Papa’s Babies: The Brook Family and the First World War

Thank you to our guest author Ashley Henrickson for this interesting post. Ashley is a M.A. student at the University of Lethbridge and the Museum Educator at the Galt Museum and Archives. Her research examines the experiences of young people living in the Canadian Prairies whose fathers or brothers served overseas during the First World War. Ashley received the Roger Soderstrom Scholarship in 2017. The funds from this scholarship allowed her to visit archives across Alberta and present her research at “Children, Youth, and War,” a symposium hosted by the University of Georgia.

A never-ending cycle of children, chores, and neighbors cut through Isabelle Brook’s home, constantly interrupting the letters she wrote at her kitchen table. Isabelle apologized for her “jumbled up” proses as she paused to prepare dinner, answer the door, or tend to her busy children: “Alice is here wiggling around like a little eel, so I must quit”; “Gordon is wakening up I must go”; “Glen’s upset the ink over the table cloth now.” The constant movement suggests that life for Isabelle and her five children may have been lonely without their father, but it was not dull.

The hundreds of “jumbled up” letters that Isabelle wrote from her kitchen table in Craigmyle, Alberta, are a valuable and vibrant record of Alberta’s past. She sent these letters to her forty-five-year-old husband, Sidney Brook, who served on the Western Front with the Canadian Expeditionary Force from 1916-1918. In response Sidney sent hundreds of letters to his family, which were preserved alongside Isabelle’s by their descendants and then donated to the Glenbow Archives. The Brook’s collection is especially valuable because very few letters sent from families living in Alberta to soldiers serving overseas have survived to the modern day. This is because soldiers, like Sidney, were constantly moving across the Western Front and had to carry all their personal belongings with them. This forced them to destroy all but a few precious letters that they could fit in their pocket.

Letter from Sidney Brook to his wife Isabelle, January 7, 1917 (from the Brook family fonds, Glenbow Museum and Archives, http://www.glenbow.org/collections/search/findingAids/archhtm/brook.cfm).

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Ice Age Fossils and Industry

The Quaternary Palaeontology program at the Royal Alberta Museum (RAM) works with stakeholders in the sand & gravel industry to recover and preserve the Ice Age fossil record of the province. As the source of thousands of the fossil specimens housed in our collections, the sand & gravel industry provides the basis for significant scientific collections, research, outreach, and exhibits. The working relationship of the RAM and the sand & gravel industry originates in the late 1980s and 1990s, when museum staff began active efforts to engage companies and their staff, most notably in gravel pits in the Edmonton area. Those efforts manifested in a number of formal (e.g., regulatory processes) and less formal ways (highlighted here), all with the intent of maximizing the recovery of fossil remains while minimizing impacts to industry.

Ice Age horse metapodials (foot bones) from Edmonton-area gravel pits. These are in the collections at the Royal Alberta Museum.

Engaging Industry

Shortly after arriving at the Royal Alberta Museum in 2008, I set up a meeting with Lafarge, a company with considerable sand & gravel interests. My intent was to rekindle the working relationship with Lafarge that was established by my predecessor at the museum. As a naïve scientist, I anticipated a low-key conversation regarding fossils in gravel pits. I walked into a meeting with seven people from Lafarge, including legal, and I quickly realized that from the company’s Read more

Newton’s Lilacs: Edmonton’s Hermitage, 1876-1900

In a remote corner of north east Edmonton, bounded by Clareview Road and 129th Avenue, is a small unmarked parcel of land commanding a dramatic view of the North Saskatchewan River valley. Only faint ground depressions and a small interpretive marker betray the fact that this is the location of Canon William Newton’s Hermitage and the birthplace of the Anglican Church in what would become the Province of Alberta.

“The Hermitage” by Ella May Walker, City of Edmonton Archives, EAA-1-27.

William Newton was born in 1828 at Halstead, Essex, England into a family of weavers. Having obtained an education through the help of wealthy benefactors, he trained for the Unitarian Church, served as a Congregationalist minister and published two books of sermons. In 1870 he immigrated to Canada and was ordained into the Anglican Church by Bishop A.N. Bethune of Toronto. He spent four years at Rosseau and Howard Township in Ontario before being accepted by Bishop John McLean of Saskatchewan as a missionary with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel at Fort Edmonton. Read more

Alberta Museums Association: Championing Alberta’s Museums

The Alberta Museums Assocation, founded in 1971, is a non-profit society whose mission is to lead, facilitate, and support museums in their vital role with communities. The Museums Association now has more than 200 Institutional and 250 Individual Members among its membership. The Association is one of five provincial heritage organizations that receive annual funding from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation. May 18th is International Museums Day, a day to raise awareness of the importance of museums. Be sure to visit one of your local Alberta museums to celebrate!

Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site, Drumheller Valley. Photo Credit: Erika Price @erykahprice

Museums are invaluable resources and contributors to communities; they educate, they engage, they convene, they inspire, they question, and they evolve. The Alberta Museums Association (AMA) champions the value of museums to stakeholders across the province and beyond, and works to ensure that museums create dynamic connections with their communities. We also offer a variety of programs and services, including:

  • Professional development opportunities, including our Annual Conference, Certificate in Museum Studies, and other specialized learning events to increase the professionalization of the sector;
  • Allocation of funding to museums and museum professionals to facilitate the completion of innovative work throughout the province, and;
  • Administration of the Recognized Museum Program to help museums fulfill their public trust responsibilities and ensure their succession for the future.

These programs are extensively used and have proven valuable to members as they reinvent themselves and solidify their roles as connected, creative hubs in their communities. Read more

The Archaeological Survey in Numbers – 2017 Update!

This week’s post is an update on archaeological project and site data for 2017 from the Archaeological Survey. Click the image below and zoom to see the full size infographic.

Note on archaeological sites: the site counts for 2017 are not yet final. They are constantly being updated as consultants and researchers submit their records to the Archaeological Survey. Stay tuned to RETROactive for up-to-date numbers.

See previous infographics from this series here:

Archaeology and Development: Statistics from the Historic Resources Management Branch

Archaeological Survey in Numbers Part One: Archaeological Permits

Archaeological Survey in Numbers Part Two : Archaeological Permit Holders and Companies

Archaeological Survey in Numbers Part Three : Archaeological Site Investigation

Written By: Colleen Haukaas (Archaeological Survey)

Historic Resources and Flooding

During the past few weeks, areas of southern Alberta have been affected by overland flooding, and this week warnings were issued for areas in northern Alberta (https://www.alberta.ca/emergency.aspx). Floods can affect historic resources such as historic buildings, museum collections and archaeological sites. The June 2013 flood is an example of a flood event that had a large impact on historic resources, causing damage to some historic sites and buildings and exposing or washing away archaeological sites.

Flood damage from the June 2013 flood to the chicken coop at E.P. Ranch, photo taken April 2014.

If you are looking for information about how to deal with historic resources impacted by flooding, please refer to our ‘Flood Info’ page that features the following articles:

If you think you have come across an archaeological site that may have been exposed by flooding, please report your find to the Archaeological Survey of Alberta: https://www.alberta.ca/report-archaeological-find.aspx

If you think you have found a fossil, please report it to the experts at the Royal Tyrrell Museum: http://www.tyrrellmuseum.com/research/identify_fossil.aspx

Kirkness House: Two Edmonton Pioneers

Thank you to Melanie Moore (Board Member of the Highlands Historical Society in Edmonton) for sharing this important piece of history. 

There is an old house in the Virginia Park neighbourhood of Edmonton, on 73rd Street and Ada Boulevard. Now empty, it has seen better years. The shingles are coming off, the paint old and faded, the yard overgrown. When asked about the house, neighbours knew little of its story.

Kirkness House, Edmonton, 2018 (photograph by Melanie Moore).

Having recently explored the history of my own 100 year old home in Edmonton, I decided to find out more. James Kirkness, and his wife Sarah Steinhauer, built the house in 1909. Prior to that, he and Sarah lived in an adjacent log cabin where they raised their children. The City of Edmonton Archives has a painted-over photograph of James in front of the 1870s log cabin with the new 1909 house behind. Likely James had the painting commissioned, put it in an ornate frame, and hung it proudly in his new home. Read more