Alberta’s Archives send you Valentines

The Archives Society of Alberta have asked our members to share their favorite Valentines. Here are some lovely Valentines from the vaults:

Galt Museum & Archives, Lethbridge
19891053006. Young couple chalking hearts onto a tree, Valentine’s Day. 1944.


Photograph donated by Laura E. Hicks of Lethbridge, who served oversees as a member of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) during World War 2. Sergeant Laura E. Hicks was a Photo Librarian for the Canadian Film & Photo Unit!


Glenbow Archives, Calgary


ASA Valentine Blog

This letter was written by Colonel J.F. Macleod of the North-West Mounted Police to his wife Mary. Yes, the famous Mountie who led the newly-formed force to the West in 1874 and negotiated Treaty 7 at Blackfoot Crossing in 1877, had a romantic streak. On a visit to the Crossing in February 1884 he thought not of the historic treaty signing, but of the tent he had shared there with his beloved wife. He searched out the very spot and wrote her name in the snow with his moccasin.


Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre





University of Calgary Archives

James Wheeler Davidson Family fonds, 2012.004

This is a page from a notebook containing messages written in 1933 by Lillian Dow Davidson to her recently deceased husband of 26 years, James Wheeler Davidson.  Lillian’s notebook clearly reveals the love she had for Jim and how desperately she missed him after his death.  The messages give researchers a glimpse into the private lives of a couple who were often in the public eye, and thus allow the other records in the fonds which document their public activities to be viewed from the perspective of an insider.



Between Me and Thee, my precious Jim

I want, dear, to be sweet and gracious and to keep myself up to date and looking nice for I am still Jim Davidson’s wife and proud to be and want to justify your selection of me as your wife.

You are my ideal of a man, my dear, one who had just plenty of force of character but not so much as to be domineering and tyrannical. Every woman loves a man she can look up to and be guided by. You were an ideal combination of all that is most admirable in the male character. 


The City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives 

CalA 2013-029-008


Love in the flood? The ‘HMS Cupid’ being rowed near the flooded out Langevin bridge in Calgary, July 5, 1902. While this doesn’t particularly look like a pleasure outing, we’d like to think some romantic souls made use of the boat prior to the flood.


Provincial Archives of Alberta, Edmonton

PR2000.0248/26 from the Housiaux family fonds. Undated, but possibly 1920s or 1930s.

PR2000.0248.0026 (front)    PR2000.0248.0026 (back)

It’s animated! It’s not often we come across archival records that move (if we exclude moving images, of course). The little dog will move his mouth to speak into the microphone. The fingerprint (paw print?) “mark” on the back is interesting, especially since there is a matching dog Valentine in the file with Nelly’s fingerprint/paw print “mark.”


Museum of the Highwood, High River

MH001.004.563 (1)

High River Active 20-30 Club Valentine’s queen and king contestants, circa 1975.


Legal Archives Society of Alberta, Calgary

LASA Image #47-G-40


The Honourable J.V.H. Milvain, Q.C., O.C

The Honourable James Valentine Hogarth Milvain, known as ‘Uncle Val’ to his
friends, was born during a snow storm on Valentine’s Day 1904, on a ranch
near Pincher Creek, Alberta.

Milvain graduated from the University of Alberta Law School.  He moved to
Calgary in 1927 and was admitted to the bar that same year.  In October
1959, the Ranchmen’s Club held a dinner in honour of his appointment to the
Supreme Court of Alberta, Trial Division.  Nine years later, Milvain became
Alberta’s first native-born Chief Justice.  He retired from the Bench and
resumed private practice in 1979.  In 1987 Milvain was appointed an Officer
of the Order of Canada.

PAA Film Night – Film is Dead; Long Live Film and The Naked Flame


On Friday, March 22, the Provincial Archives of Alberta presents its 28th Annual Film Night at Edmonton’s Metro Cinema in the Garneau Theatre. Audience members will enjoy a FREE double bill that offers examples of past and present film technology and a feature length potboiler filmed right here in Alberta.

• 7:30 p.m. – “Film is Dead; Long Live Film!” The audience can compare films from the archives’ vaults, projected the old fashioned celluloid way, with digitized films from a brand new film scanner.

• 9:30 p.m. – The Naked Flame A “Canuxploitation” feature shot in Alberta in 1964 that sensationalizes the nudity and arson protest tactics of the Doukhobor sect.
Tickets to both films are free at the door. Metro Cinema is located at the Garneau Theatre, at
8712-109 Street in Edmonton.

Film is Dead; Long Live Film! Panel Discussion
Wednesday, March 27th, at 7 pm at the Provincial Archives of Alberta (8555 Roper Road)

The focus of the discussion will be the massive changes in cinema brought about by the emergence of digital technology at all points in film culture, including production, distribution, exhibition, study, and preservation. The panel will feature filmmakers, archivists, exhibitors, scholars, and producers who will offer their perspectives on this catalytic period of film history. The event will be of interest to cinephiles, filmmakers, film students, and others with an interest in film culture.

The speakers will be:
Tom Bernier (independent filmmaker and Provincial Archives of Alberta audiovisual technician), who will offer perspective on independent celluloid-based filmmaking in an increasingly digital world;
Jeff Brinton (Alberta Film Commissioner), who will be speaking about changes to the mainstream film industry, with a focus on commercial filmmaking in Alberta;
Braden Cannon (Audiovisual/Private Records Archivist, Provincial Archives of Alberta), who will address challenges facing archives in the acquisition, appraisal, and preservation of film and digital moving images;
Liz Czach (professor in the University of Alberta Department of English and Film Studies), who will offer an academic perspective on changes to film culture; and
Marsh Murphy (executive director of the Metro Cinema Society), who will be speaking about changes to the distribution and exhibition of celluloid and digital films.

Christmas in Alberta’s Archives

Since we are approaching the holiday break, the ASA was curious to see what Christmas-themed archives are housed in Alberta’s archives. We asked a number of archives in Alberta to send us their favorite holiday-themed archival holdings. Thank you to everyone who participated!

Millet & District Museum, Archives & Visitor Information Centre (Millet):

Millet’s archives houses photo albums and documents from Millet’s participation in the Winter Lights program. This photograph is from Millet’s participation in a Christmas festival event as part of Winter Lights 2002-2003. The archivist finds the photograph peculiar since there is no snow in the image.

Millet Archives 64.2002.122

Millet Archives 64.2002.122

Hinton Municipal Library and Archives, (Hinton):

Card from donor (back), 2010Hinton’s archivist shares a Christmas letter she received from a donor. This donor helped the archives with information on Hinton in the 1930s and lobbied to have a memorial for men who were killed in a 1938 mine explosion. In this Christmas letter we see what an impact an archivist can have on a member of a community.

Card from donor (front), 2010

University Archives, University of Calgary (Calgary):

This Christmas card was sent home to family and friends in Canada by James Wheeler Davidson, his wife and daughter from Malaysia in 1929.  The text on the card notes how the family “yearn for … friends in their holly-festooned homes”.  Christmas on the beach seems so unorthodox!

UARC 2010.004/1.22

UARC 2010.004/1.22

Sir Alexander Galt Museum and Archives (Lethbridge):

Muriel J. (Mona) Clark (née Waddell) resided in Lethbridge in the 1940s. The photographic collection suggests boisterous personality and passion for outdoor activities. She was a hunter, horseback rider, skater and hiker. Interestingly enough, she was a daughter of John William Waddell, an early Lethbridge photographer and a half-sister to John Enderby “Jock” Palmer, WWI gunner and pilot, who became known as “the Grandfather of Alberta Aviation.” Apparently, shooting guns and photographs is something that runs in the family.


Galt Museum and Archives 19981021027

City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives (Calgary):

The City of Calgary’s Archives submitted a photograph of Santa with an alternative form of transportation.

Santa doesn’t just drive reindeer!  Christmas bus courtesy of the Calgary Downtown Business Association, 1962.

CalA 95-025-003

CalA 95-025-003

Jewish Archives & Historical Society of Edmonton and Northern Alberta, JAHENSA (Edmonton):

Rabbi Ari Dreilich of Chabad-Lubavitch Edmonton with former Premier Ed Stelmach and his wife Marie in 2006. Rabbi Dreilich is presenting the Premier with a Channukiah at the official lighting of the Menorah at the Alberta Legislature that year. The Channukiah was donated by Rabbi Dreilich to JAHENSA. Chabad has been sponsoring the Menorah lighting at the Legislature for 20 years now.


Red Deer & District Archives (Red Deer):

This scan is from a glass-plate negative taken by J.H. Gano of his son at Christmas. Red Deer Archives loves the tree, the decorations, and the composition of this image. From the shine on his boots to the sparkle of the “snow”, this archives wishes everyone who celebrates a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

MG 584 Gano Family fonds; Photographer: J.H. Gano

Red Deer & District Archives, G2274 ; MG 584 Gano Family fonds; Photographer: J.H. Gano

Musée Héritage Museum (St. Albert):

Actors in the Christmas Carol attended grades 7 to 9 under the teacher Helen (née Wibray) White.  Tiny Tim was played by Paul who was borrowed from a younger grade. The teacher who organized the play had donated this photograph to the St. Albert Historical Society. She commented that Kenny McKay who played Bob Crathchit gave the best Crathchit performance during her time as a teacher.

St. Albert Historical Society fonds, 2003.01.1799

St. Albert Historical Society fonds, 2003.01.1799

Esplanade Archives (Medicine Hat):

This image is of a poster that was saved by Gunther Poppe while he was a German POW in Canada during World War II. He was held briefly in Camp #132 Medicine Hat before he was sent to cut pulpwood in a labor camp in Northern Ontario. The caption of the poster is in German, but translated reads, “Merry Christmas our Beloved Homeland.” Gunther Poppe was repatriated back to Germany in 1946 via a camp in South Wales. After living in East Germany for four years, he escaped, and moved back to Canada.

Photo 370.1.32

Esplanade Archives 370.1.32

South Peace Regional Archives SPRA (Grande Prairie):

One of SPRA’s current favourites is the Carlisle family fonds which gets a lot of use because of the beautiful photographs it contains ( Part of the family album shows a 1939 Carlisle family Christmas, complete with stockings hung by the chimney with care, tree trimming, Frosty the snowman, and new toys. Ahhh… This particular photo shows children Jim, Mary Jean, and David with their Christmas tree.

Carlisle family fonds, 399.01.18

Carlisle family fonds, 399.01.18

Sylvan Lake & District Archives (Sylvan Lake):

Sylvan Lake’s archives enjoys the porcelain doll that is in the doll buggy in this photograph.  The photo comes from the Cuendet family, a family whose homestead was located one mile east of Sylvan Lake.


Sylvan Lake & District Archives 2000.19.14

Archivists Protest NADP Cuts

On May 28, a group of approximately 30 archivists and archives supporters gathered at Canada Place in downtown Edmonton to protest the funding cuts affecting Library and Archives Canada, in particular the cuts to the National Archival Development Program (NADP) that had funded numerous beneficial archival projects in Alberta.  Wearing white gloves and holding protest signs, the protesters chanted slogans including “Information is a Right / Join Us in the Fight” as well as (in a moment of inspiration) “You Gotta Fight / For Your Right / To Archives.”

Protesters in Edmonton

Group of Protesters in Edmonton

The protest in Alberta mirrored the larger protest in Ottawa, where approximately 150 protesters marched from Major’s Hill Park in Ottawa along Wellington Street to the Library and Archives Canada building at 395 Wellington.  Also wearing white gloves, marchers carried a small coffin and held a mock funeral for federal funding for archives that included eulogies by MPs and representatives of the CCA and other groups.

Bench in front of Library and Archives Canada after protest march.

The ASA encourages its members to speak up about the cuts by contacting your MP as an individual and, if applicable, as an affected institution to highlight the importance of the funding to the archival community.  Keep up the advocacy and keep up fight!

South Peace Regional Archives – Cemetery Tours

It’s summer again in Grande Prairie and that means it’s nearly time for our annual Grande Prairie Cemetery Historical Walking Tours!

Join South Peace Regional Archives on Wednesday June 13, July 11, or August 8 for a guided walk through the Grande Prairie Cemetery and discover the rich and interesting history of Grande Prairie and area through the lives and stories of its people. Please call the Archives at 780-830-5105 to register (limit of 20 participants). We’ll be meeting at the Cemetery (84 Avenue and 112 Street) at 7pm. Please dress for the walk and the weather.

SPRA Cemetery Tour

Participants in an SPRA Cemetery Tour

Elimination of NADP Funding

On April 30, 2012, Library and Archives Canada announced that it had eliminated funding for the National Archival Development Program (NADP), a $1.7 million program administered by the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) that distributed funding across the country to support a variety of projects in provincial and territorial archival communities. 

In solidarity with the CCA and the other provincial and territorial archives councils, the Archives Society of Alberta (ASA) calls upon Library and Archives Canada  to reinstate funding for the NADP immediately.

The elimination of this funding has profound impacts for Alberta’s archival community.  Over the past 27 years, Alberta’s annual funding envelope of $83,475 has been used to support a variety of projects coordinated by the ASA on behalf of Alberta’s archives, including:

  • Collaborative projects to organize, describe, and do other necessary work to preserve records and make them available, ensuring that NADP funding was made accessible to large and small archives alike.  In the past three years alone, over 134 linear metres of textual records and 23,000 photographs, maps and other items were preserved and made available for researchers at a wide variety of small and large archives;
  • Collaborative global assessment projects for archival institutions across the province, ensuring that all institutions have a plan to spend their preservation funding in the most effective way possible;
  • Archives Week celebrations in Alberta, including the creation of virtual exhibits and calendars designed to highlight treasures of individual archives and promote their holdings to a broader audience.

Through these initiatives, every archival institution in the province has benefitted from the funding provided through the CCA, totalling a dozen communities around the province.

In addition to the ASA projects coordinated provincially, there have been numerous innovative projects undertaken by archival institutions over the years, including:

  • Digitization of the entire oral history holdings of the Jewish Archives and Historical Society of Edmonton and Northern Alberta, including holocaust survivor testimony;
  • Digitization of fragile township maps for preservation and greater researcher access;
  • A records survey of the Peace River region to raise community awareness of archives and to ensure that community records were identified and preserved in the face of rural depopulation;
  • Arrangement and description of aboriginal photographs, including a trip to the First Nations communities where the photographs were taken in order to identify people and build connections within the community.

Without NADP funding, these projects would not have taken place, and the elimination of this program jeopardizes future archival development in Alberta.  The NADP is a prudent, cost-effective method of providing federal government support to the Canadian archives, and Library and Archives Canada cannot fulfill its mandate to assist the Canadian archival community without the NADP.

The ASA urges all its members to contact Minister Moore and local MPs through emails, letters, and in-person meetings to discuss how the elimination of the NADP will affect their archival institutions as well as the provincial and national archival communities as a whole.  Please see the CCA’s website and its Call for Action for additional information:, visit the Archivists’ On to Ottawa Trek site (, or contact the ASA office (see “contact us” at    If you make contacts and receive statements, please forward copies to the ASA office so that we are aware of any ongoing continuing initiatives.

PAA Film Night – “Now That We Are Filmmakers”

Metro Cinema is partnering with the Provincial Archives of Alberta to uncover some cinematic treasures from our past. On Friday, April 20, Now That We Are Filmmakers showcases films by and about Alberta women for the PAA’s 27th annual film night. Come and see how they’ve viewed the world, challenged the world and made a world for themselves.  A few highlights:

From Edmonton to Berlin with the Grads
Join the Edmonton Grads basketball team on their 1936 European tour, as they enjoy the scenery, play some demonstration b-ball and bask in Olympic pageantry – Hitler even makes a brief cameo.

Barry Broadfoot’s Pioneer Years: Women
Based on Broadfoot’s book The Pioneer Years, this film presents the challenges of settling a woman’s west.

Milk Maid’s Folly
A dashing lothario ignores his wedding vows to seduce a young woman in this cautionary, home movie melodrama.

Ruth & Harriet: Two Women of the Peace

This 1973 film offers a slice of the lives of two Peace River-area women who are as strongly individualistic and self-reliant as any pioneer. Their world is made of the things they cherish: the homestead, the river, the bush, the wildlife of the forest, their children and their men.

Alberta Girls
The Edmonton-based Alberta All Girls Band was invited to open the 1974 World Cup Soccer Championship in Munich. Suddenly, this regional Canadian band was performing its music and precise marching formations before a combined live and television audience of over half a billion people.

And more!  Check out the official trailer here:

Now That We Are Filmmakers screens Friday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m., at Metro Cinema at the Garneau, 8712 109 St, Edmonton. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors (student ID is required), and $6 for children under 13. Tickets go on sale at the box office 45 minutes before show time.

For more information on Provincial Archives Film Night, please contact the archives at 780-427-1750.

From Bethlehem to Banff?

Thanks to Jane Parkinson of the Paul D. Fleck Library and Archives at the Banff Centre for this post.

Part of the pleasure of working in an archives is that when you’re looking for something, you’re apt to come across something else, completely unexpected and probably more interesting than what you’re looking for.

This happened here a few weeks ago, when I was reviewing some contact sheets of conference photos from the early 1970s.  In a corner of one contact sheet, alongside images of a visiting conference group and some faculty portraits, there was this:

Unidentified copy print, Paul D. Fleck Library and Archives.

What the heck?

Looking a bit closer, it was clear that this was actually a photograph of a photograph.  I can picture the unknown photographer here in the 1970’s taking a photograph of an old print and giving the owner the negative.  Unfortunately, there’s no name of an original photographer or studio, or any other clue about where the original print was taken or when.

My curiosity aroused, I’ve since taken some personal time to look at our library’s books on costume design and confirmed that the costumes of the men were from somewhere in the Middle East.  To try to pin down where exactly, I focussed on the woman’s spectacular hat, and searching the web found references to the shatweh headdress traditional to Bethlehem. Underneath the white veil would be a cap hung with coins. The woman’s dress with the embroidered square (qabbeh) on the bodice and long pointed sleeves was known as a thob.  Here’s a photograph from the web showing the last Bethlehem woman to routinely wear this striking costume:

The seated man is wearing a jubbe, an outer coat traditional throughout the Middle East. While he wears a cloth turban wound over a cap, the standing man – likely their son – wears a keffiyeh held in place with an agal.  You can also notice that the older man is smoking and carries a set of beads in his left hand.  This could indicates he was of the Greek Orthodox faith, as was most of the population of Bethlehem around 1900. Apparently, many of the Christians of that region emigrated to North America, particularly the US, in the twentieth century.

That’s as far as my research and speculations have taken me – maybe someone else has additional insight?

“Nelson Mandela and Reckoning with Pasts and Futures”

As part of the activities surrounding its biennial conference, the ASA is presenting a public lecture by Verne Harris, Nelson Mandela’s archivist and the keynote speaker at the conference.

Titled “Nelson Mandela and Reckoning with Pasts and Futures,” Harris’s lecture will discuss the work of memory as the work of justice, especially in the contexts of “post-oppression.”  It is a rare opportunity to hear about the work of archives and archivists in South Africa, and their continuing role in the social justice process.

The lecture will take place on Wednesday, May 23 at the Glenbow Museum’s ConocoPhillips Theatre (130 – 9 Avenue SE), starting at 7PM. Admission is $10 at the door (cash only, please).  To see the official postcard for the event, please click here (note:  the details of the event appear on page 2 of the PDF).

“Archive of Memory, Memory in Archive” – ASA 2012 Conference

The Archives Society of Alberta holds a biennial conference, and this year, it’s taking place at the University of Calgary campus from May 23-26, 2012.  Featuring a keynote speech by Verne Harris of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and a closing plenary by archival theorist Terry Cook, the conference features speakers from across Alberta, Canada and from around the world. There is also a pre-conference workshop titled, “Archives for Social Justice: Implications for Archival Functions.”

For further information about the ASA 2012 conference, please see the conference brochure


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