Hello from the Other Side: The Occult Phenomena of Spiritualism in Central Canada

If you think back on any of the horror films you’ve seen recently, or the science fiction novels you’ve read, how many of these have themes or actions where people contact the dead or interact with ghostly apparitions? What about notions of an elaborate spirit world that interrelates with the laws of our physical world? Or individuals with superhuman abilities like mind-reading, clairvoyance, telepathy, or telekinesis? These themes are core aspects of the Spiritualist movement which have been hybridized and diffused, becoming the defining touch to horror, science fiction, and related genres. But where did this phenomena come from and why? While modern media portrayals of Spiritualism may involve Ouija boards and séances to foreshadow the horrific events that result from the release of evil spirits of the Beyond, the actual phenomena of Spiritualism is rooted in a complex network of socio-political interactions at the turn of the 20th century between the advent of science and technology, the women’s rights movement, and WWI.

The information accompanying the spirit album states that the table is levitating – in reality the image of a ghostly arm has been superimposed over the table through double exposure. Photograph 1920 by William Hope (1863-1933). National Media Museum Collection: 2002-5054/10. Public Domain.

Spiritualism arose at the turn of the 20th century, when North American society was dominated by Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. However, traditional beliefs were being challenged by the rise of sects and cults arriving in Upper Canada from the northern United States, including Unitarianism, Swedenborgianism, Universalism, Quakerism, and Shakerism. Many of these new sects adopted and incorporated what can be considered progressive beliefs into their doctrines, Read more

Preserving Heritage for Future Generations: Heritage Barns of Flagstaff County

Thank you to guest writer, Sydney Hampshire, for sharing her experience of documenting built heritage in Flagstaff County.

Growing up in Northern Alberta kept myself, my siblings, and my parents a long way away from our extended family. We had only occasional visits with both sets of grandparents, which caused a disconnect between us. However, this disconnect also built a mystique around the lives of the past generation – and with it came an inherent curiosity.

My grandmother, Joy Hampshire (nee Innes), was born, and lived all her life in Flagstaff County after her mother and father immigrated from Scotland. Flagstaff County harbours an abundance of built heritage structures that showcase the region’s rich past. As a child, I was exposed to this heritage on each trip we took to our grandparents and I remember becoming terribly intrigued by this built heritage and the relics of my grandmother’s past. I remember each visit to Grandma’s farm required a visit or two to nearby abandoned homesteads. Each trek into a forgotten house, shed, or barn brought me great excitement: What would I find? What would I see? What would I infer about the people that used to live there?

I believe we all have a little bit of this adventurous spirit in us; it comes from a desire to understand the unknown and seek out answers. While exploration and Read more

“Alberta’s Lower Athabasca Basin” Takes Home Award

The Book Publishers Association of Alberta (BPAA) held their annual Alberta Book Publishing Awards on September 14 in Calgary. These awards recognize and celebrate the best of the Alberta book publishing industry. Of special note for the Historic Resources Management Branch is that Alberta’s Lower Athabasca Basin: Archaeology and Palaeoenvironments was awarded the Scholarly and Academic Book of the Year. This book was a collaborative effort between current and former employees of the Historic Resources Management Branch and the Royal Alberta Museum, researchers at the University of Alberta, members of Alberta’s archaeological consulting community, and Athabasca University Press. Well done and congratulations to everyone involved!

This volume tells a fascinating story of the oil sands region of northeastern Alberta, including how a catastrophic flood at the end of the last ice age formed the landscape of the region. It also highlights the intensive use of resources in the area by precontact groups since ca. 11,000 years ago. When the flood went through, it scoured pre-existing glacial deposits, and made bedrock deposits such as bitumen and a lithic raw material called Beaver River Sandstone accessible from the surface. Beaver River Sandstone was used to make stone tools for millennia following the flood. This stone can be found at a site called Quarry of the Ancestors near Fort McMurray, and over two million artifacts made of this material has been recorded in Alberta’s archaeological record. The chapters in this volume are invaluable for understanding the ecological and human past in northeastern Alberta and are important for informing future management of historic resources in the region.

Alberta’s Lower Athabasca Basin: Archaeology and Palaeoenvironments can be purchased or downloaded for free through Athabasca University Press.

Alberta Culture Days 2018

Mark your calendars for September 28-30 – Alberta Culture Days is almost here! This event provides an opportunity for Albertans to discover, experience and celebrate our arts, heritage, diversity and community spirit. There are nearly 80 organizations in Alberta that have been selected as official celebration sites, but anyone can organize and host an event. A list of events and sites, and resources to plan and submit your own event can be found here. If you’re not in Alberta, don’t worry, there are events happening all across Canada. September 28-30 is also National Culture Days! A listing of events by city or province can be found here.

If you are interested in hosting your own event, add it to the National Culture Days calendar. You can find event planning guides, ideas for schools, customizable posters and ads on the Alberta Culture Days website to help you with your event.

Take a look and start planning your visit to one (or more) of the many celebration sites across the province. With over 350 events listed, there is something for everyone – art walks, cinema, scavenger hunts, brewery tours, screen printing and much, much more!

Happy Culture Days!

Strathcona Collegiate Institute, Edmonton

In the spirit of back to school season, here is a previous post highlighting the history of the Strathcona Collegiate Institute/Old Scona Academic High School. It was originally published on RETROactive on October 11, 2011. Enjoy!

Strathcona Collegiate Institute/Old Scona Academic High School, Edmonton

When the Calgary & Edmonton Railway arrived at the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River in 1891, the C & E immediately subdivided a townsite which it named South Edmonton. Being at the end of steel, the community steadily grew throughout the decade until, in 1899, it was incorporated as the Town of Strathcona with a population exceeding 1,000. As with Edmonton to the north, Strathcona grew rapidly in the wake of the Klondike gold rush, and, in 1907, it was incorporated as a city with an estimated population of 3,500. Edmonton, however, was destined to grow at an even greater Read more

Petrified Wood: Preserving Alberta’s Natural and Human History

Designated as Alberta’s official stone in 1977, petrified wood is part of the geology, palaeontology and archaeology of the province. Petro (meaning ‘stone’ in Greek) is the root word of petrifaction, the process whereby an organism is mineralized or turned to stone. Petrified wood is a 3-D fossil that can appear like modern wood at first glance.

Figure 1. Examples of raw petrified wood cobbles and pebble from Alberta.

 

Petrifaction of wood involves two processes: permineralization and replacement. Both of these processes take place at the same time and involve the flow of groundwater, rich in dissolved minerals, through the wood. During permineralization, the internal and external features are surrounded and encased by minerals that have crystallized out of solution. During replacement, decomposing plant tissues are gradually substituted with minerals, which replicate the original structure in remarkable detail. Depending on the chemical composition of the groundwater, silica, calcite, pyrite and a number of other minerals can petrify wood. Quartz and other varieties of silica (SiO2) are the most common minerals: these fossils are said to be silicified. Read more

Calgary’s Gay History: The Life of Everett Klippert

This week on RETROactive, we are grateful to guest writer, Kevin Allen, for sharing the story of Everett Klippert.

Everett Klippert (far right), Calgary.

Everett George Klippert, a Calgary bus driver, was the last person in Canada to be arrested, charged, prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned for homosexuality. The Canadian decriminalization of homosexuality was a direct result of the Klippert case.

In his court proceedings, Klippert stated that he had actively engaged in homosexual activity when he started work in a Calgary dairy at the age of 16 or 17; and had continued being active until he was found out and arrested by Calgary Police Read more

Beading the Way: Adornment and the Quest for Cultural Survival

Adornment reflects a symbolic visual language that includes materials and designs that contain communally understood messages. That is, the clothing or items we wear convey information about us to other people. The expression of these messages through clothing, tattoos, jewelry, or body paint, conveys information about an individual, group, society, or religion. Beading, and other embroidery techniques, can be seen as one aspect of adornment for Indigenous groups, and one that played a central role in cultural preservation for many groups post-European contact.

Beads have been found in the archaeological record as early as 40,000 years ago, and are staples in decorative adornment. Beads can be fashioned from many different natural materials including plant seeds, stone, gems, shell, bone, or metal. While plant-based seeds are the easiest to manufacture due to their availability, beads made from bone, metal, gems, or semi-precious stone require more effort and technology to produce, and are therefore more highly valued.

Prior to European contact, Woodland and Plains cultures of North America decorated the skins of animals, tree bark, and their own bodies with locally available and traded materials. Materials such as seeds, berries, porcupine quills, moose hair, Read more

A Futuristic Elevator that Lives on in Brazil

This post was originally published on RETROactive on July 31, 2014. 

As this cartoon indicates some farmers were skeptical of the Buffalo design. (Courtesy of Glenbow Archives, M-800-344.)
As this cartoon indicates some farmers were skeptical of the Buffalo design. (Courtesy of Glenbow Archives, M-800-344.)

Not long ago, Alberta had country grain elevators named for the bison that roamed the plains before grain was grown. The innovative Buffalo, as they were called, were designed in Alberta, and constructed in both Alberta and Brazil. In the late 1970s, times were good for Alberta’s farmers and their grain Company—the Alberta Wheat Pool. Bumper crops and high grain prices kept the grain elevators humming. As fires destroyed many wood elevators, and the railways were pushing for ever more streamlined grain handling, the Pool decided to use some of its profits to experiment with concrete elevator designs. It began working with Buffalo Engineering of Edmonton, headed by Klaus U. Drieger. This resulted in a design for an elevator that was radically different, and a second company, Buffalo Beton Ltd. of Calgary, constructed them. Read more

‘Pollen’ me back into history!: What Pollen can tell us about Archaeological Sites

Anyone with allergies knows when spring begins, and plants start pollinating, the offensive ‘dust’ can wreak havoc. However, one of the great things with pollen, from an archaeological perspective, is the fact that it gets dispersed annually. This means that each year, the ‘signature’ of the pollen released tells us about the landscape at the time. Plants have evolved to reproduce with pollen in several ways, and one that is highly effective is pollinating via the wind.

Pollen being released from a flower which will be carried by the wind. Plant Pollen is available through the CC0 Public Domain.

When the wind transports pollen it gets dispersed across the landscape, sometimes even getting caught within puddles. Inevitably, many pollen grains get caught in lakes and accumulate in the sediments. When it settles on the bottom of a lake basin, it stays there and is preserved for researchers to find hundreds, and even thousands, of years later. All this Read more