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L.A. Beat

Galt premieres curiosities and treasures

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Everybody has their own “treasures and curiosities” — items which hold special significance or trigger a pleasant memory.
That is the subject of the Galt Museum’s latest exhibit which opens Feb. 20 and runs until May 20.

Curator Wendy Aitkens shows off some curiosities and treasures. Photo by Richard AmeryClose to 100 Galt Museum staff and volunteers ranging from students to seniors chose a variety of their favourite items from the Galt Museum archives and wrote down their stories about them for the new exhibit.

There are a variety of objects from the ominous (like a Second World War Nazi sniper’s helmet and a piece of rope used in a hangman’s noose) to the humourous (like a pink toy rabbit) there is also an old mayor’s chair from the 1930s and a beautiful selection of hockey memorabilia including a jersey from 1951 and the World Championship cup from that same era. There is a ’60s insta-matic camera chosen by Lethbridge Herald photographer David Rossiter. There are also several paintings  on the walls including a beautiful one of the Archangel Michael  by an anonymous artist which used to hang in the Galt when it was a hospital. A police robot used for safety and informational classroom demonstrations from the 1980s is among the more unusual pieces featured. The exhibit is laid out like  the items are being taken out of storage, hence most of the display cases look like crates.

 Some of them, like a scrapbook made by a German prisoner of war, are not only touching, but thought provoking too.

“ On the surface it looks very simple,” observed University of Lethbridge sociology professor Bill Ramp, who chose the scrapbook  featuring photos of buildings and beautiful, tranquil landscapes out of several thousand items from the Galt’s collection, which the prisoner must have chosen because they reminded him of home in a simpler time.

“There aren’t any political pictures. These are photos of a Germany which no longer exists, first because of the Nazis then because of the bombings. These pictures lend an air of romanticism,” said Ramp, who also chose an old medicine bottle because it lists ingredients which you could never get over the counter today like laudanum, alcohol, opium derivatives and cocaine.

“It would never be allowed on the shelves today,” he said.

Other people chose items because of the childhood memories they triggered.

“Going to the dentist is pretty traumatic,” observed Tim Greenlee, indicating an old fashioned dentist's basin which he chose for the exhibit.

 Tim Greenlee stands next to the dentist's basin he chose. Photo by Richard Amery“But when I was  eight , I had never been to the dentist. He was an old British gentleman and told me to spit, so I spit all over the bib (instead of in the basin),” recalled Greenlee, who just completed six years on the Galt Museum’s board of directors.

He also chose a bale hook. He remembered using a similar hook to lift bales while growing up on as farm near Stettler.

“I remember that being a lot of work,” he said.

Anine Vonkeman, the Galt Museum’s marketing and communications director chose a pink rabbit toy.

“I just liked its smile,” she said adding she also chose a pair of silver napkin rings because they belonged to her great, great aunt, who  started the Van Haarlem hospital.

Other people, like Elaine Liebelt,  chose items which had family significance. She choose a brooch worn by her mother and possibly her grandmother.

“We were very poor. But my dad wanted to buy my mother jewelry. I think this one may have been my grandmother’s,” she observed.
“It’s a lovely little piece.”

Curator Wendy Aitkens  was impressed with not only the variety of objects chosen, but the stories behind them.

“I was  surprised by  some of the personal stories. Some are very heart-wrenching  and some are very personal. These stories are a part of our history and so they are so important to share, ” she said looking at the police robot.

“That must have been state of the art in the ’80s.” she observed. To choose the items, the volunteers went through the museum’s database and selected the ones which touched them the most.

“We couldn’t have done this without the volunteers,” Aitkens said.

— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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