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Galt Museum welcomes Aimee Benoit as new curator

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The Galt Museum’s new curator Aimee Benoit has some big shoes to fill in taking over from Wendy Aitkens who retired last year.

Aimee Benoit is excited to be the Galt Museum’s new curator. Photo by Richard Amery
 But Benoit is excited to return to Lethbridge, where she graduated from the University of Lethbridge with her BA in History in 1998. She also has a MA in Geography and is currently working on her PHd in Communities and social inclusion.

“I lived in Lethbridge from Grade 6 on and got my undergraduate degree at the U of L, and then I left the city for a number of years, ” Benoit said adding she lived in Saskatoon and taught English in Japan for several years before returning to Alberta to take a job at the Glenbow Museum. While there, she also worked as the Calgary Stampede’s archivist and historian.

She has a long history with the Galt Museum.

“When I was working on my degree, I started volunteering at the Galt Museum as a collections assistant. That’s when I decided I wanted a career working in museums,” she said.
“ So it feels like a treat to come back and reconnect with that early experience.”
Benoit, who started her new position at the end of November, is looking forward to the job.


4-H history in Lethbridge community celebrated

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 Head, Heart, Health and Hands are the cornerstones of 4-H. Though most people think of cattle and agriculture when they hear 4-H, 4-H is really about community.

Andy Pittman is excited to celebrate the 100th anniversary of 4-H in the Southern Alberta Region, with a variety of activities on Jan. 7 at Exhibition Park. Photo by Richard Amery
 The international agriculture organization for young people celebrates 100 years in Lethbridge and Southern Alberta with a massive celebration at Exhibition Park on Jan. 7,2017.
The Southern Region features 56 clubs including 950 members and close to 300 volunteer leaders from just south of Calgary to the U.S. border.

In addition to teaching young people about agriculture, 4-H also teaches them about the importance of community service and involvement, public speaking and even features summer camps.

“Most of them are beef, equine and sheep clubs, but there are also woodworking and small engine clubs and photography. And one project is snowmobiling. There are no limits, if there is interest and you can find a volunteer leader,” said Andy Pittman, Chairman of the Southern Region for 4-H in Alberta, adding there are also multi-clubs including an assortment of different activities like welding, woodworking and much more.
He is excited to celebrate 4-H community in Southern Alberta.

“4-H is so much about community, so we’re building a little community called Cloverville with different streets and little buildings which will showcase what Southern Albertan 4-H clubs are all about,” he continued, noting Southern Alberta features clubs for pretty much anything you can imagine, including sheep, horses, photography and, of course, cattle.

“There will be a lot of different craft areas for younger people to do 4-H themed crafts. And the Cloverville Museum will feature photos and stories. There will be lots of members and alumni on stage to talk about  4-H,” he said. There will also be a town square featuring an art display and a photo booth and plenty of interactive hands on displays. The trade show, from noon to 4 p.m., is free to attend.

There will be a reception and silent auction at 4:30 followed by dinner at 6 p.m.
“ We’ll be filling up a time capsule built in the shape of a grain elevator,” he said.
“4-H does have a rural base, but it appeals to a wide variety of people,” said Pittman, who, while he was never in 4-H himself, has put both his daughters through the program.


Galt Museum exhibit illuminates Lethbridge Fire and EMS history

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 There is a lot more to fighting fires than “putting the wet stuff on the red stuff,” according to Lethbridge fire department deputy chief Jesse Kurtz.Dana Terry plays  the Wii firefighter game which is part of We Are Here To Serve: Fire and EMS. Photo by Richard Amery
“That’s a saying we have in the fire department. It means putting water on fire. But putting out fires is so much more complicated than that,” said Kurtz, noting that is what he hopes Galt Museum patrons will take away from the brand new exhibit “ We Are Here to Serve: Fire & EMS, which runs  Feb. 6- May 23.

The exhibit includes fire department and artifacts going back to the beginning of the department over 130 years ago, plus uniforms you can try on and a firefighting Wii game you can play.

“I’ll bet my kids will do better at this than I am,” chuckled deputy chief and Lethbridge Firefighter historian Dana Terry, trying out the game.
Galt Museum curator Wendy Aitkens, Chief Richard Hildebrand, Dana Terry and Jesse Kurtz  plus several retired firefighters got together to brainstorm ideas for the exhibit, which the Galt developed over the past six to eight months due to public request.

“We sat around a table brainstorming ideas and deciding what stories we wanted to tell,” Aitkens said.
“Dana read over these stories and really helped polish them,” she said.

“The fire department has been very helpful by lending us artifacts and clothing people can try on,” she said.
 “I hope the public will see we have a very long history,” said Kurtz, a  39 year veteran, observing a lot has changed with Lethbridge firefighters and EMS.
“I’ve used most of the equipment in the exhibit,” he observed, pointing out a multi use key in one case.
“We had to polish that black. There couldn’t be any rust on it,” he recalled, noting he had only heard of other items such as gas masks from the 1940s and 50s but had never used them.
He observed the exhibit turned out well  especially considering how much information and the numerous items available for it.
“It’s a great display. It covers everything. It would be easy for it to be overwhelming. But it is definitely not overwhelming,” Kurtz said, adding he enjoyed looking at all of the old photographs of  firefighters doing their jobs.

 He said the fire department has seen a lot of improvements even over the past 40 years.
“There is better equipment and gear now. But the biggest change is safety. There is better safety for the members and the public,” Kurtz said.
“And our fire trucks have computers in them,” he said adding they help the trucks run.


Well timed Galt Museum exhibit focuses on immigrants

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It wasn’t planned that way but the Galt Museum’s new exhibit “Changing Places: Immigration and Diversity” is perfectly timed as it is all about immigrants and their contributions to the community. It is perfectly timed with the news of 25,000 refugees coming to Canada this year and 240 of them coming to Lethbridge by the end of 2016 according to Lethbridge Family Services including 125 by March 1.

Wendy Aitkens shows some of the visual aids used to help immigrants and refugees get acclimatized to life in Canada. Photo by Richard Amery
 It is far from the first time Lethbridge has welcomed immigrants.

“Changing Places: Immigration and Diversity” features first hand accounts of the stories of a diverse group of 20 immigrants conducted by curator Wendy Aitkens including videos accompanying the text of their stories.

 They came from all over the world including Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia There are six videos featuring groups of the subjects, three interactive modules, a reading corner. It also includes pieces about the support services available to help acclimatize the newcomers to Lethbridge and Canada.
The exhibit opened Oct. 31 and runs until Jan 17.

“We started this project two years ago, but it’s interesting now because of the Syrian crisis, which is the most serious situation we are facing for refugees,” said Aitkens.

“Our focus was on immigration starting after World War 2, right up to today,” she said, noting the exhibit covers post Second World War immigrants right up to the more recent  arrival of the Bhutanese community.

Churches like St. Patrick’s were a big part of helping immigrants to acclimatize immigrants. In the ’80s and ’90s, a group from the church helped 100 immigrants from Vietnam and Eastern Asia to settle in Lethbridge.



Wendy Aitkens follows in the footsteps of artist Edith Kirk for new Galt exhibit and book

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 Galt Museum curator Wendy Aitkens found a kindred spirit when Lethbridge resident Katharine Twiss donated a nineteenth century work box to the museum and traced the origins of its owner Edith Kirk — a well travelled Victorian era artist, who called Lethbridge home among other places at the turn of the century.

So Aitkens decided to follow in her footsteps and write the the story of her life by going to the same places and following her travels.Wendy Aitkens indicates her favourite Edith Kirk work in the Galt Museum’s new exhibit. Photo by Richard Amery

“ I’ve written lots of press releases and information panels, but this is my first book,” she said.

“I spent three weeks in England. I went to the houses she lived in. I even went into the house where she was born. Because in England you can do that. Here, it would have been torn down,” enthused Aitkens, who noted one of her favourite works is a pastoral landscape which features mountains and atmosphere.

“She signed it ‘For Myself’ which means she painted it just for her. And it captures much of her work. There’s lots of atmosphere, and mountains. And it is something that I would paint,,” she said of the work, which is one of several Twiss donated.

Edith Fanny Kirk was born to a middle class family in Sheffield, England in 1858 and passed away in Lethbridge in 1953.
 Her mom died when she was three and her father took care of her after that he remarried, she didn’t get along with her new stepmother, so her father gave her the means to study art in school and eventually pursue her dream.

“This is the first book the Galt Museum has published in a long time. I’m very proud of it. It’s been my baby. When we took it to the printer, I couldn’t change anything anymore,” she said.

Aitkens developed an instant connection with her subject by delving into Kirk’s life.She talked with a lot of people, did a lot of research on line and even did a genealogy search into her life.

 “ As soon as I found one of her pieces in our archives, the story became so personal to me. I love making water-colours paintings and I love nature too,” Aitkens enthused. She added Kirk fascinated her because she stood out for her time as an independent  young woman  who never married, travelled the world on her own and made a living as an artist.
“ That was difficult at the time even for a man,” she said.

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