The Galt Museum & Archives Collections’ Department has benefitted this year from a $24,594 Alberta Museums Association grant, making possible a Collections Assistant term position to analyze the relevance of the Galt’s military artifact collection to the mission of the institution.

“Our collections analysis is a major goal outlined in the Galt’s 2012-2014 Business Plan,” explains Kevin MacLean, the Galt’s Collections Technician who oversaw the project. “Objects which have documented associations to Lethbridge and southwestern Alberta are greatly valued historically and are best suited, through the individual stories they represent, to educate the public on the region’s history.”

The newly hired Collections Assistant David Smith, a 4th year University of Lethbridge student majoring in Art History and Museum Studies, was directed in April to survey the donation files of the military collections and to identify which objects were deficient in their documented association to southwestern Alberta.  He invested considerable time in researching and recording an object’s association, or lack of association, by contacting donors going back to the 1960s and/or their descendants, as well as consulting the online resources of Library & Archives Canada. 

Approximately 550 objects were included in the survey, ranging from web field gear and uniforms to helmets and bayonets, dating from the turn of the 19th Century (Boer War and Southern Alberta militia pre-WW1) to present-day (18th Air Defence Regiment).  Firearms, medals and badges will be included as part of a future survey.

“The digital age provided David with significant advantages not available had this project been launched in the 1990s or earlier,” says MacLean.  “Another plus was military objects are often individually marked by their original owners, unlike the majority of other objects, providing clues for future research.  Unfortunately, however, contextual information is often known only to the original owner and in most cases those owners have passed away.”

“Working at the Galt Museum has been a highly rewarding experience for me. I have been able to learn so much about the Lethbridge community and Southern Alberta region. I have been researching the military objects within the permanent collection, some of which may have only had a thread of information prior to my work. I have been able to uncover buried stories and weave together the colourful fabric that is our history. Every day I am more excited than the last to be able to come in to work and get emotionally invested in the story of a real person’s life. Knowing more about the history of the objects makes the collection even more valuable as a resource to the community, the province and the country. I am always excited to talk about my work with my family and friends and I can’t wait to see what I’ll dig up next!” David Smith, Collections Assistant


Smith will wrap up his work in November.

Anine VonkemanComment