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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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