How One Question Became a Collection and an Exhibit

I love history and I love books. So it was wonderful to be able to curate an exhibit that brought those two concepts together. On March 1 we opened a new exhibit at the Galt called The Literal Truth. 

This exhibit showcases fiction books set in southwestern Alberta. Years back I came across an article in the Lethbridge Herald that stated that the 1st ever book set in Lethbridge had just been published. So I wondered: how many fiction books are set in southwestern Alberta?

I posed that question to people at the Lethbridge Public Library, to friends and family, to strangers (yes, I was that person). I asked people to submit names on Facebook and Twitter. I scanned articles and boosk on the history of literature in Alberta. I ordered in books from far and wide -- the furthest coming from Scotland. Slowly my collection of books grews.

Then at an exhibit planning meeting I raised the idea that the books might make a fun exhibit. And for some strange reason the rest of the staff agreed.

But with 60+ books, how to arrange? This was only going to be a hallway exhibit and needed to be relatively small and compact. I was incredibly fortunate to have the assistance last summer of Kimberly, a summer student in education programs. She went through every book and made a list of quotes about southern Alberta from each book.

I was then able to take all of these quotes and when I reviewed them I realized there were a few large themes -- the landscape itself, the Crowsnest Pass (the one area of SW Alberta where the MOST books are set), Lethbridge, wind (you knew it had to show up) and the Mounted Police (a perennial favourite among writers though the portrayal has certainly changed over the years).

The cases are set up around those themes. Thanks Brad for putting it all together and making it look great.

I still haven't answered the question of how many books are set in southwestern Alberta. I keep finding or am told about even more books. And then, of course, people are continuing to write books set in this area.

In fact, one thing I would most like to come from this exhibit is that it inspires people to write more books, comics, stories focused on our area. We have put up a "Story Starter" on our website where you can submit stories or beginnings of stories if you choose.

I would also like to encourage people to read some of these books set in this area. There is a brochure that gives you a list of books (or a bookmark with the children's books on it). You can also have a set and flip through some of the books. You can also see a list of the books on our Flickr page. It's your chance to try judging a book by its cover.

One of my favourite things in the exhibit is we have a magnetic board up and some interactives. You can move them around and tell your own story. So here's to The Literal Truth and southwestern Alberta in literature.