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Wendy Aitkens follows in the footsteps of artist Edith Kirk for new Galt exhibit and book

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 Galt Museum curator Wendy Aitkens found a kindred spirit when Lethbridge resident Katharine Twiss donated a nineteenth century work box to the museum and traced the origins of its owner Edith Kirk — a well travelled Victorian era artist, who called Lethbridge home among other places at the turn of the century.

So Aitkens decided to follow in her footsteps and write the the story of her life by going to the same places and following her travels.Wendy Aitkens indicates her favourite Edith Kirk work in the Galt Museum’s new exhibit. Photo by Richard Amery

“ I’ve written lots of press releases and information panels, but this is my first book,” she said.

“I spent three weeks in England. I went to the houses she lived in. I even went into the house where she was born. Because in England you can do that. Here, it would have been torn down,” enthused Aitkens, who noted one of her favourite works is a pastoral landscape which features mountains and atmosphere.

“She signed it ‘For Myself’ which means she painted it just for her. And it captures much of her work. There’s lots of atmosphere, and mountains. And it is something that I would paint,,” she said of the work, which is one of several Twiss donated.

Edith Fanny Kirk was born to a middle class family in Sheffield, England in 1858 and passed away in Lethbridge in 1953.
 Her mom died when she was three and her father took care of her after that he remarried, she didn’t get along with her new stepmother, so her father gave her the means to study art in school and eventually pursue her dream.

“This is the first book the Galt Museum has published in a long time. I’m very proud of it. It’s been my baby. When we took it to the printer, I couldn’t change anything anymore,” she said.

Aitkens developed an instant connection with her subject by delving into Kirk’s life.She talked with a lot of people, did a lot of research on line and even did a genealogy search into her life.

 “ As soon as I found one of her pieces in our archives, the story became so personal to me. I love making water-colours paintings and I love nature too,” Aitkens enthused. She added Kirk fascinated her because she stood out for her time as an independent  young woman  who never married, travelled the world on her own and made a living as an artist.
“ That was difficult at the time even for a man,” she said.


Third time will be a charm for Galt Museum Nerdfest

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Three is the luckiest number for the third annual Nerdfest at the Galt Museum, which features three days of fun and games, March 19-21 and will be capped off with a talk about a 3-D printer.Chris Roedler is pumped about Nerdfest the Third. Photo by Richard Amery
“We’ve split the trivia night and game nights into two different nights,” said Chris Roedler, noting the fun starts on Thursday night, March 19 at  7 p.m. with trivia.

“ We have 60 different question and 10 different categories including  music,movies, comics , Lethbridge  history and we have  a few surprises thrown in,” he added.

All night game night follows on Friday night  beginning at 9 p.m. and going all night long.
 They will have vintage  video game systems from Nintendo and Atari to an Xbox 1.

“ We’ll also have a Apple iie if anyone can get it working and an Atari which probably nobody will be able to get working,” he said.

 There will also be board games and a new role playing game on the History of Lethbridge based on Werewolves.

Archivist Andrew Chernevych has overseen the creation of Werewolves of Lethbridge, developed by Galt staff — a new strategic role-play game based on the popular Werewolf (or Mafia) party game. The play involves secret identities and confrontation between the informed minority (Werewolves) and uninformed majority (Citizens). The current version has been enhanced with details pertinent to the history of Lethbridge.

“ It operates the same way Werewolves does. There’s secret identities and disguises. It’s going to be really fun,” he continued.
 But the highlight of Nerdfest 3 is  keynote speaker Patrick Wirt from Corbel 3D in Vancouver who will be part of a discussion on the history of printing culminating  with a demonstration of a 3D printer.


Galt Museum examines engraving stamps and currency in new exhibit

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Engraving has become a lost art in Canadian currency and postage so the Galt Museum  is reminding  the public of the artistry involved in their new exhibit “Voices From The Engraver, which opens, Feb. 8.
The Galt Museum is the first to host this traveling exhibit  produced in partnership with  the Bank of Canada  Museum.Robert Budd, Jonathan Dean and Galt Museum curator Wendy Aitkens are excited about Voices of the Engraver. Photo by Richard Amery
 It features rare stamps and currency as well as engraved plates for bills and an explanation and description of the processes used to make  currency and stamps as well as information about some of the artists involved in the process.

 There are also a couple of interactive components including a photo booth where patrons can put a picture of their own face on  a bill or stamp of their own design.
 There is  also a guillochis ( similar to the children’s toy Spirgraph) table where patrons can design their own intricate designs similar to those used  before the government switched to polymer bills instead of engraved paper.

“It’s a great exhibit. It’s a very complicated process,” enthused curator Wendy Aitkens adding well known artists were originally commissioned to design the first stamps. She noted a beaver appeared on one of Canada’s very first stamps.

 She was surprised to learn that since the post office became more automated, stamps aren’t officially cancelled when they go through a machine, while they used to have to be cancelled by a physical stamp or else they could be steamed  off an envelope and reused.
Now the post office usually uses stickers.

“ You actually have to ask for stamps ” observed Robert Budd, a 11-year member of the Lethbridge Philatelic Society (stamp collecting club).
“ I think it’s wonderful,” he said of the exhibit. He noted engraving art on stamps and bills  was done to make them more difficult to counterfeit.

“ It was a very expressive process,” he continued adding it was also very difficult as the artists had to first complete the design, then painstakingly engrave  the same design on a plate before a bill or stamp could be reproduced.


Galt Museum examines favourite curiosities and treasures

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The Galt Museum is revisiting the past even more than usual with their latest exhibit Curiosities and Treasures: the Sequel which runs Sept. 26-Jan. 11.

Wendy Aitkens examines a cimbalom. Photo by Richard Amery
“It’s the sequel. We did it for the first time back in 2010,” said curator Wendy Aitkens.

 As before, they invited 72 people from Lethbridge and surrounding area to participate in the exhibit by exploring the Galt Museum collection and choosing over 140 items which had personal significance to them for the exhibit.

“We found the people we invited to be part of it and visitors who saw it last time enjoyed it as much as we did, so we thought it would be really nice to redo it as part of our fiftieth anniversary this year,” she continued.

 She noted the Galt Museum collection includes 20,000 items, so staff helped participants narrow the process down to basic areas which most interesting.

The result was a spectacular collection of items  including a n R2 D2 Star Wars toy, a Hungarian hammered dulcimer called a cimbalom, quilts, paintings, several vintage cameras, numerous military items including medals,  coal mining lamps, a bell which was not only used on one of Lethbridge's first steamboats shipping coal to Medicine Hat, but was later used as one of Lethbridge's first fire department bell and even a jar of preserved pickles.

There are items to be expected including an RCMP uniform, Commissionaires uniforms and an old Lethbridge Police Services uniform, a First Nations head dress and more unusual items like as Lethbridge College beanie from  the early ’70s.


Galt Museum helps Lethbridge Handicrafts Weaving Guild celebrate 65 years

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The Galt Museum and the Lethbridge Weaver’s guild are working together for the Galt Museum’s new exhibit “Woven In Time: Celebrating 65 years with Lethbridge Weavers” which runs June 7- Sept. 14.

 We started this because the Handicraft Guild of Weavers celebrates 65 years, so we partnered with them to bring them this exhibit,” said curator Wendy Aitkens, who found creating the exhibit a learning experience.Judy Hasinoff explains  the weaving process to Wendy Aitkens while setting up the loom on display  for Woven In Time. Photo by Richard Amery

“ I never knew there was so much that went into weaving,” said Aitkens who learned the vocabulary.

“ We have a Lethbridge tartan and I didn’t even know there was one,” she said, indicating a display case including the tartan, the history, the meaning of the colours it includes and a sample of it in one display case.

Other cases include items dating back to 1866 and 1875,  a wedding dress created on a loom and a history of the Weaver’s Guild itself.

 There is even a case including  the many different types of yarn.
“You can make it out of steel, silver, soy, corn and even recycled pop bottles,” Aitkens enthused.
 Members of the Guild will also be doing displays of weaving periodically throughout the exhibits run on a loom they set up in a side room. When they aren’t there, a video will be shown outlining all of the many steps it takes to weave.

“The Guild has helped preserve the art of weaving that was getting lost during the Industrial revolution,” Aitkens said.

 The Galt Museum provided items form their collection while the Guild provided most of the others.
 There is also an interactive component to the exhibit, which allows people to help create a giant community weave by threading multi-coloured ribbons through an exaggerated loom on  the west wall of the exhibit.

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