room.

We have also recently hosted Brian Brennan, who was researching and writing the official history of the Calgary Public Library, which will be released in April (to celebrate the “official” opening of the new library in 1912). I’m looking forward to this one, because Brian is such an inspiring storyteller and what I’ve seen of the book seems to me to be his finest work yet.

We also provided research assistance for Katherine Govier, whose protagonist in the book Between Men becomes obsessed with the story of Rosalie New Grass, a Cree woman who was brutally murdered in 1889. Rosalie’s tragic story is true and Ms Govier researched the case in the Local History room. Our copy of Between Men is signed “with gratitude” for the assistance she received on her project from our staff.

As I mentioned, the Writers’ Weekend was a huge success and I was chuffed to see the crowd that came out to hear about research. Nothing turns me off a piece of writing quicker than an error. (Well, bad dialogue comes a very close second). Where the work is fiction or non-fiction, good, solid research always has a place. We are very lucky to be able to meet and assist authors with their projects. We have helped with fairly modest publications, such as family histories, and with some major projects, such as the upcoming history of the library. We are always delighted to be able to assist – it is an opportunity for us to show off our wonderful collections and we always learn something new. What I guess I am trying to say is that you should all come down and visit us and see what weird and wonderful things you can dig up.

Local History Room

Heritage in Calgary

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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Storytime at Calgary Public Library, 1915

Calgary Public Library Archives - Our Story in Pictures, 103-15-01

Well, I told you it was going to be a doozy and it really was! The last Heritage Roundtable meeting was one for the books! We had a phenomenal turnout of around 140 people to hear Professor Don Smith, Stampede archivist Aimee Benoit and author Brian Brennan talk about Calgary in 1912. Thanks to the Calgary Public Library Foundation for loaning us their space which is on the second storey of the beautiful Memorial Park library. The venue was perfect. The area had once housed a lecture hall and the Museum Room and it wasn’t hard to imagine the display cabinets in the space.

It felt like the entire Calgary heritage population turned out. I saw many familiar faces and loads of new folk as well. One of the presenters joked that if a disaster struck, Calgary would have lost much of its heritage community!

Heritage Roundtable

Just a sampling of the crowd (those lucky enough to have found seats!)

Heritage Roundtable - Calgary in 1912, January 2012

And the speakers! Oh my goodness. Calgary was an exciting place in 1912, and all three speakers really drove home the excitement and energy that people must have felt. The optimism was unbounded. Aimee had pictures of the Duke of Connaught and Princess Patricia at the first Stampede. That was a very big deal. By 1912 we were already celebrating a way of life that had mostly passed but we celebrated it in a way that acknowledged the importance of that past, while at the same time it celebrated the exuberance that would be Calgary’s future (or so we thought). The population of the city exploded, as pointed out by Professor Smith, from ….. in the 1901 census to …… in the 1911 census. The city was annexing land at an alarming pace, to keep up with the future that would surely bring the population to….by the 1920s. And visionary men, like Alexander Calhoun, our first chief librarian, would bring culture to the masses from the beautiful “educational edifice” that was the new Central Library.

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Museum Room at Calgary Public Library, 1912

Calgary Public Library Archives - Our Story in Pictures, 103-26-01

As Calgarians, we know from experience what the next step in a scenario like this is, don’t we? The bounding optimism is always followed by a healthy dose of reality, and by 1914 all this had changed. But Calgarians then, as now, kept a little kernel of that optimism alive in their hearts. I don’t know if it is coded in our DNA or if we somehow breathe it in with the Chinook air, but we always manage to hang on ‘til the next boom – we can see it coming.

I was speaking with an author whose work and insight on Calgary’s psyche I very much admire, and he said that the real story of Calgary could be told by looking at 1913, and I understand what he means. It is what makes us what we are, how we deal with the inevitable busts that follow our booms. I’m hoping that he will deliver just such a story to us in the near future.

But for the time being we are going to celebrate that marvelous year that gave us the Memorial Park Library, the Stampede and the Grand Theatre, just to name a few. We are busy planning for Historic Calgary Week and this year's event promises to be bigger and better than ever. Keep watching this space!

University of Calgary Staff and Students in from of Calgary Public Library, 1912

Calgary Public Library Archives, 103-05-01

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