“Mrs. Belsher can remember scrubbing what must have seemed an endless number of pots to get them ready for display.”
October 25, 2014
Like many things I love doing, I occasionally take some time off from going to museums. I always go back to them, though. When I was younger and first became serious traveller (in the first month of a six month tour that took in five countries: Canada, the United States, Mexico, Guatemala and The Bahamas) I remember combing through almost every inch of Calgary’s primary museum which, I recall, had several extensive museums. By this I mean, I looked at every display and read all of the accompanying information about each of them.
Museums make history three dimensional. Having a BA with a major in history equals my love of finding out about the past and maybe even helps me navigate the present and prepare well for the future.
Now as a travelling psychic and house sitter, going to a museum when I visit a new place is up there with visiting the library. It provides me with insights into what the community is about by providing information on how it developed into what it currently is.
I remember visiting the Denman Island, BC museum and discovering that women used to embroider necklaces, doilies and other pieces of handiwork from their own hair. I was taken aback by this. Now when I think of it, it was a way women could create beautiful things to accent themselves and their homes at very little expense.
A win-win situation I would say.
The following is part of an article I wrote about a museum in the small village of McCord, Saskatchewan:
February 2, 1983
by Tanya Lester
A museum is a place where a person can go to get in touch with the past.
One of the advantages McCord Museum has over many other museums is that a person can walk through its eight rooms and actually touch many of the 2500 pioneer artifacts on display. They are not locked up behind glass cases as in many other museums.
To be able to pick up an old spice can and still small the spices that a woman used while backing years ago or feel the soft fur of a fox collar that Leila Belsher received as a wedding gift from her husband, who raised the animal, brings a person that much closer to understanding a past way of life.
It certainly helps, too, to be given a tour of the museum by one of the people who established it. Mrs. Belsher is one of these people. Along with keeping the books for the museum committee, she often shows tourists around the old CPR train station museum building located on the south end of the main street in McCord.
Mrs. Belsher said a group of McCord area residents, including herself, decided to set up the generations would know how the people of the town used to live.
It started as a Centennial project and officially opened in June, 1973. When the CPR decided to close down their train station in 1970, the museum committee purchased the building, which was constructed in 1928, and CPR employees were very helpful in moving it to its present site.
The CPR train agent also helped furnish parts of the museum. For example, a visitor can take a few minutes to leaf through some old travel brochures and wonder at how inexpensive it used to be to go on trips.
But that is getting a bit ahead of things. When someone comes to the McCord Museum, he, or she will first enter into the kitchen. One wall of the room is filled with rows and rows of cans and kitchen utensils.
In one corner, there are butter churns and bowls. Some look quite familiar. Others, such as a smaller one made of transparent glass and holding a metal plunger used to make butter or whipping cream are more unique. A box of Dandelion Butter color sitting on the shelf is a reminder that butter never used to come in a nicely yellowed rectangular pound block.
In the kitchen, there is also a display of pots on and around a wood stove. One is an enormouse blue enameled coffee pot with white speckles. Mrs. Belsher came remember scrubbing what must have seemed an endless number of pots to get them ready for display. “I know where every junk pile is in the area,” she said, which indicated where many of the pots were found.
The kitchen also holds an old wooden banana crate something that younger people will have never seen before or even know existed. There is a can of water glass, too, which Mrs. Belsher said was mixed with water and used to keep eggs cool. She can remember going to dip an egg out of the water before cooking it.
And just before a person enters the office style room, he or she can look at a display of some Extra Good candy bars. One used to sell for a dime.
The office room holds equipment from the past which includes an old telephone swith board that used to be operated from Meyronne Central. Mrs. Belsher said she did the books for the telephone company so put in first ‘bids’ for the switch board when it was going to be discarded.
If a person has the time, he or she wan collect a wealth of information from the 1926-1976 McCord School Board meeting minutes…
To read the first posts in this blog, please go to writingsmall.wordpress.com
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Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader by Tanya Lester can be purchased from the author or go to the title and author name (to read the first few pages and buy it) at amazon.com
Tanya Lester’s other books are Friends I Never Knew, Dreams & Tricksters and Women Rights/Writes. They are available in some library systems and at the Legislative Library of Manitoba.