No, I'm not 75 years old

Round Street Lethbridge Alberta.jpg

Yesterday, I had a student ask if I had been a child during the Second World War. I chose to take that as a compliment because obviously my stories and discussions about the topic were so engaging and knowledgeable that he assumed the only way I must know these things was to have lived through it. (And I truly don't wish to hear any other possible theory as to why he might have thought that.)

Bringing the past alive (truly alive) is one of the most challenging, rewarding and frustrating parts of a historians' job. With time travel not available, how do you really get people to experience the past? How do you show them what it would have been like to live during that time period? How was life for people of different ages and backgrounds? What would the experiences of daily life have been? What would be the sounds, smells, tastes? And, yet, that's what people often want.

I have received back the responses from the Lethbridge 1906-1913 surveys and here are just a few of the responses as to what people want to experience in the exhibit:

  • sight, sound, touch

  • I would like to see a lot of things and not have to read a lot of long text panels. As a 34 year old married woman, what would my life have been like during that time?

  • I hope the exhibit could resemble the real Lethbridge in 1906-1913

  • era music to create mood

  • I would want to feel that I really did step back in time - can you create that kind of atmosphere?

  • I'd love to walk down a street that was from that period...and hear the sounds that one would have heard. Perhaps look through a window into a typical living room or store. I think it would be fascinating for adults and children alike!

The survey has also let me know the top 6 topic choices from our staff, volunteers and the general public. They are (drum roll, please):

  • buildings and development, grand successes from 1906-1913, grand failures from 1906-1913, immigration, odd & unusual information and crime & punishment.

So, now, knowing people want these topics and these experiences it's back to research and development for me...