“What makes it worth collecting?”

By Graham Ruttan

The Galt collects and preserves historic objects from Lethbridge and southwestern Alberta. But how do we choose what to collect?

“An object’s ability to [pass on information to] us about who we are and where we live varies on how much contextual information was collected by museum staff of the day.” explains Kevin Maclean, Collections Technician at the Galt. Today, a major focus by Maclean and his small team of staff and volunteers is to solicit and develop as much contextual information as possible about an object when it is donated to the Galt. But that wasn’t always the case.

The Galt has received several Alberta Museums Association grants since 2010 to research and record items that had had little or no information recorded about them when they were donated. Elise Pundyk is the most recent assistant working on this project. Her focus has been on objects in our boxed textiles and accessories collection.

“My job is to search for connections, which has led me to many fascinating stories.” says Pundyk. “For example, this past month I was able to [speak to] Ike Lanier about his mother’s wedding dress. [The dress] has been housed in the museum for over forty years with little information about it. I learned that Ike’s father, Thomas Stratton Lanier, immigrated to Canada in 1909, from his birthplace in Kentucky.”

“Thomas had met his wife, Allene, in Kentucky just prior to his immigration. She stayed in Kentucky and they had maintained a long distance engagement while Thomas was setting up a life on a farm just east of Lethbridge. Eight years later, in 1917, Thomas had gone back to Kentucky and married Allene. The newlyweds had come back to Lethbridge that same year and together they had contributed to the community’s growth through their involvement with farming and various social aspects of Lethbridge life.”

“There is something truly powerful in sharing moments with people as they remember the stories of generations past,” explained Pundyk.

To learn about other interesting facts uncovered in researching the Galt’s collection visit the exhibit For Keeps by special Guest Curator Jane Edmundson, which runs from January 27 to April 29.