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We have a Historian Laureate!

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

Historian Laureate

Harry Sanders is our Historian Laureate

Scott Jolliffe, Chair CHA, Harry Sanders, Alderman Druh Farrell

Photo courtesy Judith Umbach

I was delighted to be able to attend the crowning of Calgary’s first Historian Laureate. Being a long-time Calgary native, I have watched the attitudes of administration toward the preservation and celebration of heritage develop over the years from an almost personal animosity toward old buildings (think Rod Sykes being attacked by the Burns Building) to today’s understanding of the value of preserving the past. Our new laureate is a person who has spent his entire adult life bringing heritage to the people and interpreting it for them through his own, passionate view. Harry Sanders makes history meaningful. In his hands, heritage is a living thing, a story of everyday people – the people who make this city great.

Part of the investiture ceremony was a poetry slam. Our other laureate, Kris Demeanor, Calgary’s first Poet Laureate (and believe me, when I was growing up, studying literature at university, the idea that the city of Calgary, Capitalist Calgary, would ever have a poet laureate would have provoked gales of laughter in all of the cement and steel towers that line our streets) wrote and delivered a challenge – one that Calgarians have long been debating – what use is history?

With his permission, here is Kris’s throw down:

Okay, I know it’s not in the Calgary tradition of niceness and politeness, but I cannot hold my peace!

I don’t care about Guy Weadick’s rope and release any more than I do the fathers of Greece

It’s old news and we all know that’s only fit for wrapping fish and chips

Look, nothing against Harry, I’m sure he’s a wealth of facts colourful, sublime, astounding and scary,

But let me save you all two years of talk of beaver pelt hats and ‘That used to be a nunnery!’

And give you a quick and easy summary of all you need to know about history

PERSONAL: You are the genetic union of a mother and father, they gave you food and water, you grew, learnt a bunch of stuff, most of it useless, you got a job and barbecue.

THE WORLD: Big Bang, plants, fish, caveman, hominid, ice age, Egypt, Rome, Aztecs, war war war war war, Bible, Genghis Khan, Da Vinci, Queen Victoria, war, war, war, Einstein, guy in Hummer with a baseball cap and GI Joe facial hair, there, DONE.

History teaches us nothing, we have always just been bluffing our way from one grand embarrassment to another- we don’t look at letters from our last lover, or replay the video reel of us throwing up at the school dance or failing math.

Let our collective insecurity and shame over the past lead the way to a brighter tomorrow full of wisdom we don’t need to borrow. All I could learn from my forefathers and foremothers is how to stoke a coal stove and churn my own butter, and I don’t want to do that.

I don’t want to imagine a world without frozen pizza, omnipresent technology and direct flights to Cuban all-inclusives for five hundred dollars.

Look, Harry will claim that history is interesting, but when I look back I see buffalo carcasses stacked, endless trains rolling down endless track, dust, snowstorms, scarlet fever and clothing with colour choices ranging from beige to brown, look around, we’re surrounded by concrete, glass, GPS, pubs with seven beers from Belgium and full of people looking forward, ahead, and into the future, why go back or even stay in neutral, sure maybe the Marx Brothers played here, but I can get the latest and greatest sent straight from a satellite and into my ear.

History? Two weeks of the retro kitsch of Stampede is all I need to feel connected to folk of old who found themselves stuck in this cold, harsh land, I’m burning my brand into the hide of this city with a laser.

I’ve been here since birth, and trust me, we’ve long since paved over anything worth unearthing. Harry, good luck putting flesh on the past, but you’re going to run out of fodder fast!

So, though tongue-in-cheek, this does raise the question – What value is there in the past? Harry’s job as historian laureate will be to answer this question, which he did, in verse, no less:

Poetry may be the more universal art

Some things are best said in verse

But a forgotten poem is never repeated

So forgetting our history is worse

Those we follow inform who we are

Crowfoot, Macleod, Weadick, Edworthy

They’re with us still, for good or ill

Daily, we’re shaped by our history

So, it is a great honour to have a small part

In celebrating this 100th anniversary

I pledge to remind you all of our shared past

As Historian Laureate of Calgary

I know that Harry will continue to answer the question in his own inimitable style. Way to go, Harry!

Poet Laureate and Historian Laureate

Poet Laureate Kris Demeanor asks the Question "What's so great about history?"

Photo courtesy Judith Umbach

The Times they are a Changin'

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Library and Archives Canada

Genealogists and local historians are people who love heritage – that is an obvious statement, I think. Genealogists and local historians are also people who understand the value of heritage and of the documents and artifacts that constitute that heritage. Here at the Calgary Public Library we put requests in for documents that are sometimes arcane, sometimes bizarre, but always valuable in the pursuit of our history. We often request these items from our national “memory keeper” Library and Archives Canada.

Changes are taking place at Library and Archives Canada, though, and they may have an effect on how we are able to access those documents that are so important to our research. Proposals for trimming the budget include reducing hours of service in the Library and Archives itself and ending LAC’s role in the national interlibrary loan program. There are also changes being made to what LAC will acquire and hold and who will be responsible for protecting the documents in the care of the national repository. These changes may have far reaching effects on those of us who rely on our national library to have and hold the literary output of our country.

Anyone who works in a library and most of you who use our library are aware that the way libraries do what they do will have to change. Library and Archives Canada has been noticing a decrease in in-person visits, with a corresponding upsurge in the use of their website. And, to be fair, the changes proposed for Library and Archives Canada do include the potential for increased digitization of the holdings that are most accessed. What scares many of us genealogists is that we remember what happened with the last technological advance in document management, the evil microfilm. While we are glad that we have it (it is virtually indestructible) we are leery of what happens with the originals once the copy is made. In the case of census records and passenger lists, once the microfilming was completed, the originals were destroyed. For most of the collection that is fine but there are several dozen reels that are filmed very badly, are basically unreadable, and we have no recourse to the original. Now, I understand why destroying the census originals seemed like a good idea at the time. The books were large and hard to store, old paper requires special care and a special environment. Getting rid of these things might have seemed like a great cost-cutting measure. I’m not sure it was.

These changes are going to have effects in the future that we can’t even begin to foresee. While changes do need to be made in all libraries we need to consider the LAC as a special case. They are not just any other library and their role as the collector and protector of the country’s documentary heritage needs to be recognized as a pillar on which we can build the future. We will never maintain the greatness of this country by dismantling the past.

If you are interested in developments at Library and Archives Canada, you can visit our E-Library under Newspapers and read the papers in Newspaper Direct Press Display. You can read up on the cuts in a number of Canadian newspapers by entering a search in the text box at the top of the page.

Attestation Paper from LAC

World War I Attestation Paper from Library and Archives Canada Collection

Inspiring Life Stories

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Inspiring Life Stories

I know you’re probably tired of my rambling on and on about our 100th birthday, but I am sooooo excited (and I just can’t hide it). So many cool things will be going on connected with our birthday that we are guaranteed to have the best year yet. And the event that I was most excited about will be happening on May 17 when our own history book Calgary Public Library: Inspiring Life Stories since 1912 will be publically launched. Because it is a book about our history and I work in the history area of the library, my colleagues and I were involved (in varying degrees) in some of the research for this book. And we were privileged to have the author, Brian Brennan, working in our local history area.

You may think that a book about the history of a library may not exactly be your cup of tea, but when you think about it, the library is central to the life of a community. It is a meeting place, a place where you can come to learn, to have fun, to just hang out. That is what a good library should strive to be. And I think we are a great library. The story of the library is the story of our city, it is our story, so please join us on May 17 at the place where it all began, the magnificent Memorial Park Library (Click here for a link to the information about the program) . You will be able to buy a copy of the book and have it signed by the author. Or you can purchase the book on www.goodread.ca - Your Library Store. All proceeds from the sale of the book support the Calgary Public Library Foundation.

As I mentioned, the book launch is only one of a huge number of programs that will be offered to celebrate our 100th. You can check out what is going on at the Celebrate our Centennial cpl100.ca section of our website. There will be birthday parties, the Annie Davidson Lecture Series, Community Gardens and on and on. You can also check out our archive photographs in “Our Story in Pictures” also available at the cpl100.ca site. It is going to be a great year – please come and be a part of it.

CPL 103-22-01Our Stories in Pictures, cpl 103-22-01

Interesting blogs for genealogists

by Christine H - 3 Comment(s)

Blog

Since I write a blog, I like to read blogs by other people and organizations. (Any of you who have attended my “Cool Internet Tools for Genealogists” have heard my confessions about my never-ending blog list). So when I come across something new, I like to spread the word. So it was very big news for me that Library and Archives Canada is piloting a new blog < http://thediscoverblog.com/> This site is going to be a goldmine for Canadian genealogists. Library and Archives Canada is our essentially our ‘national memory’. They collect information on the country and its people. The resources it holds are extensive and includes materials that every genealogist needs. For example, you want to find an obituary for Uncle Joe who died in a small town in Saskatchewan. You think there might be a newspaper but for the life of you, you can’t find it in Google News or any of the other online sources. Calgary Public Library doesn’t have it so what do you do? Well, you can hire a researcher to find the obit, you can ask the local library if they will do a lookup for you or you can check the Library and Archives “Canadian Newspapers” database to find out what the newspaper for the small town in Saskatchewan was called, see if it is available from them on microfilm and place an interlibrary loan request for the appropriate date through your local branch. How would you know that? Well, it’s in the LAC blog.

Or say you want to order a copy of your grandfather’s military service record. Can you do that? Yes you can and the LAC Blog tells you how. I suggest that every person who is researching Canadian genealogy have a look at this blog. I am so glad that they launched it because every time I show a new genealogist the wealth of information held by LAC, they are astonished. And the blog provides a great introduction to not just what is in the collection, but also how to get at the information in the collection. Did you know that if you need a copy of a document and ask for a digital version, you are helping to build the digital collection at LAC? Whenever it is possible, LAC repurposes the digitized image for their online collection. So, you help yourself and others at the same time. How could this be any better?

So, while we’re on the topic of archives and blogs, I want to introduce you to the Smithsonian Archives blog. http://siarchives.si.edu/blog/start-new-year-right-tips-archives (I warned you about my blog addiction). Most people have heard of the Smithsonian. It is a huge collection of museums, archives, galleries, and research institutions which are known the world over. What I know about the Smithsonian is that when I am looking for information on the preservation of data in its various formats, I turn to them. They are world leaders in the field and, best of all, they make the information available to the public in terms anyone can understand. The posting that the link above will lead you to is particularly pertinent to people who collect things (as most genealogists do). It gives pointers on how to organize and preserve the “stuff” that has become part of our lives including digital photographs and email. It also has links to other blogs that discuss similar topics as well as a link to the Smithsonian’s Flickr feed which includes some stunning photographs ranging from hatching frigate birds to exploding stars. So, Happy New Year – now get back to work on your family tree!

News for French Canadian Genealogy Researchers

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

Front page of Tanguay

Front page of Tanguay's Dictionnaire généalogique ...

Ancestry.com recently announced that they have added a very valuable resource to their collection. The Dictionnaire généalogique des familles canadiennes depuis la fondation de la colonie jusqu'à nos jours by Father Cyprien Tanguay is the resource for people researching French Canadians. It is often called just “Tanguay” (a sure indication that it is important!) and includes information about the founding families of French Canada.

In its paper incarnation Tanguay is 7 volumes plus supplement (it sits in our genealogy collection at 929.3714 TAN). It is the product of a lifetime of research and data collection by Fr. T. whose passion for genealogy led him to archives and churches in Quebec, the Maritimes, Ontario and the U.S. The result is a massive collection of pedigrees that, in some cases, takes the families back to their place of origin in France.

This collection is arranged by the surname of the male head of the family and can include dates and places for major life events as well as the names of children and their spouses. The collection is, of course, in French, so searches should be in that language. And, as with any compilation on this scale, there can be errors, but it is still one of the best resources for French Canadian research. And the nice thing about the collection as it appears in Ancestry is that there is a transcription of the page. This can be very helpful when looking at documents such as this one that were published in the 19th Century. The print isn’t always as clear as we would like. Its availability as a database also means that you will be able to search all the names in an entry, not just the head of household’s.

Ancestry also has several other great resources for searching French Canadian roots, including the Drouin collection (see, another source known only by the compiler’s name). These databases can be accessed through the library subscription to AncestryLE at any branch of the Calgary Public Library.

We also have other great non-database resources for those researching their French Canadian ancestors including an index to Quebec land grants, the Drouin collection on CR-ROM, the aforementioned Tanguay in paper form, as well as a number of very good guides to doing French Canadian research, including Miller’s Manual. 1886560471 You can find them in the catalogue by searching ‘Quebec genealogy.’

Le Pere Lacombe

Postcards from the Past, PC 1597

PC 1597

The Times (and our Website) They are a' Changin'

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 947

Cecil Hotel, 1912

Postcards from the Past PC 947

You’ve probably noticed by now that we have changed our website. Moving to a new website is very similar to moving to a new house. Stuff gets moved around. If you’re here, you have already found where the blogs are living. The new website puts the newest blog entries, no matter which blog they are from, at the top of the list. For the others you can click on the “Blogs” heading and you will see a list of all of them.

Another thing that has changed is the location of our digital library link. It used to be on the Calgary Public Library front page and was available from the Community Heritage and FamilyHistory blog as well. Now to find it you need to click on the link Books and More, where we’re listed in the main menu and in the menu along the left side of the page. As well, if you’re checking out some databases in the E-Library, there is a link to Community Heritage and Family History on the left hand side. The link will take you to the digital library and the blog.

AJ 83 14

Burns Block, 1964

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 83-14

Once you go the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library you will see that we have changed that a bit, too. You can still find all the great pictures from the Alison Jackson and Judith Umbach collections and Postcards from the Past, but the interface is a little easier to use and offers some options that we didn’t have before. You will see that you can browse thumbnails of each set of pictures without having to leave the landing page. Click on the arrows to advance the images and get an idea of what is in each collection. You can view larger images by clicking on the name of the collection you want to view and using the arrows to roll the pictures back and forth. You will also see a list of new additions to the collection, on the right side of the page. (You can also subscribe to the RSS feeds and be notified of any updates. )

When you’re in the home page for each collection, you can perform a search which will limit your results to that set of pictures only. Also notice that if you want to narrow your search, there is the capacity to search within your results. If at this point, you want to change your search, though, you will have to change the drop-down menu beside the search box to “New Search.” (I found that one out by accidentJ)

The advanced search has also been upgraded to allow a lot more search parameters to be entered such as date, format or photographer just to name a few. This is a vast improvement and allows you to home in on the image you are looking for. This makes our wonderful pictures much more accessible and now you have no excuse not to look at the great stuff we have in our digital collection. Give it a whirl!

JU Photo

York Hotel, before the removal of the facade, 2006

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

Update on St. Patrick’s Church

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

St. Patrick

St. Patrick's Church, 1956

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 08-16

I was thrilled to receive an email from a colleague who is involved with the St. John Chrysostom Russian Orthodox Church. This is a relatively new parish, which was founded in 2008. The partner church of St. Patrick’s, the Anglican St. Paul’s, offered the parish a home in their restored little church but the St. John’s parish kept growing and has outgrown the little church. The very good news is that the Catholic diocese has given the members of St. John’s permission to rehabilitate the church and use it for an extended period. This is very good news. They have been in contact with the Historic Places Research and Designation Program and are very keen to get to work on restoring the church.

St. Patrick’s was the cause of much despair in the heritage community. It has been neglected for many years and was at very high risk of falling into “demolition by neglect” or of being burned down by vandals. The little church had the dubious distinction of being on Canada’s 10 most endangered buildings list in 2008 in spite of the fact that it had been designated a provincial historic resource. There were many heroic efforts made to do something to save the building, which had been the parish of Father Lacombe from 1909 (or 1906 in some accounts) until his death in 1916. As recently as March, concerns were being raised about the future of the building (see our previous posting at https://calgarypubliclibrary.com/blogs/community-heritage-and-family-history?m=201103&p=815)

With the news from the Russian Orthodox community we can all breathe a little easier. If you are interested in finding our more about this project, you can contact the parish at (403) 257-4899 with your questions or to offer your support. There is also a Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=14452251805&v=wall) and a YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C071VJJPAD8) with more pictures and information.

Grafitti on the interior walls of St. Patrick

Cleaning St. Patrick

Parish members removing grafitti from the interior of St. Patrick's Church

Courtesy the Parish of St. John Chrysostom

RETROactive - a New Heritage Blog

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

JU 20060101025130

Barnhart Apartments, 1121 6th Street SW

Designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1996

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

Alberta’s Historic Places Stewardship Program has a new blog. It is called RETROactive: Blogging Alberta’s Historic Places and covers all the activities of the Historic Places Program including the research and designation program, the Alberta Main Street program, the conservation advisory program and the geographical names program, among others. These are the folks who evaluate and designate sites for historic significance. Their blog can help us understand the process of evaluation, answer questions about conservation and make us aware of some very neat places in our province. It’s a great blog for anyone interested in history, owners of historic properties, and explorers of this great province of ours. Some recent postings have been about three new historic designations, (McDonald Stopping House in Smoky Lake County, the Red Brick School in Didsbury and the West Canadian Collieries site in Crowsnest) including information about their significance to Alberta History, an entry about place names in Alberta, and an article about the village of Holden. Of course, because this is a blog, you can post your own stories about the sites they cover, or add your comments to the discussion of heritage in the province. They also have a link to their photographs (and they are quite beautiful) on Flickr so you can see what some of these places look like.

You can visit this blog at http://albertashistoricplaces.wordpress.com/ and sign up for an email subscription or click on the link to their Facebook page and follow them that way. However you do it, this is a valuable resource for people who have an interest in Alberta’s history.

AJ 0153

Charles Ora Card Home, 337 Main Street, Cardston

Designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1978

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 0153

Heritage Matters

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 34-04

CNR Station Decorated for Queen's Visit, July 1959

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 34-04

I was delighted to read that the City of Calgary won honourable mention for the Prince of Wales Prize for Municipal Heritage Leadership at the Heritage Canada Foundation conference in St. John's on Saturday October 2. According to the Heritage Canada Foundation: For the second time since the inception of the Prince of Wales Prize, the jury made a unanimous decision to award an Honourable Mention to the City of Calgary, where efforts to develop policies and plans that favour the conservation of the city's built heritage have been ongoing for 30 years. This is quite an honour for a city as young as Calgary and that, in decades past, has had lovers of old buildings tearing their hair out. We have come a long way.

The City was nominated by the Calgary Heritage Initiative to acknowledge the progress has been made including the passage and ongoing implementation of the Calgary Heritage Strategy. Congratulations in particular to the City of Calgary's heritage staff, and to City Council for its growing support of heritage. Keep up the good work!

And if you’re interested in just how this honour was achieved, come down to the Central Library for our program Heritage Matters: Historic Preservation the Cowboy Way. On Friday October 22 at 5:30 pm, the City of Calgary’s Senior Heritage Planner, Darryl Cariou, will give a talk about heritage preservation in Calgary including some of the successes, some of the failures and some of the ongoing and unique challenges facing those involved in the business of evaluating and protecting Calgary’s built heritage. You can register for the program online at calgarypubliclibrary.com (click on programs), in person at your local branch or by telephone at 403-260-2620.

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Paget Hall, 1965

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection AJ 1045

Museum of the Highwood

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 78-19

High River CPR Station, 1963

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection AJ 78 19

In a sad and ironic twist of fate, while we were celebrating Historic Calgary week, a much valued and beloved historic site was suffering. The Museum of the Highwood, in High River, was damaged by a fire which started in the early hours of Wednesday July 28. Thankfully, the fire was contained to the roof and attic of the structure. The collections were damaged slightly by smoke and water but archival material and photographs, stored in a vault, were unaffected. Members of the museum and archives community in Alberta pitched in with residents of High River to give their time and expertise to rescuing the collections.

PC 604

The Museum is housed in the old High River train station which has a connection to Calgary. In order to build the Palliser Hotel, the two existing station buildings which comprised what was the third Calgary CPR station would need to be removed. In order to do that a new station was built and the two smaller sandstone buildings dismantled. One would provide the material for the station at Claresholm and the other for the new station at High River. Interestingly, both stations are now being used as museums.

We are lucky to have photographs of the two train stations while they were still in use as stations. These photos are from the Alison Jackson collection and date from the late 1950s or early 1960s. Alison was correct in her assessment that these buildings might one day be under threat of demolition.

The Imperial Limited Arriving in Calgary, 1909

Postcards from the Past PC 604

Railway stations were being demolished in startling numbers as passenger train traffic declined. The efforts by the communities of High River and Claresholm have preserved an important piece of the history of the railroad in Western Canada. In far too manyplaces, the old stations were lost.

AJ 86 12

Claresholm Train Station, 1965

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection AJ 86 12

For readers interested in the history of the building (and demolition) of stations across Canada, there is a great book in our BSSS collection called The train doesn’t stop here anymore: an illustrated history of railway stations in Canada by Ron Brown We also have a great collection of books relating to the railway and its role in the west in our Community Heritage and Family History collection here at the Central Library. One of my favourites is a description of the workings of the Calgary Depot by Ross Taylor, who worked there for many years. The book is called Through these doors: a look at the workings of the Canadian Pacific Railroad Calgary Depot, 1940-1966. It is a wonderful collection of memories, photographs and drawings that give a behind-the-scenes look at life in the Calgary station.

In addition to the books, we have a great collection of photographs and postcards in the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library, accessible on the left hand side of this page. You can use the search terms “railway” and “railroad” and “train” to find hundreds of railway related pictures. Have a look. And remember, if you are a railway buff, or if your family, like mine, came out to work on the railway in the west, we have lots of very interesting stuff here. Drop in and see us sometime.

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