Sunday, August 16, 2015

2015 Museum Staff

Things will be winding up at the Museum in a few weeks, although, we still have an afternoon Kids' Camp scheduled for August 20th and a Hi Pie Friday for August 21st. Our guided tours will continue to run on into September, by appointment. So, we have lots of opportunities for you to meet our summer staff before the Clayton McLain Memorial Museum closes for the season!

2015 Summer Staff: Jayden, Aunica, Blake (Photographer: Colleen)

Our Museum Manager, this year, is Colleen, a three year resident of the Cut Knife area. She, and her family, live on an acreage which, she claims, “would qualify as a zoo!” Many may recognize Colleen from her work at the Cut Knife Elementary School as a Special Education Assistant. Her favourite exhibit, although it was a tough choice, was Raymond's General Store; she especially likes seeing the original items for many of the name brands we use today.

Most Interesting Museum Experience: Colleen actually had the nerve to participate in one of Fort Battleford's Ghost Walks! Led by the light of a single lantern, the tour winds its way through the fort's buildings while the guide recounts ghostly historic tales. Colleen admits it was “a whole new experience” and, she says, she “would do it, again.”

Jayden is a recent graduate of Cut Knife High School with plans to attend the Canadian Tourism College in Surrey, BC for her Adventure Tourism Diploma. She “loves being outdoors and working with people.” Jayden's favourite part of the CMMM is the Medical Building. She's had occasion to spend lots of time at hospitals over the years and finds it interesting how medical tools and procedures have changed over time.

Most Interesting Museum Experience: Jayden has also had a “spooky” musuem experience but this one was closer to home. She opened up the Duvall house one morning to find a footprint “clear as day” on the floor. Now, what's especially peculiar about that is, after Jayden had swept the floor and locked up the house for the night, no one had entered the building until Jayden unlocked the door the next morning - to find the footprint!

Blake is a resident of Cut Knife and a student at Cut Knife High School. He's working towards his Journeymen's in either carpentry or electrical. Blake, like Jayden, loves the outdoors; he spends time hunting, fishing, hiking and camping. The Gallivan School House is Blake's favourite exhibit; he finds it “fascinating how our education has changed in the past 50 years.”

Most Interesting Museum Experience: Blake visited the Royal Ontario Museum and was impressed by “the shear size of it” with many levels of exhibits from a variety of ancient civilizations as well as an animal exhibit “which was cool.” Unfortunately, it was also so large that he became separated from his group and spent two hours wandering, looking for them, until finally meeting up with them, again, in the front lobby.

Aunica is a student at Cut Knife High School and a resident of the area. She lives with her family on an acreage on the Rockhaven road. Aunica's favourite exhibit is the Train Station, not only because it's filled with so many different kinds of artifacts but because she also likes the architecture of the building.

Most Interesting Museum Experience: Aunica used to live in Calgary and, once, she spent a whole week at an overnight immersion camp at Heritage Park Historical Village. The participants dressed in period costumes; they learned all about life at the turn of the 20th century and they lived it that way for 5 days!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Cemeteries and Family Histories

The Cut Knife Cemetery, like so many others in Saskatchewan, is over one hundred years old and, meandering through on a Sunday afternoon, it is easy to recognize the older graves. Lettering has eroded on many of the softer marble stones and names and dates on others have filled with mosses and lichens, both of which make the inscriptions difficult to read and the graves to identify. A few headstones have broken, a few plots have remained unmarked for reasons unknown. Perhaps, there are records that can fill in the gaps, perhaps not.

Cemetery records everywhere, especially the older ones, are notorious for being lost, or damaged, or destroyed in fire and flood. This makes it especially difficult for families who are searching, at a distance, for an ancestor. A grave connects a person to a place and provides a context; a grave marker records vital statistics. Sometimes, a marker can also shed light on a personality through the choice of epitaph, the presence of religious or association symbols, nicknames, etc. When both records are no longer accessible, a vital piece of family history is lost.

Many rural cemeteries are cared for by volunteers and are just not in a position, financially, to undertake large restoration projects. In addition, the volunteer hours required to clean, photograph and annotate a whole cemetery of headstones is probably not realistic, either. Maybe, a simpler approach would work . . . providing online accessibility to researchers. . . 24/7? is a volunteer-driven, not-for-profit organization that archives photos and text of cemetery grave markers submitted by individuals or cemetery committees. The CMMM has listed it on our Family History | Canada page as a genealogy resource. The Cut Knife Cemetery and the Carruthers Cemetery are already represented online with a number of photos to view for each.

The next time you're wandering through your local cemetery with your phone or digital camera, consider digitizing your family's headstones and sharing them online with those who may be searching for them. In all probability, if any part of the headstone is illegible, you or a family member would have the knowledge needed to record the correct information.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Acquisitions: To Accept a Donation . . . or Not?

On March 17, 2015, the Cut Knife Chamber of Commerce dissolved. The organization had been a part of the Town since, at least, the 1970s and had hosted some well loved community traditions including the May Long Weekend Garage Sale, Oktoberfest and the Canada Day Pancake Breakfast at the Museum. However, now that it had disbanded, the question arose: What was to become of its records?

The first box of materials - with signed Transfer of Ownership, to the right. The items will be organized along timelines, described, filed in archival boxes and stored.

The Clayton McLain Memorial Museum and Archives has established a set of guidelines that helps us to determine whether, or not, a potential donation fits our mandate. These criteria were designed to keep us on track. Our display space, our storage space and our volunteer resources are limited. By following our Significance Worksheet, we eliminate duplication and we maintain the museum's focus on the stories directly relevant to the area.

Filing cabinet filled with the documentation for our artifacts and archival materials.

Honestly, if it were up to the individuals of the Acquisitions Committee and the Board of Trustees, we'd probably take in everything that was offered to the Museum. Most of us have a weakness for collections, for antiques, for documents and books or for items of a sentimental nature but that approach is unworkable. So, we've set up a procedural based upon what other museums are doing and we work at creating a unique, manageable collection reflective of the people, events and history of the Cut Knife area.

The Archives is a climate and light controlled, dust and pest free area.

The records of the Cut Knife Chamber of Commerce will be accepted into the Archives because they fit - to a tee - the requirement for historical significance: “. . . collection [that] contributes to changing the course of local history or [has] an impact on development of community.” The boxes of materials will be processed and, in time, will be available to the public for viewing or research.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Bert Martin's Cabin

Homesteading in the early 20th century, on the wind-whipped stretches of prairie was no easy task for new immigrants. Often, they knew little about farming and, even if they had experience working the land, surviving a Saskatchewan winter would still be a bitter struggle. Much of their success would depend upon how well they were able to make preparations before the cold weather hit.

A Prairie Winter View
A Prairie Winter View

First shelters were often considered temporary, constructed quickly with whatever materials a settler could afford or could find on the land. Tents and caves, sod or tarpaper shacks were common, replaced by log, frame or stone houses as the homesteader’s fortunes improved. Severe weather events like droughts, floods and cyclones were widespread as were their consequences - fire, insects, mud, and hailstones.

Bert Martin's Cabin, circa 1920 front view
Bert Martin's Cabin, circa 1920
Winter would be the worst. Blizzards with extreme temperatures and wind chills, little visibility and drifting snow could shut down an entire area. A settler needed a supply of food and firewood to survive until the roads were passable, again. He would need wool blankets and quilts, lamp fuel and something to occupy the long days of solitude and isolation.

Bert Martin's Cabin, left wall
Bert Martin's Cabin, left wall

Bert Martin's Cabin, rear wall
Bert Martin's Cabin, rear wall
Imagine living in a shelter like Bert Martin’s: A log cabin, plastered with mud to keep out the wind, a small wood stove for heat and a few small, windows to let in the weak winter sun. There’s a dirt floor, a single bed, a table and chair, a few pictures to decorate the walls but it’s a simple dwelling. Could you imagine living like that for a year or two? It’s humbling to think about how many homesteaders did.

[For more details and some great pictures, visit the Saskatchewan Settlement Experience at the Saskatchewan Archives Board website.]