Exhibit shares historical objects in Jewels of the Bow
Written in blue ballpoint ink on an empty bottle of Fletcher’s Castoria, a laxative, are the words “Holy Water 1898” and the question remains, was it a practical or inside joke or did someone in Canmore actually store holy water from the late 1890s in a laxative bottle?
“I don’t know if the laxative was cleaned out and holy water was stored in there or if it is some sort of practical joke because the bottle likely dates to the 1940s and I don’t believe Fletchers Castoria was developed until 1911, so it is a very humourous case,” Amanda Sittrop, collections manager at the Canmore Museum & Geoscience Centre, said Monday (July 9).
The Fletcher’s Castoria bottle is just one of the 50 weird, wonderful and peculiar objects from the museum’s collection that museum staff and Canmore residents felt deserved a deeper look during the museum’s Deep Research project that began last summer, made possible by a grant from The Calgary Foundation.
It was hoped that this deeper look would answer questions and solve mysteries about these objects.
“(These were) items that we didn’t have any information about or we found in different storage areas, but didn’t know where they came from, when they were donated, why they were important,” said Sittrop.
And now that the hard work is done, the museum is opening its newest exhibition Jewels of the Bow: An exploration of the Canmore Museum Collection on Saturday at the museum from 2-4 p.m. The opening follows the Canmore Miners’ Day Main Street parade and barbecue at the Canmore Miners’ Union Hall.
The exhibition will share all 50 objects studied during the project, including the Mountview Video Plus sign, an International Business Machines (IBM) commercial grade cheese slicer, a juke box selector from the café in the Canmore Hotel and a gold-plated railway grade watch manufactured between 1907–08 and discovered in a slack heap at Bankhead.
“Railway grade watches had to be inspected to ensure they were up to standards to avoid any accidents.
“The cover of it is absolutely beautifully engraved. There are these floral patterns and a bird,” Sittrop said, adding who owned the watch and why it ended up in a heap of waste coal remains a mystery.
But the objects that still have a bit of mystery remain the most interesting, Sittrop said.
“They still have mysteries about them. We know a little bit more now, but for the ones that still have work to be done, they still have that mystery,” she said.
And while some mysteries remain, more questions were answered than not, said Sittrop, who gave credit to people who willingly provided information.
“I have a very strong fondness for some of the gentlemen who have come and told me about some of the mining equipment,” Sittrop said, pointing out former miners John Krasnodemski, Jimmy Fitzgerald and John Miskow were helpful, as was Bill Cherak, one of the owners of the Rundle Mountain Trading Co.
“All these men were so eager and excited to talk about their experiences with the mines and I was just as eager and excited to listen to them because they were just as passionate and I hope that a trust has been built between us.”
Reaching out to the community and building trust was the point of the Deep Research project.
“We wanted to connect to the community and let them know we are here and also gain their information on objects in the collection because they were donated by local community members over the years. It is their experiences that bring these objects to life.
“It’s a community museum. It is about the community and what the community wants and their experience, so talking with them and finding out what they want should be our priority, and it has been through this project,” Sittrop said.
The project has also reinforced the museum has a diverse collection that reaches beyond coal mining and Canmore’s Olympic legacy that link Canmore to larger, national and international stories.
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