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Galt Museum exhibit illuminates Lethbridge Fire and EMS history

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 There is a lot more to fighting fires than “putting the wet stuff on the red stuff,” according to Lethbridge fire department deputy chief Jesse Kurtz.Dana Terry plays  the Wii firefighter game which is part of We Are Here To Serve: Fire and EMS. Photo by Richard Amery
“That’s a saying we have in the fire department. It means putting water on fire. But putting out fires is so much more complicated than that,” said Kurtz, noting that is what he hopes Galt Museum patrons will take away from the brand new exhibit “ We Are Here to Serve: Fire & EMS, which runs  Feb. 6- May 23.

The exhibit includes fire department and artifacts going back to the beginning of the department over 130 years ago, plus uniforms you can try on and a firefighting Wii game you can play.

“I’ll bet my kids will do better at this than I am,” chuckled deputy chief and Lethbridge Firefighter historian Dana Terry, trying out the game.
Galt Museum curator Wendy Aitkens, Chief Richard Hildebrand, Dana Terry and Jesse Kurtz  plus several retired firefighters got together to brainstorm ideas for the exhibit, which the Galt developed over the past six to eight months due to public request.

“We sat around a table brainstorming ideas and deciding what stories we wanted to tell,” Aitkens said.
“Dana read over these stories and really helped polish them,” she said.

“The fire department has been very helpful by lending us artifacts and clothing people can try on,” she said.
 “I hope the public will see we have a very long history,” said Kurtz, a  39 year veteran, observing a lot has changed with Lethbridge firefighters and EMS.
“I’ve used most of the equipment in the exhibit,” he observed, pointing out a multi use key in one case.
“We had to polish that black. There couldn’t be any rust on it,” he recalled, noting he had only heard of other items such as gas masks from the 1940s and 50s but had never used them.
He observed the exhibit turned out well  especially considering how much information and the numerous items available for it.
“It’s a great display. It covers everything. It would be easy for it to be overwhelming. But it is definitely not overwhelming,” Kurtz said, adding he enjoyed looking at all of the old photographs of  firefighters doing their jobs.

 He said the fire department has seen a lot of improvements even over the past 40 years.
“There is better equipment and gear now. But the biggest change is safety. There is better safety for the members and the public,” Kurtz said.
“And our fire trucks have computers in them,” he said adding they help the trucks run.


Well timed Galt Museum exhibit focuses on immigrants

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It wasn’t planned that way but the Galt Museum’s new exhibit “Changing Places: Immigration and Diversity” is perfectly timed as it is all about immigrants and their contributions to the community. It is perfectly timed with the news of 25,000 refugees coming to Canada this year and 240 of them coming to Lethbridge by the end of 2016 according to Lethbridge Family Services including 125 by March 1.

Wendy Aitkens shows some of the visual aids used to help immigrants and refugees get acclimatized to life in Canada. Photo by Richard Amery
 It is far from the first time Lethbridge has welcomed immigrants.

“Changing Places: Immigration and Diversity” features first hand accounts of the stories of a diverse group of 20 immigrants conducted by curator Wendy Aitkens including videos accompanying the text of their stories.

 They came from all over the world including Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia There are six videos featuring groups of the subjects, three interactive modules, a reading corner. It also includes pieces about the support services available to help acclimatize the newcomers to Lethbridge and Canada.
The exhibit opened Oct. 31 and runs until Jan 17.

“We started this project two years ago, but it’s interesting now because of the Syrian crisis, which is the most serious situation we are facing for refugees,” said Aitkens.

“Our focus was on immigration starting after World War 2, right up to today,” she said, noting the exhibit covers post Second World War immigrants right up to the more recent  arrival of the Bhutanese community.

Churches like St. Patrick’s were a big part of helping immigrants to acclimatize immigrants. In the ’80s and ’90s, a group from the church helped 100 immigrants from Vietnam and Eastern Asia to settle in Lethbridge.



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.

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