Happy Holidays!

HRM - 2015 Holiday Card

The staff of the Historic Resources Management Branch wishes you a safe and happy holiday season.

We’ve worked hard to identify, protect and conserve Alberta’s historic resources this past year. We’d like to thank the countless people throughout Alberta for helping us to do that. Without your support, conserving our historic places would be impossible.

RETROactive will be taking a break over the holidays — we will resume publishing on January 6th, 2016. We look forward to seeing you all in the New Year!

Love It or Loathe It: A Brief History of the Holiday Fruit Cake

It’s hard to believe the Christmas holidays are just around the corner. Along with all the regular festivities, several traditional foods are due to make their annual appearances. One of the quintessential desserts of the season is the fruit cake. Described as either a rich, moist and flavorful cake filled with holiday cheer or a dried out, tasteless leaden brick chockfull of bitter candied fruit. We seem to have a love-hate relationship with this fruit-filled, spirit-soaked cake garnished with sugar-coated nuts. But why was it invented? How did this tradition start?

fruit cake photo

It turns out that fruit cake has staying power. Its origins may be linked back to the ancient Egyptians who made rich fruit- and nut-laden funerary cakes for their departed loved ones, meant to sustain the dead on their journey to the afterlife. Others trace its early roots back to the ancient Romans’ references to a type of energy loaf, which combined barley mash, pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and raisins. A more modern version of fruit cake became popular in the Middle Ages in Western Europe as dried fruits, honey and Read more

Conservation at the E.P. Ranch

E.P. (Prince Edward) Ranch, established by the Bedingfeld family in 1886, is located in the foothills southwest of Calgary near the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site. In 1919, during a cross-Canada tour, the Bedingfeld’s ranch captured the fancy of His Royal Highness Edward, Prince of Wales, upon his visit to the area.  Prince Edward purchased the ranch shortly thereafter from Frank Bedingfeld. Under Edward’s direction, the ranch developed a breeding program for sheep, cattle, and horses with livestock imported from the Prince’s breeding farms in the Duchy of Cornwall in England.  Prince Edward, later King Edward VIII, visited the ranch in the 1920s and in the 1940s and 1950s, after his abdication, as the Duke of Windsor.  Photographs in the Glenbow Archives show Edward and his wife Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, strolling among the ranch buildings that still stand at the site today. The E.P. Ranch was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 2004 for its association with Edward, who owned the site from 1919 to 1962. Fans of the 1992 movie Unforgiven will also recognize scenes shot on location at the ranch.

The main ranch (or Prince's) house prior to restoration, April 2014.
The main ranch (or Prince’s) house prior to restoration, April 2014.

In June 2013, the E.P. Ranch found itself at the epicentre of the torrential rains that flooded communities and historic sites across southern Alberta. Pekisko Creek overflowed its banks and swept through the site, turning grazing lands into a virtual river.  While the large and distinctive horse barn was unaffected, four other buildings were damaged. Read more

Arrowheads and Artifact Ambassadors

Many of the most amazing archaeological sites in Alberta were discovered accidentally by farmers, hunters, hikers, and industry workers. By sharing their finds, everyday Albertans became heritage heroes. Why is it important to share discoveries? When someone finds an artifact and puts it in their garage, one Albertan learns about our heritage. When a person invites an archaeologist to photograph that artifact, thousands of people and multiple generations of Albertans gain a portal to our past.

We’re always on the lookout for the next big site and the next famous Artifact Ambassador. To inspire you to share your finds, here are some facts about citizen discoveries in the world and here at home.

  • The Terracotta Army of China, a collection of over 8000 figures buried in a royal tomb over 2000 years ago, was discovered and reported by farmers in 1974
  • The Lascaux Cave paintings in France (over 15 000 years old) were discovered by teenagers on a hike in 1940
  • 1398 recorded sites in Alberta are based on private collections of artifacts – photographs and information about these collections have been inspiring research projects for decades

Map of private collections

  • Several archaeological finds by Alberta’s explorers and farmers have since become Provincial Historic Sites and one has even become an UNESCO World Heritage Site!
  • Archaeological finds reported by concerned Albertans include ancient rock art, medicine wheels, footprints of extinct animals hunted by people, buffalo jumps, and ancient campsites.
Image 1 Manuscript covers
A number of projects were undertaken from the 1970s to 90s to document private collections of artifacts from Lethbridge to Grande Prairie. Digital copies of these manuscripts are now available to Alberta’s archaeological community.

Even a single artifact can contain significant information. For example, staff of the Archaeological Survey recently initiated two projects to document private collections in northern Alberta. Read more