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It's Archives Week in Alberta

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

File Cabinet

It is Archives Week in Alberta. It is not widely publicized and many people may shrug and say, “So what?” I know a lot of people think of archives as dreary, black and white kinds of places but they are, in fact, filled with exciting and valuable stuff. The theme this year, Archives in Living Colour, was chosen to draw attention to the fact that archives are more than just dusty repositories for old paper – they are living and vibrant and have relevance for all of us. We’ve all heard the adages about keeping touch with the past – well, archives fulfill that role. They are the, often overlooked, keepers of our history. Just check out their virtual exhibit . It includes images from 23 archives throughout the province including the City of Calgary, Glenbow, the Museum of the Highwood and the Whyte Museum. You will also be able to view virtual exhibits from past Archives Weeks.

In particular, family historians and genealogists should get to know their archives. In addition to keeping documents that are obviously of use to genealogical research, such as older vital event records, church records and census, local archives often collect the papers of people who lived in the area. They also collect information about the area that can include municipal records, including documents relating to land, taxes and businesses. Old newspapers can be found in archives as can employment records. Some archives collect family letters and photographs, and even genealogies and family trees. It pays to know about the archives in the area that your ancestors lived – they can be a treasure trove of valuable information. Here are a few titles to help you find and use archives in Canada:

Archives for genealogists (929.1072 BAR)

Researching Canadian Archival Centres (R929.1072 TAY)

and from our Government Documents collection on the Third Floor here at Central - Heritage institutions published by Statistics Canada (STATS CAN 87F0002)

13th Avenue Looking East

Postcards from the Past, PC 52

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Artist Within: History Under Construction

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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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


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.

Historic Calgary Week, 2011

by Christine Hayes - 3 Comment(s)

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Eighth Avenue West

Postcards from the Past, PC 712f

It’s that time of year again. Chinook Country Historical Society’s Historic Calgary Week kicks off on Friday. This year the theme is Trails and Tales and, believe me, are there ever some great stories waiting to be told. The opening ceremonies are at the Southern Alberta Pioneers Memorial building at 3625 4 Street SW at 9:45 am and what follows is eleven days of tours, stories, presentations, songs and over all celebration of this city’s history. There is an excellent line-up this year including our presentation of “Lest we forget” in which we will talk a little about the military heritage of the city and show you some of the very neat things we have for anyone doing research about the military in Calgary or about an ancestor who served with the military. This one is proving to be quite a challenge for us to pull together because we have SO MUCH STUFF! It’s amazing what you find when you start looking. Even though I’ve been working with the collection for eons (literally, I’m a dinosaur) I always find new bits and pieces when I start one of these projects. Our program goes July 27 at 6:00 here at the Central Library.

Another presentation that I am looking forward to is the talk by Brian Brennan on the history of the Calgary Public Library. Brian has written the history of the library for our centennial celebration next year. I always love to hear Brian talk and the subject of this particular presentation is near and dear to my heart. This presentation is at the Memorial Park Library, our very first Central Library (1221 2nd Street SW) on Tuesday July 26 at 7:00. This is going to be a treat.

There is also going to be a tour of another proud centenarian, our old City Hall. Clint Robertson, one of the city’s Heritage Planners, is going to tell us about the architecture of old sandstone beauty and show us some of the changes that have been made over the years. He will also take us into the City of Calgary Archives. For any of you who are history geeks like me, you have to see what is in the archives. The staff there are the greatest and they have even cooler stuff than we do (well, mostly – our stuff is still pretty cool). City Archives are our partners, along with Glenbow, in the Heritage Triangle (see our brochure) and is a necessary visit for researchers and the history-curious.

John Gilpin will also be giving a talk on the Elbow River and the waterworks question at noon on Monday July 25 at Central United Church. I’ve heard John talk and he is like the Local History Room, just packed with fascinating bits of historical information.

Also on the agenda are two programs for the genealogically inclined offered by the Alberta Family Histories Society at their library at 712 16th Avenue NW. They will be offering a Genealogy 101 course for those interested in getting started in their family history and they will present “Here’s looking up your address” on Thursday July 28 at 7:00.

Clayton Buck, the indefatigable promoter of this great neighbourhood we are in (East Village) is giving a walking tour of the Village on Sunday July 31. The CHA is giving a tour of Mount Royal, CHI is doing a tour of West Connaught and the Beltline, Mount Royal University is talking about its centennial history, Southern Alberta Pioneers are giving talks about some of the early denizens of the Calgary area, Harry Sanders, another fascinating speaker, is talking about his passion, early hotels of Calgary...the list goes on and on. I wish I could list more but I’m running out of space. You really have to check out the Historic Calgary Week brochure. You can find it at Most programs are free, although donations are always gratefully accepted, and most don’t require registration (although there are a few exceptions, due to space limitations – these are noted in the brochure)

Keep an eye out, we will be attending as many of these events as we can fit in – come by and say ‘Hi!’

I.O.D.E. War Memorial in Central Park

Postcards from the Past, PC 1478

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Royal Visits

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at the Calgary Train Station, May 26, 1939

Postcards from the Past, PC 719

It was a very exciting Stampede Parade this year. There hasn’t been this kind of buzz for a very long time. And much of it, I think, was due to the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It was very nice to see this young, royal couple enchanting the crowd and breathing new life into our (nearly) 100 year old celebration.

The excitement raised by this visit reminds me a little of the visit of Wills’s grandparents, Queen Elizabeth, and King George VI. They came to Calgary in May of 1939, just before the world would be changed by the Second World War. Things were looking grim in Europe when the Royal couple came to visit so the city needed it’s spirits lifted. The Royal Visit gave us that. It was an enormous undertaking. Thirty thousand children were brought in to the city from points around Southern Alberta. Each child was given a bottle of milk and lapel pin as well as flags to wave as they greeted the Royals. The city anticipated over 75,000 visitors would come to Calgary, doubling the city’s population. This all for a visit that lasted only two hours.

The itinerary for our royal visitors was jam packed but they managed to squeeze in an unscheduled stop to visit a First Nations encampment at Mewata Park. The said that this was the highlight of their visit. Even though it was not Stampede, the King had asked if it would be possible to witness wild bronc riding. This event had to be scrapped because the enthusiasm of the crowd raised fears that people would panic. There were two chuckwagons on the site, however. It is not known if the King offered to throw a cook stove into the back of one. The Queen remarked to Mrs. Davison, wife of the mayor, “I am only sorry we are not able to see some of your Stampede events in Calgary.”

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The visit was covered minute by minute by the local newspapers. There was also a souvenir programme produced for the event which included a map of the route of the parade and an article by Alexander Calhoun on “Calgary, the garden city of the west.” The schedule shows what should have been a two day visit, but was obviously seriously curtailed. This is in our clippings file “Visits of State” in the Local History room. We also have a number of books relating to the royal visit including one from a railway perspective (the tour was made on a special Royal train.) You can find information about this and all of the other royal visits by searching the catalogue using the words 'visits state canada'.

Souvenir Programme of the Royal Visit

Islands in the Stream - Heritage Roundtable

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Calgary Auto Club Camping Grounds on St. Patrick's Island
Postcards from the Past, PC 1603

The Heritage Roundtable on the 23rd of this month is called “Islands in the stream.” Historians Donna Zwicker and John Gilpin and archaeologist Brian Vivian will talk about the islands that dot the Bow River. Donna has been researching Archer’s Island, which I had never heard of before this. You haven’t either? You should join us at Eau Claire Market Community Room on June 23rd at 7:00.

There are lots of little islands in the Bow. Some have become well known, St. George’s, for example, houses the zoo. Prince’s Island started out as being more of an isthmus until Peter Prince blew a channel in the river to allow for easier passage of logs to his mill. St. Patrick’s island, once well used as a tree farm and then a campground, is undergoing a restoration to its original use as parkland, as part of the revitalization of the East Village. There was also a third “Saint” island, St. Andrew’s (the three islands in the Bow were named for the patron saints of the then United Kingdom, St. George of England, St. Patrick of Ireland and St. Andrew of Scotland. A fourth island, St. David’s for Wales was mentioned but no other evidence can be found of its existence. St. Andrew’s island has since disappeared – the lagoon between it and St. Patrick’s was filled in, effectively making them one island.)

Something I learned in my research on islands is that islands belong to the Federal government (or Dominion government, as it was called at the time of Calgary’s founding). The Calgary had to ask the Dominion government for the right to use these islands. The city was deeded the islands for use as parks.

There is a lot to be learned about the islands in our “stream” so I am looking forward to the Heritage Roundtable event. I hope to see you there. To register for the event by calling 403-244-4111 or online at (just select “Roundtables - Islands in the Stream” from the drop-down menu)

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St. George's Island

Postcards from the Past, PC 1701




Heritage Matters: Calgary's Chinatown

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Chinatown, along Centre Street, 1967

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 0509

We have been very lucky to be the host of some excellent programs in the Heritage Matters series. The next one may be the best yet. On Thursday June 2 during the lunch hour we will be hosting Mr. Victor Mah, the Honorary Chairman, Calgary Cultural Centre and Chinatown Centenary Community Champion.

He will talk to us about the history of Chinatown and the plans for its future development. Our Chinatown is the fourth largest in the country and has been an integral part of the city since the beginning. It has recently celebrated its 100th anniversary – but that was only the anniversary Chinatown in its current location. There has actually been a Chinese area in Calgary since it was a NWMP fort when unemployed railway workers, denied the money to return to China, set up restaurants, grocery stores and laundries roughly where the Glenbow is now.

Calgary’s second Chinatown was on the other side of the railway tracks in the area around 1st Street and 10th Avenue SW. This one didn’t last either. As Calgary boomed in the early part of the 20th century, the railway depot was put up on 9th Avenue SW and the price of land in the area skyrocketed. Because the Chinese were tenants, not owners, they had the land sold out from under them. It was then that the land around Centre Street was purchased by Chinese merchants and the Chinatown we now know and love began to develop. It was not without controversy, however, as the racism that was evidenced in the 1890s during the smallpox epidemic had not diminished. Cooler heads prevailed (the police chief and the medical health officer, for example) and the Chinese were allowed to remain.

This wouldn’t be the only challenge faced by Calgary’s Chinatown, but over the years, it has continued to flourish and today is a vibrant reminder of the Chinese pioneers of Calgary.

So join us in the New and Notable area on the Main Floor of the Central Library at noon on June 2 for Mr. Mah’s presentation. You can register in person, by phone at 403-260-2620 or online at

(You can read about the history of Calgary’s Chinatown in Paul Yee’s book Chinatown: an illustrated history of the Chinese communities of Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary… well as other titles. Find them by searching the catalogue using the terms Chinatown Calgary history)

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Dragon Float in Chinatown, 2008

Judith Umbach Photography Collection, JU 000923-8

Cars, cars, cars!

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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A demonstration by the 100,000 Club, Calgary along Centre Street, ca. 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 1270

Those who know me are aware of my little obsession with cars. I love them (which is a good thing because I am married to a serial collector of weird and wonderful vehicles). We live in a very good place for car addicts because Calgarians love their cars and have since their invention. I suppose it is an extension of the range mentality, the love of horses that still pervades the culture in Calgary.

We went to the first show and shine of the season last week at the Deerfoot Mall. Car aficionados and their vehicles were out in full force. I was reminded (because I am a history geek) of a photo we have in our collection of a very similar exhibition in the early part of the twentieth century. The picture above is of the motor cars of the 100,000 club, a group of city boosters who wanted to see the population of Calgary hit 100,000 by 1915. They put together a number of events to draw attention to the city. Cars, being the novelty they were, were always a good draw.

Tony Cashman, in his book A History of Motoring in Alberta states that Calgarians really embraced the automobile and its attendant clubs because of the lure of Banff. The mountains sat there seemingly at the edge of the city, calling to the intrepid to pack their lunches and head for the town just 85 miles distant. What we didn’t have, however, were the roads on which to travel. Cars need very different surfaces than carts with horses.

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The cars in this picture are, I believe, 29 members of the Calgary Automobile Club preparing for their “motorcade” trip to Banff. The task had been achieved by Norman Lougheed, in his father’s touring car in the summer of 1909. He made it in seven hours with only one flat tire. The Calgary Automobile Club group left at 9:00 am and 25 of the 29 cars had arrived by 4:00 pm. The other four cars had to be left where they broke down.

A trip to Edmonton, which was a very daring proposition, could take several days by car. Add into the mix the lack of service stations (the first garage in Calgary was Calgary Novelty Works who specialized in typewriter and automobile repairs – in the ‘teens it was located just about under where I am sitting right now at the Central Library.)

The car has had a very interesting history in this province. The Community Heritage and Family History Digital library includes many photographs and postcards in which the automobile features prominently. We also have a good collection of books that document our love of motoring. Among them are the Tony Cashman book mentioned above, Roaring Lizzies: a history of Model T Ford racing in Alberta by Kelly Jane Buziak and an official tour book produced by the Alberta Automobile Clubs in the early part of the 20th century.

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Calgary Auto Club Clubhouse, Bowness (formerly the Hextall House)

Postcards from the Past, PC 941

East Village Jane’s Walk is on Saturday

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Calgary Public Market, 3rd Street SE ca 1920s?

Postcards from the Past PC 1375

Well, the day is at hand. We will be starting a Jane’s Walk of the East Village on Saturday May 7 at 10:00 at the Central Library at 616 Macleod Trail SE. Join us on the main floor for introductions and then we will proceed out into the neighbourhood with Walk Leader Clayton Buck, who is a dedicated promoter of this wonderful community of ours. We will also have the opportunity to visit one of our neighbours, the Drop-In Centre, thanks to Jordan Hamilton, from the Centre. We all know that a key risk factor for homelessness is a lack of community. Both Clayton and Jordan are working to build that sense of community here in the Village. I, myself, am very impressed with their efforts. I have worked in the Village for most of my adult life and I can attest to the fact that we now really feel like a community. We are the heart of old Calgary but also the core of the new, hip Calgary. It is a very exciting time to be involved with East Village. Join us on Saturday to get a street level view of what is going on in Calgary’s newest oldest community. (And it looks like the weather will be on our side as well.)

For information click on this link:

There are other walks going on as well. Memorial Park Library in the newly renovated Central Memorial Park is the starting point for “From Sandstone to Skyscrapers” and the Alexander Calhoun Library launches “South Calgary and Marda Loop” led by Harry Sanders and Marje Wing (head of both Memorial Park and Alexander Calhoun libraries) Some of the other neighbourhoods involved are Bowness, Brentwood, Edgemont Ravine, Sunnyside, Hillhurst and Chinatown. There is an edible tour of Inglewood and Ramsay led by Julie van Rosendaal, there is a walk led by Marilyn Williams on “Complete communities by traditional design.” This is just a sampling. Click on this link to get a list of all the walks happening this weekend.

My only regret is that I can’t do them all! See you this weekend.

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East Village from Bow Valley College, 2004

Judith Umbach Photography Collection, JU 041101-25

Do You Remember the Good Old Days?

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Inglewood Community Association in the old Firehall #3, 1960s

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 1273

I was born and raised here, so, even though my memory is fading somewhat, I do have a recollection of my community back in the old days. I lived on the edge of town, just east of Sarcee Trail, in what was then the ‘burbs. We had acres of open space and horses just across the road. I remember our community centre, which doubled as our kindergarten classroom. I remember watching the dads of the community flood the ice for the two rinks we had, one with boards, for the big kids and hockey players, and one without for us little kids. I remember the Summer Fun Fests, with hat contests and bicycle parades. My community is now over 50 years old and so is the Federation of Calgary Communities.

As part of the celebrations, the FCC is putting together a 50th Anniversary Magazine that they would like to fill with stories of your community association. If you were one of those dads flooding the ice, or one of the many volunteers who corralled those kids for a bike parade, the Federation of Calgary Communities wants to hear from you. They are offering participants a number of options to share their stories. You can sign up at The Federation has set up a sequence of dates corresponding to the decade your stories come from. You can see them on the site. If you would prefer, you can schedule a one-on-one conversation, conducted either in person or by phone by contacting Rebecca Dakin at 403- 244-4111 extension 204. You can participate either as a group or individually.

Because I work with a historical collection, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of projects like this. I know that as time progresses, what we lose from the record are the experiences of the participants in the events. When we’re doing research we can usually find dates and statistics and news reports, but what we don’t have are the stories of those who were there, and in many cases, this is what we really want to know. So I urge anyone who has volunteered for their community association at any time to participate in this project. It’s your stories that make history.

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Bridgeland Riverside Community Association, 2005

Judith Umbach Photography Collection, JU 051008-9

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