Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Caring for a 120 year old painting


Recently the Galt Museum & Archives purchased a water colour painting created by Miss Edith Fanny Kirk in 1892.  The museum has another painting Kirk made of Banff  and Miss Kirk's mother's Victorian workbox or sewing box in its collections. 

Miss Kirk painted the street scene in York, England when she was 34 years old, 13 years before she immigrated to Canada.  After living in many locations in British Columbia and New Brunswick, Kirk moved to Lethbridge in 1918.  There she taught sketching and painting to young students, sold landscapes created in the area, attended Alpine Club of Canada camps, spoke about art at the Mathesis Club and inspired artists in the Lethbridge Sketch Club. 
The York painting arrived at the museum framed with a gold mat.  Paper Conservator Juliet Graham was asked to examine the piece and recommend some treatment to stablize the artwork.  Juliet noted the colours and paper had been negatively impacted by tape used to attach the painting to the mat so it was decided to remove both.  

When Juliet carefully removed the loosened tape, she discovered the remains of many insects which had been attracted to the adhesive.  None of the insects were alive but they and the tape were immediately removed from the museum.  In the future, more conservation will be directed to recovering some of Kirk's original colours from the now acidic paper.

The University of Lethbridge Art Gallery was kind enough to allow Juliet to work on the Kirk painting at their cost.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Lethbridge Exhibition's Hidden Gem

If you look carefully around the city we have many historical and architectural gems. One of my favourite is Heritage Hall at the Exhibition. The Lethbridge Exhibition is incredibly fortunate to have this building, which is 86 years old this year.



This good fortune probably didn’t seem so lucky in the 1920s when disaster made the building a necessity. A fire in 1925 destroyed the original Exhibition Pavilion and Heritage Hall (as it would later become known) was built to replace it. Lethbridge had very few commercial/public buildings constructed in the 1920s (actually very few built between 1915 and the late 1940s). During and following the First World War and a drought/economic slump of the early 1920s, the population of Lethbridge actually shrank slightly following the 1906-1913 boom and then stagnated for a while. So a 1920s commercial building in Lethbridge is already a rare and treasured item. And then there’s the design of the building.

Heritage Hall is one of only a few (actually more likely to be the only one but more study needs to be done) commercial buildings built in the Craftsman Mission Revival Style in Lethbridge. [The mission revival style is reflected by the turrets and stucco.] 
 
In the late 19th and early 20th century, one of the dominant architectural styles (especially for homes) was Arts & Crafts (as the style was usually called in Britain and Canada) or Craftsman (as it was called in the United States). Arts & Crafts/Craftsman is a style that grew from the ideal of creating comfortable and aesthetically pleasing buildings that would improve society. Growing from the reform movement, craftsman houses and buildings were to be built on the belief of simplicity, durability, harmony with the natural environment and with the purpose of creating a building suitable to the activities to be done there. The Craftsman style was meant to honour skilled labour and hand craftsmanship. The buildings were purposely to be built of the highest quality and best possible materials – which is why anyone who has ever attempted to build a similar building today recognizes that it is economically difficult because these are buildings into which a great deal of time and effort were put.

The clean lines, symmetry and functionality of the building is obvious from its early photographs. Originally built as the pavilion, the building has changed functions over the year as newer buildings have been created on the exhibition site.

For a while known as the Youth-a-Rama building, since 1982 the building has been known as Heritage Hall. Extensive renovations were undertaken on the building that year with a new concrete floor poured as well as a new roof construction, insulation, wiring and mezzanine gallery. It was planned at that time that the hall would become the permanent home of the Whoop Up Day’s Hobby World and home to an agricultural museum.

This is a rare building that should be treasured. As an organization with a long history and as an organization that recognizes the importance of history, Lethbridge Exhibition is incredibly fortunate to have this building. Additionally, what a unique opportunity the Lethbridge Exhibition has to capitalize on having a rare and beautiful building on their site. I encourage everyone to take a closer look at the building when you’re at the Exhibition for Farmers’ Market, Whoop Up Days, or other events.

And if there are other historical or architectural gems in Lethbridge that you’re curious about, let me know.

Friday, 6 July 2012

1912 in Pictures

If you've been watching the news, checking social media or reading the newspaper, you have probably noted that many places, groups and organizations in southern Alberta and Lethbridge are celebrating their Centennial this year. 1912 was a fabulous year. That October, Lethbridge hosted the International Dry Farming Congress with 5000 visitors from 15 countries coming to the city of 8000 residents. Southern Alberta wanted to show itself off to the world. A promotional booklet was made telling the strengths and potential of the communities of southern Alberta. The streetcar system and Henderson Lake were built. Streets were paved. Sewers constructed.

Additionally, thousands upon thousands of people were moving to the west from across Canada and from around the world. Land rushes were common, numerous railroads were being built and many communities started in the years between 1906 and 1914.

 Below are pictures of some of things going on in 1912.