The Butterfly Effect

Peeling paint and powdering plaster were the first indications something was amiss at the Blairmore Courthouse, a Provincial Historic Resource in the Crowsnest Pass. A leak in the cedar shingle roof, replaced just the previous year, was immediately suspected. Detailing around the dormers in particular, part of the 1922 building’s distinctive Spanish Colonial Revival design by architect R.P. Blakey, is tricky and vulnerable to water penetration.

1920s view of Blairmore Courthouse from the southwest (Photo Credit: Glenbow Archives)
1920s view of Blairmore Courthouse from the southwest (Photo Credit: Glenbow Archives NA-712-3)

Nippon School of Technology, which owns the building and runs a technical school and exchange program for Japanese engineering students there, inspected the roof from the attic and found no active leaks. Puzzled, N.I.T. engaged a conservation architect to inspect the building and identify sources of moisture causing the paint and plaster failure. The findings were at once surprising and (in hindsight) credible.   Read more

AHRF 2016 Heritage Awards

Calling for Nominations for the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation’s (AHRF) 2016 Heritage Awards

Nominations for the AHRF’s biennial Heritage Awards are now open!  This is an excellent opportunity to recognize and celebrate the outstanding accomplishments of individuals, organizations and municipalities who have demonstrated their commitment to preserving, and promoting appreciation of, Alberta’s heritage.

Awards are presented to projects for the Heritage Conservation and Heritage Awareness Awards; to municipalities for the Municipal Heritage Preservation Award; and to individuals for the Outstanding Achievement Award.


For a copy of the guidelines and nomination form, click here or contact 780-431-2305 or e-mail  More information is also available at

Deadline for nominations is July 15.  The awards ceremony will take place on October 14 at the McDougall Centre in Calgary.

Written By: Carina Naranjilla, Grants Program Coordinator, AHRF

Archaeology and Development: Statistics from the Historic Resources Management Branch

Have you ever wondered about how development impacts heritage sites in Alberta? Today’s post is for you! Check out the following infographic, which presents data collected by the Archaeological Survey at the Historic Resources Management Branch.


Written by: Colleen Haukaas, Regulatory Approvals Coordinator, Archaeological Survey

Mount Edith Cavell

Located between the Astoria and the Whirlpool rivers is a mountain considered by many to be the most majestic in Jasper National Park, if not the entire Canadian Rocky Mountains. At an impressive altitude of about 3,300 metres, the mountain has been known by a number of names. French Canadian voyageurs using the Athabasca Pass referred to the notable landmark as La Montagne de la Grand Traverse (Mountain of the Great Pass). Dr. James Hector of the Palliser Expedition referred to it as Le Duc, probably after a Metis member of his party. In 1912, Arthur O. Wheeler of the Alpine Club of Canada and the Interprovincial Boundary Survey named it Fitzhugh Mountain, after the townsite of Fitzhugh, which was named for E. L. Fitzhugh, a director of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (the townsite of Fitzhugh was later renamed Jasper). It had also been periodically, and incorrectly, referred to as Mount Geikie. Today, and since 1916, the mountain is named Mount Edith Cavell, named for a British nurse who never set foot in Canada, let alone within Jasper National Park or on the mountain itself. How this mountain became a commemoration to Edith Cavell is an interesting lesson in Canada’s role in the First World War, its place in the Empire and the importance of wartime symbolism and the values of myth and memorialization.

North face of Mount Edith Cavell with Lake Cavell in the foreground, ca. 1945.
Provincial Archives of Alberta, PA354.1

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Alberta on Fire: A History of Cultural Burning

Fire science has come a long way but the growing practice of prescribed burning is actually a return to a deep past. Archaeological and paleoecological researchers are demonstrating that Western Canada has been burning at the hands of people for thousands of years. Much of what was thought to be wilderness in the early 1900s was likely a mosaic of manipulated landscapes influenced by controlled burns. Alberta has a rich history of fire use and the recognition of it has implications for modern conservation and land management.

Ancient Fires

Tracking the history of fire in a landscape can be challenging and, in the paleoenvironmental record, it’s particularly difficult to distinguish human from natural burning. Fire scientists, however, are untangling fire history in interesting places. Christina Poletto is a Master’s student at the University of Alberta who will soon extract a long core of lake mud in northern Alberta in order to analyse changing layers of charcoal and pollen deposited over thousands of years. This information provides a baseline of natural fire history that she hopes to compare to cultural landscapes surrounding archaeological sites. “I want to Read more