Public input gathered in 2011 for improvements to the South Garden at the Galt Museum & Archives will be highlighted at the public Grand Opening of the South Garden on Thursday, May 31 from 4:00 – 6:00 pm.

 “The community gave us ideas,” says Susan Burrows-Johnson, CEO/Executive Director at the Galt, “and raised enough funds through our annual giving requests, facility rentals, museum store proceeds and special events to implement Phase Two of the garden, designed by Kirsten Hironaka of earthlings.” 

 Improvements include a 10’ x 10’ stage, planters with wide edges doubling as seats, a pony wall to sit on, a giant chess and checkers board, and a surface of interlocking pavers to allow rain water to seep through. Chess pieces are being created by members of the Chinook Woodturners’ Guild, and checkers pieces are from wood salvaged by earthlings. Benches reflecting motifs of the High Level Bridge have been placed throughout. Planting beds with perennial shrubs, grasses and flowers, and raised grain beds featuring cereals of agricultural importance to the area are also included. This small demonstration garden, created for educational purposes, will include Marquis spring wheat, malt and feed barley, oat, rye and triticale.

 Additional outdoor exhibit development includes plant signage, to be placed — or in some cases replaced — in all of the gardens at the Galt, as well as a stairwell cover in the vicinity of the 1891 Galt Hospital wall. This glazed structure will include murals and text reflecting the Galt Hospital history, with a sidewalk prism ceiling that will contain the prisms originally located in the sidewalk at the Alec Arms Hotel along 4th Avenue South, until recent renovations. 

 “The sidewalk prisms, also known as vault lights or pavement lights, were placed in the sidewalk to direct light into the basement or vault below,” says Burrows-Johnson. “In early days, it was common to have a basement extend to the street. These prisms are purple because of the manganese that was added to decolourize the glass when it was made, probably between 1900 and 1915,” she explains. “The glass has turned purple over years of exposure to the sunlight.”

 Such prisms were originally used to light below decks of ships, beginning around the mid-1800s, throwing light below and eliminating the need to carry an open flame. The glass prisms became popular for sidewalks by the end of the 19th Century. Promises of “increased rental space” and “employee productivity” are made in early advertisements for prisms. Use of prisms declined in the 1930s as electricity became more available.

 Phase One of the South Garden was implemented in 2009 to refine the area around the Galt School of Nursing bronze statue and engraved bricks. The Native Prairie Plants Garden was put in the same year with the Lethbridge & District Horticultural Society. Information on upcoming exhibits, other programs and events is available on the Galt Museum & Archives website:

Anine VonkemanComment