Labour Day Weekend at Alberta’s Historic Sites, Interpretive Centres and Museums

If you’re looking for some family fun this Labour Day weekend, consider visiting one of Alberta’s Provincial Historic Sites, Interpretive Centres or Museums. There is a lot of great programming that offers something for everyone – from strolling through gardens and learning about 1920s fashion, to carriage rides, guided hikes and tours, and getting your hands dirty and bellies full at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum Harvest Festival! Many of our sites, centres and museums are open year round but several others will be closing for the season after Labour Day. Don’t miss your opportunity to visit these sites before they close for the year!

In Southern Alberta, the Brooks Aqueduct and Leitch Collieries Read more

It’s #MuseumWeek!

Between March 23rd and 29th, museums from all over the world will join together to celebrate culture on Twitter!

#MuseumWeek began in Europe last year and 2015 will be the first time that the cultural event goes global. This event gives museums the opportunity to present their artifacts, secrets and stories to a worldwide audience, while encouraging people to snap and share photos of themselves enjoying a museum visit.

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

7 days, 7 themes, 7 hashtags is the programme focus for this year. Thematic hashtags allow museums to promote and celebrate their individual history and provide tips, while connecting with communities around the world. On Wednesday, #architectureMW will explore the architectural heritage and surroundings of museums. Friday’s theme, #familyMW, will provide advice for families or schools planning to visit a museum. This is a fantastic opportunity to gain insight into your favourite museum!

A number of Alberta museums and historic sites have signed up to participate in this online initiative including the Galt Museum, Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site, Glenbow Museum, Royal Alberta Museum and Royal Tyrrell Museum. A full list of participating museums can be found here.

To find out more, refer to the #MuseumWeek website and follow them on Twitter to join the conversation!

Written by: Erin Hoar, Historic Resources Management Branch Officer.

Where is Rock Creek’s missing rock?

Introducing a guest blog post from Monica Field, one of our colleagues at Historic Sites and Museums.

My story begins in the spring of 2013, when I received a phone call from Hugh Dempsey. He, writing an article for Alberta History, hoped to learn the whereabouts of a rock, a particular rock … a missing rock.

Why did he call me? If you could see my house, my yard, my desk, my office and the view outside my window, you might understand. I work at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, and live in a landscape surrounded by rocks of all shapes and sizes. Some follow me. Many, found hither and yon, have fallen into my pockets and been liberated within my office. Others have invaded my home. There, a glacial erratic—it’s a 4,000 kg boulder—anchors my living room to the rocky edge of Rock Creek, a tributary of the Crowsnest River.

I laughed when Hugh told me the story behind the article he was writing. Why? The tale was too unbelievable to be true. But amid its far-fetched elements, there were many profoundly compelling components and juicy aspects of alluring intrigue. I was mesmerized. Within seconds, I was hooked.

If you wish to read the full article, you’ll find it in the summer, 2013 edition of Alberta History. Look for “Count di Castiglione in the West.” Here’s a synopsis:

In 1863, Count Henri Verasis di Castiglione was sent by the King of Italy to explore North America and bring back exotic specimens for a zoo. The Royal Italian Expedition, after traversing the Porcupine Hills, camped at the mouth of Rock Creek near the stream’s confluence with the Crowsnest River. There, not far from Lundbreck Falls, Castiglione and Major Ezeo di Vecchi climbed a nearby ridge and carved their names, the date, and some other information on a slab of sandstone (two feet wide by two and a half feet long).

This was the sandstone slab sought by Dempsey.

Dempsey, following the captivating story of Castiglione, had been trailing the Italian count for more than 40 years. He knew that in 1941, three Smith brothers from Lundbreck had found the inscribed sandstone slab. (Back in 1956 a local writer—and a former neighbor of mine—had heard the story and got the Smith “boys” to take her to the rock. She could read the names and date, but was puzzled over the inscription, which had weathered. No one from the local scene seemed to know more).

Armed with Dempsey’s insights and a picture of the missing rock, I contacted numerous people in an attempt to see if anyone knew of the Smith boys. I also tried to determine if the local writer—who is no longer living—had left insightful notes. I spent hours looking at rocks while exploring the ridges near the mouth of Rock Creek, but struck out on all counts. Castiglione’s inscribed rock seemed to have vanished.

Then I hit pay dirt. It happened when I stopped to talk with an elderly landowner, a man living in close proximity to the missing rock’s described resting place. He told me he’d found the rock years ago and, believing it to be a tombstone, taken it home. Later, regretting his actions, he returned the rock to the place where he’d found it … on a south-facing hillside amid scattered limber pines.

A limber pine, covered in hoar frost, grows incongruously from thrust-faulted sandstone near the mouth of Rock Creek, in close proximity to the last known resting place of Count Castiglione's missing rock  (Photo by David McIntyre).
A limber pine, covered in hoar frost, grows incongruously from thrust-faulted sandstone near the mouth of Rock Creek, in close proximity to the last known resting place of Count Castiglione’s missing rock (Photo by David McIntyre).

Years passed until one day, in the early 1980s, employees from the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden in Lethbridge were granted permission from the landowner to excavate limber pines from the same sandstone ridge. When the landowner, returning to examine the site of the tree excavations, looked for the inscribed “tombstone,” he discovered it was gone. (This observation was made roughly three decades ago).

Fast-forward to 2013. I, curious, contacted the Japanese Gardens to see if I could learn more. I received a response indicating that the missing rock couldn’t possibly be in the Japanese Gardens because their rocks had been collected from an area farther west.

I wrote back indicating that, while I knew the bulk of the Japanese Gardens rocks had come from other locations, it seemed likely this particular rock, unusual due to its inscription, could have been collected at the time the Rock Creek limber pines were excavated.

I haven’t found time to visit the Japanese Gardens to see if I might learn more, but I’m mindful that a good sleuth leaves no stone unturned.

The Japanese Gardens are beautiful and well worth a visit. Perhaps, too, the gardens are the key to an elusive sandstone mystery?

My thought: The answer is out there …

Written by: Monica Field, Manager of the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre.

Rutherford House Winter Exhibit

The Rutherford House Historic Site and Museum Christmas season exhibit is now on display. This year the exhibit is Winter in Edmonton – Weather, Entertainment and Survival. The exhibit runs from December 2013 until January 24, 2014.

Rutherford House Historic Site and Museum in winter (2005).
Rutherford House Historic Site and Museum in winter (2005).

Edmonton is a winter city. That undeniable fact was clearly demonstrated a few weeks ago when the thermometer dropped to -30°C. On cold and snowy days many of us stay inside our centrally-heated homes and shudder as we look out over wind-swept, icy and snow-covered streets and sidewalks.

A selection of winter-related artifacts from the Rutherford House collection and the Royal Alberta Museum are on display at the Rutherford House Historic Site and Museum until January 24, 2014.
A selection of winter-related artifacts from the Rutherford House collection and the Royal Alberta Museum are on display at the Rutherford House Historic Site and Museum until January 24, 2014.

Winter is not all cold and dreariness, of course. Winter is a season of fun and outdoor games. It is a season of snowmen and skating parties, of shinny and skiing. It is a season of companionship amongst friends and family, of hot chocolate and large meals.

Whether you enjoy bracing walks outside or a book by a warm fire inside, have you ever wondered how did Edmontonians of the 1910s to the 1930s deal with winter? How did they keep warm outside? How did they heat their homes? How did they get around their community? What did they do for fun in the snow? What did they do when it was too cold to go outside?

Interpretive panels and archival photographs explain and illustrate how Edmontonians survived and enjoyed winter in the 1920s and 1930s.
Interpretive panels and archival photographs explain and illustrate how Edmontonians survived and enjoyed winter in the 1920s and 1930s.

Visit the Winter in Edmonton exhibit at the Rutherford House Historic Site and Museum for the answers to these questions and to learn about this Provincial Historic Resource – one of Edmonton’s early architectural gems and the historic family home of Alberta’s first Premier.

The Rutherford House Historic Site and Museum is located on the University of Alberta campus at 11153 Saskatchewan Drive. Winter hours are 12 (noon) until 5:00pm, Tuesday through Sunday. While you are there, stop and visit the newly re-opened gift shop for great Christmas stocking stuffers.

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographical Names Program Coordinator.

Take our Survey; Win a Prize.*

Heritage Canada The National Trust’s annual conference will be in Calgary in 2015, at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel from October 22-24. Our annual Municipal Heritage Forum takes place in the fall as well. This convergence offers a unique opportunity: we are exploring the possibility of offering the Municipal Forum in conjunction with the Heritage Canada Conference that year.


For those of you who don’t know what Heritage Canada is and what they do, I’ll provide a little background. Heritage Canada The National Trust (formerly known as the Heritage Canada Foundation) is “a national charity that inspires and leads action to save historic places, and promotes the care and wise use of our historic environment.” For the past 40 years, Heritage Canada has organised the only major annual conference for Canada’s heritage conservationists.

Heritage Canada’s annual conference provides an opportunity to network with others working to conserve historic places, and to learn what innovative things are happening in other provinces and territories. In the 1980s and early 1990s, the Government of Alberta partnered with Heritage Canada to help develop the Main Street model for revitalizing historic commercial districts in Canada. Our Alberta Main Street Program was created as part of this partnership.


I had the pleasure of attending this year’s conference in Ottawa. It was titled Regeneration: Heritage Leads the Way. Khalil Shariff delivered the opening keynote and his talk set the tone of the conference. Mr. Shariff is the C.E.O. of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada. He spoke of how historic places were an important part of the foundation’s strategy to improve economic prospects and social cohesion in cities in Asia and Africa. The individual sessions explored ideas of how heritage conservation builds community and fosters economic growth. There were sessions on how heritage enabled community development, and that provided examples of how to finance and organise conservation projects. You can see a complete list of the conference presenters (with links to their presentations) on the Heritage Canada conferences page.

Before making firm plans for our 2015 forum, we would like to know what you think. Please take a look at the programs from Heritage Canada’s 2012 and 2013 conferences to get a sense of the presentations, and then take our survey. If you complete our survey before January 15, 2014 your name will be entered in a draw to win a 2014 Family Annual Pass to visit Alberta’s Provincial Historic Sites, interpretive centres and museums.

Family Annual Pass, Alberta

If you have further comments or questions, feel free to email us at albertahistoricplaces [at] gov [dot] ab [dot] ca .


Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

* By “Win a Prize”, we mean that your name will be entered into a draw for the prize if you complete the survey.

Accepting Applications: Premier’s Council on Culture

Premier's Council on Culture

As many of you may already know, on January 9, 2013, Minister of Culture Heather Klimchuk launched a recruitment process for members of the Premier’s Council on Culture. Members will represent the range of sectors responsible for cultural activities and experiences – the arts, heritage, multicultural and nonprofit/voluntary organizations, as well as creative and cultural industries, youth and corporate partners.

The Government of Alberta will be recruiting up to 20 new council members, who may serve terms of up to three years. The application period ends February 28, 2013. If you are interested in being a cultural leader for both your community and Alberta, apply on the Government of Alberta Jobs Website (Job ID# 1015041).

Additional Information

Renewed Premier’s Council to help build capacity in Alberta’s cultural sectors

Council Members, Premier’s Council on Culture, Government of Alberta

Culture Ads - Final_Page_2

Prepared by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer