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museums

What happens when you clean an Olympic medal with Ajax?

By SILVIA PIKAL 

Photo by Jason Dziver.

1936 OLYMPIC SILVER MEDAL
At Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, Helena Deng, manager of exhibits and collections, points out a display with two Olympic medals.

The medals are both the same size, shape, and are imprinted with the words “XI. Olympiade Berlin 1936.” Both medals belonged to Canadian track and field athlete John Wilfrid Loaring, who won a silver medal in 400-metre hurdles at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

But one of these things is not like the other. One is silver and shiny, while the other is discoloured and clearly damaged.

“Unfortunately, my mother cleaned the winner’s silver medal with Ajax Cleanser which badly tarnished it,” Loaring’s son, G. R. John Loaring, said in an email to Where Calgary.

“Ajax is a very, very harsh chemical,” Deng says. “It’s great for sinks, less so for silver medals. By cleaning it with Ajax, she stripped a large portion — if not all — of the silver plating off the medal.”

Many years later, G. R. John Loaring received permission from the International Olympic Committee Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland to obtain a duplicate of the medal.

Luckily, the same German company that made the 1936 Berlin Olympic medals was still in business and able to reproduce the original. The medals are identical aside from a tiny “COPY” stamped along part of the thin round edge. (And the copy is unravaged by Ajax, of course).

In 2015, when Loaring was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, his son shipped his collection of medals to the museum, which included the original and its shiny copy.

“We as Canadians have a very long history of success in athletics,” Deng says. “This medal — to have it displayed — is that impact story.”

A CANADIAN TRACK AND FIELD STAR
Loaring was born in Winnipeg and moved to Windsor in 1926. A rising track and field star, he won several medals in high school and on the Kennedy Collegiate Track Team.

At only 21 years old, Loaring competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in 400-metre hurdles. The very first time he competed in this event was at the Canadian Olympic trials. He was also the youngest finalist in the category, and thus surprised the world by taking home the silver medal. Following his success in the Olympics, he won three gold medals at the 1938 British Empire Games.

After the outbreak of the Second World War, he left Canada for Britain to serve in the Royal Navy. In 1940, as a radar officer on HMS Fiji, Loaring overcame gruelling and challenging circumstances. When the ship was dispatched to pick up civilian survivors of a torpedoed ship, Loaring was able to help resuscitate three children due to his training in Royal Life Saving skills.

During the Battle for Crete, their ship ran out of ammunition and was sunk by a German bomber. Thanks to the strength and stamina Loaring developed as one of the top hurdlers in the world, he survived by clinging to the wreckage for hours until he was rescued. He developed severe oil poisoning due to being in the water for so long, and was put ashore in Africa to recover. Still, less than a year later, he was back to competing in track meets in England.

Back home in Windsor he was an active athlete, worked as a coach and lent his time to a variety of sports organizations.

5 Places Outside of Calgary to Visit This Summer

By KYLEE PEDERSEN

From awe-inspiring national parks to fascinating historical sites, there is plenty to experience beyond the city limits. Take a quick day drive or plan a weekend away around a visit to one (or all!) of these must-see stops.

Photo courtesy Michael Matt

WATERTON LAKES NATIONAL PARK
Nature has revived the prairies, shorelines and mountainsides of Waterton with new growth since the park was affected by the Kenow Wildfire at the end of summer last year. While some areas of the park remain closed, the Upper, Middle and Lower Waterton lakes, as well as the townsite, entrance road and Chief Mountain Highway, are open and ready to be explored. Camp, canoe, kayak, bike, hike, spot wildlife and take in the incredible natural beauty of the national park. Waterton is a three hour drive due south of Calgary.

LIVE LONG AND PROSPER
See Christopher Reeve’s Superman 3cape and take a seat in Tom Hardy’s Shinzon Captain’s chair at the eccentric Trekcetera museum in Drumheller, just an hour and a half northeast of Calgary. Canada’s only Star Trek museum goes beyond the final frontier to include a plethora of props and costumes from an array of films and artifacts from the Titanic and the U.S. 7th Cavalry. With experience on film sets and insightful anecdotes, the curator of the museum makes the displays at Trekcetera come alive.

Photo courtesy Frank Slide Interpretive Centre

LEITCH COLLIERIES
In 1907 when the Leitch Colliery was opened it was considered the most cutting-edge mining operation in Canada. Although the mine was only in operation for ten years, the stone remains of the mine’s powerhouse invoke a once grand operation. Take a scenic drive south of Calgary along highway 22 to Crowsnest Pass to learn more about the lives of the miners who worked there, the surrounding town, and the untimely demise of the fruitful business.

FATHER LACOMBE CHAPEL
This small wooden chapel is Alberta’s oldest standing building, constructed in 1861 by the Métis community who lived in what is now St. Albert. The chapel was part of the Roman Catholic mission led by Father Albert Lacombe. Make the three-hour trip north of Calgary to get a tour of not only the chapel, but its accompanying crypt, grotto and cemetery.

OKOTOKS ERRATIC
If it’s natural history you’re looking for, don’t miss the geological wonder of the world’s largest known glacial erratic, located just south of Calgary near the city of Okotoks. Here, jutting out of the prairie horizon, sits 16,500 tons of quartzite; a massive rock formation which looks as if it has been dropped from the sky. But in fact, Big Rock got a ride from a glacier thousands of years ago and assumed its final resting place when the ice receded.

 

 

The adventures of Scruffy the Car

By SILVIA PIKAL

Photo courtesy Heritage Park Historical Village.

There’s a Nash 450 sedan sitting in Gasoline Alley in Heritage Park Historical Village, and her name is Scruffy.

She first rolled off the assembly line in 1930 with a shiny coat of paint. Only a few years later she was covered in dents, repairs and rust due to the travels of a Saskatchewan family searching for a better life on the open road.

Like many prairie families in Canada during the Great Depression, they were forced to pack up their belongings, load up the car and leave their devastated farm behind to find work.

Scruffy has room for five people. With no trunk, any extra luggage would be strapped on the roof. The family headed north to Peace River Country, but somewhere in Alberta the worn-out car kicked the bucket.

Sylvia Harnden, the curator at Heritage Park, says the family would have had no choice but to set out on foot while Scruffy was left to fend for herself. Scruffy eventually settled in a barn in Balzac.

About 50 years later, in 1985, a man named Brian McKay showed up looking for Scruffy. The Calgary-born car enthusiast was living in Victoria, restoring antique Nash roasters, and looking for parts, when he heard about the old girl.

“He picked it up for parts, but once he had it in his possession, he started to look at it and fell in love with what it represented — all those thousands of thousands of people who struggled during the depression,” Harnden says. “The Dust Bowl, drought, hail, grasshoppers — it was a terrible time for a lot of people — and to him it represented those hardships.”

After having a hell of a time taking Scruffy to car shows, in 2004, when he was 65 years old, McKay mechanically restored the car and drove 2,000 miles down Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles, recreating the journey of many Dust Bowl refugees who headed west hoping to find work.

He shipped Scruffy by flatbed truck to Chicago and travelled by train to meet up with her for the epic, 2000-mile, seven-week journey. McKay mimicked the life of the original displaced farmers with an old bed frame tied on top of Scruffy and a kitchen set-up at the back. He camped roadside or in campgrounds along Route 66 and cooked his own food.

The car has wooden spokes so when driving through drylands in Nevada, at one point he drove into a tributary of the Colorado River to soak his wheels, to swell up the spokes so they would be tight again.

After McKay’s death, Scruffy was donated to Heritage Park in 2010 with the stipulation they could not restore her.

“I think the story of this car is one thing — the indomitable human spirit,” Harnden says. “Brian McKay had it, people who survived the Great Depression had it — they just had to keep on, keepin’ on — and somehow they did.”

Liked this story? Read the full feature in the May/June issue of Where Calgary and uncover the secrets behind five museum artifacts.  

The bell that rang when Chuvalo fought Ali

By SILVIA PIKAL

Exhibit in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame/Photo by Silvia Pikal.

The year was 1966.

The place was Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

And the fight was between George Chuvalo and Muhammad Ali.

(more…)

The journey of the Kimball Theatre Organ

By SILVIA PIKAL

Photo by Jason Dziver.

On a Tuesday afternoon in March, Jason Barnsley, the National Music Centre’s collections and exhibitions technician, is playing some movie jazz on the Kimball Theatre Organ.

Barnsley is a trained organist who plays and tunes the assemblage of pipes, valves, cables and instruments that make up the instrument, which lives on the third level of Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre.

Using both hands and feet to control the keys and levers, he can play the pipe organ, snare drum, xylophone, glockenspiel and several other instruments to give the audience the feel of an orchestra.

(more…)

What to Expect at Winnipeg’s Gorgeous Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Courtesy Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Courtesy Canadian Museum for Human Rights

By Joelle Kidd

With stunning architecture, a strong mandate, and an eye towards a future of purpose and hope, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is leading the charge for human rights education.

Courtesy Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Courtesy Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Rights for All

Entering into the cool, dark belly of the CMHR feels like the beginning of a journey. This is intentional. Architect Antoine Predock took painstaking care to integrate the building into the land, incorporating elements such as concrete stained the colour of Red River clay, and more than 50 species of indigenous tall grass prairie planted on either side of the building’s concrete “roots”. A massive screen displays video of silhouetted figures writing ‘welcome’ in 36 different languages. Nearby, a fossilized footprint discovered during an archeological dig of the museum’s site in 2008 reinforces this ground’s status as an historical meeting  place; this particular moccasin print is 750 years old.

It’s an impressive start to a visit, one that shows the care taken with every detail in the vast museum. The philosophy is holistic: from the building’s design to individual exhibits, every part of the experience points back to a mandate based around promoting greater understanding of human rights and prompting reflection and dialogue.

The CMHR marks a new generation of museum, one that promotes interaction and hands-on learning, that doesn’t shy away from technology, and is more interested in posing questions than loading visitors up with facts. This is not to say the museum is lacking in material: more than 100 hours of video, 250 artifacts and works of art (including 10 original art pieces), 2,543 images, and 100,000 words of original text are packed into the mammoth space.

Luckily — you guessed it — there’s an app for that. The experience-enriching application is free to download, full of content like an audio tour for self-guided wandering, the ability to sense nearby exhibits, a ‘mood meter’ that allows visitors to rate how they’re feeling and take the temperature of every gallery, and a GPS overlay that adds “hotspots” to a camera’s view of the Winnipeg skyline, pointing out additional attractions in the city.

Moving through the galleries is a conceptual journey from darkness to light, following criss-crossing ramps of backlit Spanish alabaster from the shady entranceway to the sun-dappled Garden of Contemplation, a basalt stone space offering respite and reflection, and up to the glass-walled Tower of Hope, the brilliant panoramic sweep of which symbolizes the impact of changing one’s perspective. Along the way, multimedia exhibits challenge, educate, and inspire. Global events, historic documents, deeply personal stories, and powerful works of art all share the space, providing a deep, rich, and multifaceted view of human rights. Without shying away from the past, the museum points to a better future, highlighting human resilience and ingenuity in the fight for all people to be recognized as free and equal.

Courtesy Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Courtesy Canadian Museum for Human Rights

What You’ll See

The Stories

Lean about historical and contemporary human rights issues through powerful personal stories.
Racial segregation in Canada. A collection of documents and a recreation of a 1940s movie house pay tribute to Viola Desmond, a black Nova Scotian woman who was arrested after sitting in the white-only section of a segregated movie theatre.
Holocaust survivor. Sigi Wasserman, like thousands of Jewish children in Germany, was sent along to Great Britain to escape the Nazis.
Inspiring youth. Craig Kielburger began advocating against child labour when he was only 12 years old. He went on to create an international charity, Free The Children, and the We Day initiative.
A singing activist.
Read about the life of First Nations singer/songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, hear one of her songs, and see the Oscar she won for her song, “Up Where We Belong”.
Lifting the veil. See Quebec artist Andreanne Paquet’s photo exhibit of Muslim women wearing the hijab, which aims to promote understanding and express freedom of choice.

The Artifacts

Keep an eye out for these fascinating items on display.
A ballot box. This unassuming object has historical significance as the box that held the votes cast in South Africa’s 1994 election, in which Nelson Mandela was elected president.
Suitcases. See luggage belonging to Japanese Canadians interred in camps during World War II.
The world’s largest Metis beaded artwork. This record-holder stands 18 feet tall, made by artist Jennine Krauchi with thousands of antique beads dating back to the fur-trade era.
The Proclamation of the Constitution Act of 1982. The original document, signed by Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, enshrines Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
A red prom dress. Worn by Mareisha Rucker, who organized her school’s first integrated prom in Wilcox, Georgia, in 2013.

The Technology

Try out these high tech interactive activities.
The circular basket theatre. An original film exploring Indigenous conceptions of rights and responsibilities plays on a 360 degree screen inside a theatre made from ‘woven’ wood.
Interactive table game. This digital exhibit reacts to shadows of visitors’ hands passing over it.
Lights of Inclusion floor game. A motion sensor tracks movements with colourful spotlights that merge and tremble when visitors interact.
Interactive study table. This long, touch screen table contains information and images about 16 atrocities from around the world.
Digital canvas. A 95-foot canvas in the Canadian Journeys gallery plays silent films that tell individual stories of human rights.

Visitor Information

Visit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights website for admission prices and hours. 90 minute guided tours are available, as well as self-guided audio tours for mobile device from the App Store or Google Play. 3-4 hours are recommended to delve into the CMHR’s massive array of content.

More Winnipeg Attractions:

6 Canadian Rockies Galleries & Museums

Photo: Rundle After September Snow, by Wendy Bradley

Photo: Rundle After September Snow, by Wendy Bradley

By Afton Aikens & Lisa Stephens

Western Canadian Art 

Canada House Gallery in Banff displays paintings by Wendy Bradley (among many other artists). This third-generation Banffite hikes, climbs and snowshoes to vantage points where she paints en plein air, in temperatures that have dipped to –16°C.

(more…)

19 of Canada’s Most Unusual Museums

by CARISSA BLUESTONE

Canada’s Most Unusual Museums: the world-famous Gopher Hole Museum (Photo: Colin Smith)

Did you know that Vancouver has an entire museum devoted to corkscrews, that diehard Anne Murray fans can devour every detail of her life and record a CD with her in Nova Scotia, or that a tiny town called Vulcan in the Alberta Prairies is home to a Star Trek–themed tourist “station”? From the über-Canadian to the downright kooky, these unusual, one-of-a-kind and just plain weird museums earn the moniker “cabinet of curiosities”.

Start the slideshow of Canada’s most unusual museums »

6 Must-See Quebec City Museums

By SHANNON KELLY

Maison Chevalier (Photo: genevieve.ducret)

Quebec is one of Canada’s oldest cities, founded in 1608, and arguably the best preserved, so doing at least one museum on your trip here is essential. Explore French-Canadian and native history, art and even 17th-century medical technology at these fascinating museums in a fascinating city. At the very least, they can provide a respite from the summer heat! (more…)

30 Things We Love This June

3. Mrs. Bridal Boutique

1 People watching on the rooftop patio of Sky Yard, a favourite sipping spot of the city’s hipsters.

2 A peaceful walk through Mount Pleasant Cemetery (375 Mount Pleasant Rd., 416-485-9129).

3 Saying yes to the dress at Mrs. Bridal Boutique.

4 Seeing works by contemporary Canadian artists at the venerable Olga Korper Gallery.

5 Vintage jewellery from the vast estate collection of Van Rijk Jewellers. (more…)

7 Canadian Literary Locales We Love

By AMANDA HALM

For fans of Anne, a trip to PEI for the many Anne of Green Gables sites is a necessity (Photo: Jenna MacMillian as "Anne of Green Gables" Tourism PEI / Barrett & MacKay)

Take your summer reading plans on the road: Walk in the footsteps of a memorable character or see where prolific poets spent their early years at one of these seven literary destinations across Canada. (more…)

A Royal Reason to Celebrate

Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret in 1942 (left), and Princess Elizabeth and Prince Charles in 1950 (right), both by Cecil Beaton.

Royal BC Museum celebrates
Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee

Join the Royal BC Museum for a special exhibit of personal portraits of Queen Elizabeth II as the monarch celebrates her diamond jubilee this summer.
Opening June 1 and continuing through summer to September 3, this special exhibition of portraits by royal photographer Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) depicts Queen Elizabeth II in her roles as princess, monarch and mother. The exhibition will include a number of previously unpublished images alongside extracts from Beaton’s personal diaries and letters. The photographs are drawn exclusively from the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Beaton’s glittering royal portraits were among the most widely published photographs of the twentieth century and helped to shape the public image of the monarchy around the world. The exhibition explores Beaton’s long relationship with the Queen, who was still a teenage princess when Beaton first photographed her in 1942. Over the next three decades, he would be invited to photograph the Queen on many significant occasions, including the Coronation Day.
The exhibit is all the more moving as Beaton’s images depict the Queen and her family both on official occasions and when ‘off-duty.’ Elegant and highly-staged photographs are shown alongside informal glimpses of the royal family at home, interspersed with film and radio footage from the time.

Section one, ‘Princess Elizabeth and the Portrait Tradition’, includes charming portraits of a young Princess Elizabeth with her parents and sister Princess Margaret, set against elaborate painted backdrops inspired by the long tradition of royal portraiture. Section two focuses on the Coronation in 1953, when Beaton’s camera captured both the grandeur and emotion of the occasion. In contrast to the splendid Coronation images, Beaton’s photographs in Section three, The Next Generation, reveal a more intimate and relaxed side of family life. The exhibition will draw to a close with ‘The 1968 Sitting’, including a set of portraits of the Queen in a dark admiral’s boat cloak against a plain background, which convey the magnitude of the role of Britain’s monarch.