By Greg Bobinec
Alta Newspaper Group – Lethbridge
As an alternative to the summer bus tour programming Galt Museum & Archives provides, the Galt Museum invited people out to Magrath on Saturday to learn about the start of settlement in southern Alberta, through irrigation canals.
“This is the first time that we have done this program and we had to get a little creative,” says Rebecca Wilde, Museum Educator, Galt Museum & Archives. “Typically in the summer we offer the bus tours, but with social distancing that was proving challenging so we thought about what we could do outside that is sort of outside of the typical realm, so I thought this would be something not too far away that people could get themselves to and that really ties into the history of settlement of southern Alberta.”
On Saturday afternoon, museum educators from Galt Museum and the Magrath Museum guided a couple dozen people along what was once a canal that drew dozens of settlers to this area.
“This was just before the turn of the last century, the Galt family had tremendous land holdings and they were trying to encourage settlers to come out,” says Wilde. “But there was issues with water security and being able to grow crops when it doesn’t always rain, so they partnered with members of the LDS church who were experts in irrigation, and they partnered together to build a canal to bring irrigation to southern Alberta on a large scale, which had a tremendous impact on the agriculture industry. Without irrigation, a lot of the agricultural industry would not be feasible in the area.”
The Galt Museum’s summer bus tours are a popular way for community members to travel around southern Alberta to learn about all different times of history throughout the area. With the first walking tour out of town, the tour sold out to groups of people who were interested in learning about how canals started massive settlement in an area not fully meant for agriculture.
Although this tour doesn’t yet connect to a current gallery at the Galt Museum, there is a display at the building which illustrates the importance of irrigation in southern Alberta, as the museum works on an anniversary celebration gallery in the coming years.
“We are at capacity for this program and so we are really happy with the amount of response that we have had and hopefully if all goes well, we can do some more of these in August,” says Wilde. “We do have an outdoor exhibit at the Galt Museum that talks about the importance of irrigation and how it works in this part of the world.”
As COVID-19 restrictions begin to be lifted, Galt Museum and Archives is now open to the public through slotted reserved times. For more information on coming programming or facility restrictions through COVID, visit galtmuseum.ca.