Monthly Archives: October 2016

History of Halloween in Canada


Photo credit: Jack-O-Lantern, Jeff Kramer

Halloween was first practiced in Canada in the Maritimes and eastern port cities where Irish and Scottish settlers arrived in Canada around 1840. Many of the settlers arrived to build the canal or to escape the potato famine. They brought with them the Pagan tradition of celebrating October 31st known as All Hallow’s Eve, which is now called Halloween or Allhalloween. All Hallow’s Eve is the day before old Samhain, which marks the first day of winter (also known as All Saint’s Day, All Souls Day, and the Day of the Dead). In the 19th century some Pagan traditions associated with All Hallow’s Eve were still practiced in Canada, such as bobbing for apples, snap-apple, bonfires (fire with animal bones), collecting treats door to door, and divining the future. There are records of communities on the east coast gathering in farmhouses to practice their traditions.[i] CBC has some very interesting recordings in their online Digital Archives on the practice of Halloween in Canada.

The practice of costumed people going door to door for treats developed from a combination of two old traditions:

  1. The belief that the souls of the dead and demons walked among people on Halloween and wearing a costume, or guising, would confuse them, which would act as a form of protection.
  2. The belief that souls of the dead would knock on doors to receive food, and if not given any food they would haunt or curse the home. It became customary for people to hand out treats to all who knocked at the door.[ii]

Irish and Scottish settlers in the eastern USA also practiced All Hallow’s Eve traditions, causing the practice and celebration to increase in popularity and spread across North America in the following years.

The apostrophe: The apostrophe in the word Hallowe’en does not regularly make an appearance and sometimes it is dropped. You can take it or leave it, as using the apostrophe historically comes in and out of favour. In the 1960s marketing for the holiday dropped the apostrophe and it has maintained this spelling since; however, according to proper English grammar, it is recommended to use the apostrophe as it infers the word ‘eve’ after ‘hallow’.[iii]

Canada’s contributions to the holiday (Yep, we recorded it first):

A newspaper article from 1911 printed in Kingston, Ontario offers the first printed evidence of people putting on costumes and disguising or guising themselves, going door to door asking for treats on Hallowe’en.

Another newspaper article from 1927 printed in Blackie, Alberta offers the first printed evidence of costumed youths going door to door to “trick or treat” on Hallowe’en.[iv]


[i] Barrett, Maria and Bill McNeil. (1961, October 31). CBC Assignment: Halloween Originates with Samhain, Lord of the Dead.

Retrieved 2016, October 18 from

[ii] “The Origins of Halloween in Canada.” Today in Canadian History. 2 November, 2015. Accessed 18, October 2016.

[iii] Barrie, Andy. Guest referenced: Nick Rogers. (2002, October 21). CBC Metro Morning: The Evolution of Halloween.

Retrieved 2016, October 18 from

[iv] “The Origins of Halloween in Canada.” Today in Canadian History. 2 November, 2015. Accessed 18, October 2016.

Additional Reference:

MacInnis, Lloyd. (1957, October 31). CBC Assignment: Halloween, Maritime Witches.

Retrieved 2016, October 18 from

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Let Us Remember


Photo credit: Tony Sprackett, Remembrance Day Victoria 2009

On Friday, November 11th 2016 at 11:00 am Canadians across the country will stand for a moment of silence to remember, and thank those who have fallen to protect future generations of Canadians. Are you in Alberta and interested to learn more about WW1 or Remembrance Day? Two of ASA’s institutional members are holding events leading up to, and on the day of November 11th to honour the fallen.

Oct. 27: The Military Museums, Canadian Legacy Project Theatre, Calgary, AB

The Military Museums has been offering a lecture series with presentations on specific topics of past wars. On October 27th at 7:00 pm speaker Pat Brennan, Associate Professor Emeritus of History from the University of Calgary, is presenting, ‘En Victoire: France on the Western Front, 1914-1918’, which discusses the amazing sacrifices, and resulting victory due to France’s war efforts.

Nov. 3: The Military Museums, Canadian Legacy Project Theatre, Calgary, AB

On November 3rd at 7:00 pm speakers Adriana A. Davies and Jeff Keshen are presenting, ‘The Frontier of Patriotism: Alberta and the First World War’, which discusses the strong war effort provided by Albertans to support Canadian soldiers. This presentation highlights how the war affected people in Alberta and their contributions to our soldiers.

Nov. 11: Prince of Wales Armouries, Edmonton, AB

The Loyal Edmonton Regiment Military Museum and Archives is open from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm and will be offering a Remembrance Day ceremony at 11:00 am, tours of their exhibits, and other activities. Over the past year they have been updating their Facebook page featuring the series, ‘World War 1 Remembered’, that highlights events that took place 100 years ago during the war.

Nov. 11: Military Museums, Calgary, AB

The Military Museums is offering an outdoor Remembrance Day service, beginning at 10:30 am. They are accepting non-perishable food donations for the Veterans’ Food Bank. The museums will be open after the service.

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The Exhibit Series: Put a Label on It

When organizing an exhibit, creating the labels may not be the most exciting item on the to-do list. The labels are often used to relay essential information about the item on display, such as the title, description, artist, creator, date, age, or where it’s from. Sometimes labels provide information on how the item was used, what it was for, or who is depicted in the image.

Labels are often skimmed over by the viewer.


Photo Credit: Brint Design, Periodic Table of Typefaces

How can exhibit labels be more interesting? What would make the viewer want to read the label?

  1. Less is more. A viewer does not want to spend ten minutes reading and thinking about the information in a label. The label should be short. In fact, the shorter the better (20 – 70 words). If the label has closer to 70 words, break the paragraph up into two smaller paragraphs to create the illusion of a shorter label.
  2. An easy read. Don’t use technical vocabulary that would not get across the information to the general public. The exhibit is meant to inform the general public, not stump them. It is best to use simple vocabulary and short sentences, with strong adjectives and verbs. By doing this, you are making the information accessible to a wider audience. It is also important that the label is easy on the eyes. The text should either be dark on a light background or light on a dark background, with a 70% difference in contrast between the two colours.
  3. Available in large print. The font size should be no smaller than size 12. The typeface should be sans serif or simple serif (e.g. Screen Shot 2016-10-13 at 2.18.09 PM.png or Screen Shot 2016-10-13 at 2.19.09 PM.png) and there should be no more than two fonts in the label. Proper punctuation and capitalization should be used unless it is purposefully being manipulated to get across certain information. The Smithsonian has published an online article, Smithsonian Guidelines for Accessible Exhibition Design, aimed to provide recommendations on designing an exhibit that better relays information to all audiences.
  4. Make it worth their time. Why is the label worth reading? Engage the viewer with an interesting fact or the label could have a narrative. It may also help if the text is written with an active voice instead of passive. It could also be interesting to feature a ‘curator’s choice’ item for the exhibit.
  5. Provide an activity. It is recommended to include an activity within some of the labels in an exhibit. These labels could pose a question or encourage the viewer to look more closely at the item.
  6. Just a little bit higher. Make sure that the label is located near the item. It should be at a comfortable height so that the viewer does not need to look up or bend down to read it. The centre of the label should be approximately 57 inches from the floor. If the label is positioned high or low ensure that it is correctly angled to accommodate the viewer.
  7. Don’t make it a beacon. The label should be matte or very low gloss. The viewer should not have to change angles to read the label. Ensure that labels going within an exhibit case are examined for glare prior to the final installation.

Fun fact: The American Alliance of Museums’ Curators Committee in partnership with the Museology Graduate Program at the University of Washington, Seattle, and in cooperation with the National Association for Museum Exhibition and the AAM Educational Committee holds a yearly exhibit label competition. The competition, entitled Excellence in Exhibit Writing Competition, accepts international entries.



Brint Design. Periodic Table of Typefaces. Accessed 2016, Oct 13.

Hammons, Carlyn. Training for Texas Museums. 2011, Oct 18. Five Tips for Great Exhibit Labels.mp4. Retrieved from

Majewski, Janice. Smithsonian Guidelines for Accessible Exhibit Design. Smithsonian Accessibility Program. Accessed 2016, Oct 13.

Parks Canada Access Series: Design Guidelines for Media Accessibility. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services, 1993.

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Coming to Alberta – Archives Week Launch


Photo Credit: Meeting of the Societe Jean-Batiste of Alberta, Provincial Archives of Alberta, Cropped Image.

Every year, during the first week of October, the Archives Society of Alberta celebrates Archives Week. Each year Archives Week has a different theme, the same theme in which the ASA calendar is based on. The ASA is excited to announce the theme, ‘Coming to Alberta’, which focuses on those who immigrated to Alberta to start their new home. People from all over the world have moved to Alberta over the last 150 years making Alberta the culturally rich and diverse province that it is.

Acting Executive Director and Archives Advisor, Meribeth Plenert, the ASA Board of Directors, and the ASA Communications Committee worked hard to organize the successful launch event held on October 1st at the Old Strathcona Performing Arts Centre. Despite the heavy rainfall that evening, the event had a great turnout welcoming MLA Chris Neilson and Robert Gaetz from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation. The event featured performances of dramatic readings of letters and oral histories from archives across Alberta. The letters and oral histories were by people who immigrated to Alberta from allover the world, which provides brief, though accurate, first hand accounts of their experiences traveling to Canada, entering Alberta, and beginning their new lives. There were six performances demonstrating varied stories, from one person who left the USA in 1909, who, with two others, built the first road between Amber Valley and Lac La Biche, to a war bride from England who travelled with 42 000 other war brides by ship from Britain to Canada after WW2. It was also fascinating to hear the story of a man and his friends starting up a successful restaurant business in Medicine Hat.

Due to generous funding by the City of Edmonton Archives, the live readings were filmed and will be made available on the ASA YouTube page. The Flood Team found the series of readings highly entertaining including shockingly humourous accounts and stories of perseverance.
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Disaster Preparedness Workshop: The Results are In!

The Disaster Preparedness workshop, offered by the Archives Society of Alberta and the Flood Advisory Programme, was held in Calgary at the Hyatt Regency from September 21st – 22nd 2016. It aimed to provide registrants with information on disaster preparedness that is not covered at traditional disaster preparedness courses and workshops.

The workshop offered a combination of presentations and hands-on activities. This included learning how to propose and write a business continuity plan for a department or organization; disaster psychology preparation and coping mechanisms; case studies exemplifying equipment offered by BELFOR Canada; and how to prepare for evacuating collections, and handle wet records.


Photo Credit: Barry Manuel of Kildoon Emergency Management, Emily Turgeon-Brunet

A big thank you to all who attended, we hope to see you in the future at other ASA events. In hopes that this workshop may assist people working in the heritage field beyond the two days it was offered, select information from the presentations has been made available on the Flood Advisory Programme’s webpage. Please click here to prepare for a disaster in your archives.

This workshop was possible due to funding and support from Alberta Culture and Tourism.

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The Exhibit Series: Boxing it Up

When developing a new exhibit space, or updating an existing exhibit space, it can be tough to find the right selection of exhibit cases and mounts. Archives staff may be looking to enhance an exhibit space with new cases that both better suit the collection and that are chemically and physically stable long-term. Sometimes it is not possible to order new cases, as it can often be less expensive to update existing cases rather than replace. Whether buying new or making changes, what are you options when displaying original archival material?

  1. Where can you buy archival grade exhibit cases?

Zone Display Cases is a Canadian company that designs and manufactures custom-made conservation grade display cases. They are made of powder-coated steel and glass and are closely inspected prior to shipping. They offer a promise that all display cases shipped are without defect. Some of their most recent projects have included creating cases for Parliament of Canada, Harvard University, The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, and Yale University.

Goppion: The Art of Case Design began as a glass making company in Milan. Over the years they began creating custom display cases to meet clients’ special needs. Their work can be seen in museums across Europe.

Glausbau Hahn is a German company that produces their glass and coated metal cases within country using resource efficient methods and materials. Their cases can be viewed throughout Europe, and, closer to home, can be seen at the Royal Ontario Museum.


Photo Credit: Modular Cases, Products, Zone Display Cases. Accessed September 2016.

  1. How can non-archival grade exhibit cases be updated?

Often unmodified exhibit cases are adopted for use because they are what is available and on-hand. These exhibit cases are sometimes painted or lacquered wood, particle board, or even mixed materials, including cork. These materials are generally not archival grade unless steps are taken to stabilize them. They will off-gas and negatively affect the items housed inside by causing embrittlement and yellowing to the paper. Completely replacing the case may not be within the budget, so what can be done?

  • If the case is lacquered wood it is recommended to place acid-free barriers like mat board or panes of glass along the shelves or platform. This is to ensure the collection items are not in direct contact with the wood.
  • If the case is coated metal and areas of the coating has worn off, it is recommended to apply a fresh coating of enamel paint to reduce the possibility of corrosion in areas with exposed metal. Allow paint to cure for two weeks before use.
  • If the case is made of particleboard, plywood or MDF it is recommended to coat it with enamel paint, and set aside to cure for two weeks before use. It is recommended to coat these types of wood products because they off gas due to adhesives within the material.
  • Cork is often used as a base material on shelves and platforms, frequently found in cases produced for schools and libraries. Cork is not archival grade and is not chemically stable. It is recommended to cover the cork board with buffered mat board, with an additional sheet of unbuffered acid-free mat board overtop. The underside of the buffered mat board should be routinely checked for discolouration. Once it begins to discolour, replace with another sheet of buffered mat board. It is recommended to put unbuffered mat board overtop of the buffered one because some archival materials react poorly to change in pH. Unbuffered mat board is inert and so is preferable if placing archival materials directly on it.

Microclimate equipment can also be installed in new or repurposed exhibit cases. Canadian company, Keepsafe Microclimate Systems, offers a variety of temperature, humidity, and oxygen moderating equipment that can be installed in cases to better protect collection material from the environment and pests.

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