Come experience the boom and bust, joy and despair of the lives of Lethbridge residents in the Galt Museum & Archives newest special exhibit, The Greatest Years You Never Knew, officially opening at 11:00 am Saturday, April 30 during the free admission Museum Community Day from 10-3:30 pm.
Lethbridge changed forever between 1906 and 1913. These were years of incredible population growth when many new businesses and industries made Lethbridge home. It was also a time of wild optimism as fortunes were made and, in many ways, these were the greatest years in local history and vital in shaping the Lethbridge of today.
“I jumped at the chance to be involved in an exhibit on the years 1906-1913,” says Belinda Crowson, Museum Educator and guest curator for this exhibit. “These are years that changed Canada, Alberta and Lethbridge forever. I hope guests to the exhibit will have a sense of this “grand” picture of how Lethbridge changed from a coal town to a modern, cosmopolitan city.”
But not everyone shared in the good times. For many people these greatest years never happened.
“Equally, though, this is a story of individuals and families, many of whom came to a new country and a new community,” explains Crowson. “I hope visitors will experience how lives were changed and how these personal stories weave together to make our shared community history.”
So much occurred in Lethbridge between 1906 and 1913, that to tell a full and complete story would take more space allowed by the dimensions of the Galt’s special exhibit area. Only a portion of the story can be told. In the exhibit development stage public opinion was engaged through a series of surveys polling people on topics of interest and how they envisioned the exhibit to look.
Themes were then chosen based on the feedback: Immigration, Great Successes, Great Failures and Heritage Buildings. In-depth research revealed there were two parallel stories of Lethbridge during this time period – of grand successes and grand failures, of the working class and the elite, the experience of “preferred” immigrants and other immigrant groups and of the poor and the rich.
All of these lives inter-mixed in Lethbridge, and in some cases there were hierarchies within hierarchies based on wealth, class, nationality and status. To give visitors a sense of these “parallel” experiences there are two entrances into The Greatest Years You Never Knew – visitors choose the one their ancestors would have entered or the one they wish to enter themselves.
“Better yet, come visit the exhibit throughout the summer and enter through a different entrance on your next visit!” says Crowson.
Programs reflecting the theme will be offered throughout the run of the exhibit, including twice monthly family activities during Family Summer Fun running May through August; presentations on the first and third Wednesday monthly as part of Wednesdays at the Galt for seniors; The Curator Presents… in May; special guest speakers for Café Galt in June and July; and special topics for the new Hands-On Heritage Arts Series offered May through August. In addition, activities on Canada Day and during the Coulees & Culture summer camps will also focus on the themes of the exhibit. The Greatest Years You Never Knew closes September 11, 2011.