Alberta’s Early Public Libraries

October is Canadian Library Month – a time to raise awareness about the valuable role of libraries in our communities. Thank you to guest writer, Erin Hoar, for this post about some of Alberta’s first libraries.

The earliest libraries in Canada were generally private collections of books and documents brought over by European immigrants. Some religious orders, fur trade and military posts would also collect books, but these were generally not accessible to the wider public. Canada’s earliest public libraries were offered by subscription only and began to appear in the early nineteenth century. By 1900 the modern public library, similar to what we would think of as a library today, began to acquire, classify and organize books, periodicals and newspapers with the purpose of providing users with access to these collections.

The idea of libraries was becoming more recognized as a public need that enriched growing communities, as was the case in Alberta. Many of Alberta’s early libraries were established because there were dedicated people who were passionate about providing accessible learning and educational services. This post will trace Alberta’s earliest public libraries in Edmonton and Calgary, and look at the people who brought these spaces to life to become valued and trusted resources for their communities. Read on to find out more!

Andrew Carnegie, 1913 (Public domain).

It was 1906 when the Calgary Women’s Literary Club formed to discuss the readings of Shakespeare, world news and current events, and it was out of these gatherings that the need for a public library grew. The women did what many others who wanted a public library did during this time – they asked millionaire Andrew Carnegie to build them a library. Carnegie, who made a fortune in the steel industry, was a strong advocate for learning and had a reputation for library philanthropy. In Canada, the Carnegie Foundation funded over 100 libraries and thousands more across the world, including the United States, England, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Read more

Calgary’s Gay History: The Life of Everett Klippert

This week on RETROactive, we are grateful to guest writer, Kevin Allen, for sharing the story of Everett Klippert.

Everett Klippert (far right), Calgary.

Everett George Klippert, a Calgary bus driver, was the last person in Canada to be arrested, charged, prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned for homosexuality. The Canadian decriminalization of homosexuality was a direct result of the Klippert case.

In his court proceedings, Klippert stated that he had actively engaged in homosexual activity when he started work in a Calgary dairy at the age of 16 or 17; and had continued being active until he was found out and arrested by Calgary Police Read more

Five-hundred Years of History at McKinnon Flats: New Discoveries Made in the Aftermath of the 2013 Flood

You may have recently seen a news story about archaeological finds at McKinnon Flats, approximately 22 km southeast of Calgary (see below for news links).  Today, McKinnon Flats is a popular recreational area, used for fishing, hiking and bird watching.  But did you know that five centuries ago it may also have been used for bison hunting and camping?

Archaeologists of Lifeways of Canada Limited have been contracted by Alberta Culture and Tourism to find out about early settlement at McKinnon Flats.  They’re part of Culture and Tourism’s three-year Post-Flood Investigation Program, which was initiated to record the effects of the June 2013 southern Alberta flood on archaeological and palaeontological sites along rivers such as the Bow, Highwood, Sheep and Kananaskis.  As a result of the program, 100 new archaeological sites were identified and additional information was gathered at 87 sites that had been recorded prior to the flood.  Many of these sites were found eroding from the riverbanks, with some in need of investigation before they disappeared entirely. Read more

Sand Paint

Sand painting is a faux finish technique that was not uncommon for exteriors of masonry buildings in the early part of the twentieth century.  By dusting sand onto paint while still tacky, painted wood or metal details were made to resemble stone.  If you guessed you were looking at magnified grains of sand in the teaser photograph above, you were right.  The photograph, taken through a binocular microscope, is actually of a sand paint sample taken from the Senator Lougheed Residence in Calgary.

Senator Lougheed Residence, Calgary
Senator Lougheed Residence, Calgary.
Sand painted wood details at the Senator Lougheed Residence, Calgary
Sand painted wood details at the Senator Lougheed Residence, Calgary.

Read more

Archaeology and the June 2013 Floods in Southern Alberta

In June 2013, heavy rainfall triggered catastrophic flooding in southern Alberta that has been characterized as some of the worst in the province’s history. Areas along the Bow, Elbow, Highwood, Red Deer, Sheep, Little Bow and South Saskatchewan Rivers, and their tributaries, were affected. Estimates of property damage from the flood make it one of the most costly in Canadian history. Personal property, however, was not the only casualty. The torrents of water accelerated natural erosional and depositional processes, resulting in significant alteration to many of southern Alberta’s river systems.

Debris-flow fan on the Highwood River, caused by the June 2013 flood.
Debris-flow fan on the Highwood River.
Erosional exposure on the Sheep River, caused by the June 2013 flood.
Erosional exposure on the Sheep River, caused by the June 2013 flood.

The potential for finding archaeological sites along southern Alberta’s river systems has always been high. The distribution of known archaeological sites in Alberta indicate the importance of the major river systems to precontact and historic people as sources of fresh water, food resources and travel corridors.  As a result of these associations, a number of archaeological sites were also identified as casualties of the June 2013 flood. Read more

Heritage Energized: HRMB at the National Trust Conference

Last month, the Historic Resources Management Branch had the opportunity to attend the National Trust for Canada’s annual conference, right here in our home province. Held October 22-24 in Calgary, the conference’s theme of “Heritage Energized” explored how heritage energy can turn places around, empower people and create opportunities.

Preceding the conference was Moh-Kins-Tsis: Calgary Indigenous Heritage Roundtable, a day-long session bringing together Elders and knowledge keepers with practitioners in the fields of heritage, archaeology, architecture and planning, to discuss how to protect Indigenous heritage sites in the urban environment.  Moderators Lorna Crowshoe (Aboriginal Issues Strategist, City of Calgary) and Makiinima—Roy Fox (Former Chief of the Kainai Nation) set the tone for the day by establishing the room as an “ethical space”—where groups with contrasting world views can come together in respectful, cooperative and collaborative ways. The audience then had the special opportunity to learn about Blackfoot ways of knowing from Elders Wilton Goodstriker, Herman Yellow Old Woman, Bruce Wolf Child, Andy Blackwater and Dr. Reg Crowshoe. These discussions were expanded upon by a number of professional and academic presenters.

The Crowfoot Young Warriors kick off Moh-Kins-Tsis: Calgary Indigenous Heritage Roundtable with drumming and song. Photo credit: Pinpoint Photography, courtesy of the National Trust for Canada.
The Crowfoot Young Warriors kick off Moh-Kins-Tsis: Calgary Indigenous Heritage Roundtable with drumming and song. Photo credit: Pinpoint Photography, courtesy of the National Trust for Canada.

The latter half of the day focused on the Paskapoo Slopes—an area in the city’s northwest rich in archaeological and cultural heritage and of high significance to the Blackfoot Nations. A panel composed Read more

Metis Week in Alberta

Photo Credit: Travel Alberta
Photo Credit: Travel Alberta

Events are taking place across the province this week in honour of Metis Week, from November 15-21, 2015. This week provides an opportunity to celebrate Metis people, their culture and their contributions.

Louis Riel Day was celebrated on November 16th, the date that marks the anniversary of Riel’s death in 1885. Riel was a Metis leader who fought for the recognition of Metis people and their rights. He is also credited as the founder of the province of Manitoba. Commemorations and events took place in both the Edmonton and Calgary areas.

Many other events are taking place across the province to celebrate Metis week and it’s not too late to take part! For a full listing of events, click here.