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The Map

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

PC 712 eFire Headquarters 1930s

I spent part of my day off at a presentation at the Firefighter’s Museum listening to the story of “The Map.” During the clean out of the civil defense bunker at Shaganappi, a huge map was discovered. It was one of those pull down maps, like we all had in our classrooms back in the day, but this one was very special. It is a map of the city of Calgary used by the Fire Department in its headquarters (see the postcard above). It indicates all of the fire stations and the call boxes and measures 12 x 9 feet. It had been lying in water and was quite badly damaged but because it is such a vital record of the city’s history, a paper conservator, Lee Churchill, was hired to restore it to its former glory.

I work with maps in the local history room, but I have never seen one like this. First off, it is the largest map I have ever seen. It is larger than some of the rooms in my house. In order to open it to work on it, Lee has spread it across nine of those ubiquitous folding utility tables (with several layers of underlayment to protect it of course). There are districts on the map that I have never heard (Bryn Mawr Place? Harlem?) and it has red dots marking the location of all the fire alarm call boxes. It is a very cool thing, and Calgary Public Library got a mention as one of the sources tapped to try to determine the age of the map.

The talk was very interesting. When I started in the local history area of the library I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a paper conservator, and Lee’s talk about the process of paper conservation really opened my eyes to the delicacy and precision (and patience) that the job requires. Also, because this was the inaugural session of “Conversations in the Kitchen” we were treated to Newfoundland Toutons, courtesy of our presenter. For me it was the best day possible: old maps, a museum and food. My thanks and deep admiration go out to all of the staff and volunteers at the Firefighter’s Museum. What a wonderful place you have. To find out more about the museum, you can visit their website. Lee is also keeping a blog about the process of restoring the map.

 

PC 936Cappy Smart on the Webb Car

Maps, maps, maps

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Calg 4

Calgary, NWT, 1884

Community Heritage and Family History Map Collection CALG 4

In passing, in an earlier blog, I mentioned that we are undertaking a project which will digitize parts of the collection of maps that is held in the Community Heritage and Family History room. We have been looking forward to this day for a very long time, as maps are such great resources, but such awkward things to use. They are even more awkward to store, and this sometimes makes accessing them a bit of a fight. (Not that the fight isn’t worth it!)

Well, with our new project, cranky maps are going to be a thing of the past. We have digitized a small number of early Calgary maps, but, and this is a way better thing for a library-geek, we have entered the information on all of our maps, even the ones that aren’t digitized, into the database as well. What this means is that the entire collection can be searched by keyword and the date of the map shows up as well. This is a vast improvement over trying to find the maps by looking at the red duo-tang which held the list of maps (in no particular order) or by browsing the collection, which didn’t work either, as more than half the collection is not in the map cabinet at the front of the room. (I told you they were awkward to store!)

The upshot is that we hope to see many more users of our map collection and many more requests for particular maps. In my last blog entry I talked about how important maps can be to genealogists. Aside from the directory maps of rural areas, which include names of landowners, maps can tell their stories about the place and the people. When we do tours of the local history room for schools, I like to show a wonderful map we have from 1913 (the Harrison & Ponton map of the city – which is digitized on the site) and point out the wonderful names of the districts of Calgary: Deer Park, Silver Heights, Poplar Grove, and the location of the proposed university, just west of the Banff Motor Coach Road. This map tells a story about Calgary and the people in it. We were coming off one of the greatest booms in our history; we had annexed miles of land and laid out neighbourhoods for the coming population boom. We were determined to be a city of substance. We were going to have a university, just on the western edge of the city. So what happened? We don’t have a Silver Heights or a Poplar Bluff, or a Happyland for that matter. And we know that the university isn’t west of the Banff Coach Road. Well, just as we are today, we were a city with our eyes on the future. But the future was going to be a little further off than we thought, because by 1913 the boom that we are celebrating this year, with all the building that occurred in 1912, had bust. The city did not grow to be the huge, sprawling metropolis that we had anticipated in the early part of the 20th century. This is the story behind the map.

So, check out our map collection and let us know what you think. You can post a comment at the bottom of the page. And when you’ve found the map you’d like to see, come down and visit us on the 4th floor of the Central Library. We would love to take you on a tour of our delightful (yes, now it is delightful) map collection.

Where, Exactly, is Balaclava Heights?

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Map, 1907

Detail from a 1907 map of Calgary

Community Heritage and Family History Collection

Maps are very useful tools for navigation but they can also speak volumes about the history of a city. The Community Heritage and Family History room at the Central Library has a great collection of historical maps. I love to use the maps to illustrate our stories of the history of Calgary's development. You can see times of extreme optimism as in the map that accompanied the 1913 Henderson's directory. The city looks enormous. New subdivisions have sprung up all around the perimeter of the city. Districts like The Bronx, Harvetta Heights, The Nimmons Subdivision and Balaclava Heights. What is fascinating is that none of these places actually existed. The map, however, shows residential lots and roads and other fascinating features. What this map represents are the dreams and aspirations of Calgary's boosters and its real estate developers. The reality was that Calgary was facing one of its infamous busts and though the city's promoters would have liked to create these wonderful neighbourhoods, the economy would just not support it (doesn't sound familiar, does it?)

To highlight some of the interesting maps in our collection, we have mounted a display in the windows of the Local History Room on the 4th floor of the Central Library. Next time you're walking by have a peek in and see some of this cartographic history of our fair city.