The Alberta Museums Association's Community Engagement Initiative (CEI) works towards incorporating community engagement into the programs & services of the AMA and the general practices of the Alberta museum community. CEI supports museums by demonstrating the importance of community collaborations as a viable path toward sustainability. This blog provides tools & resources to support museums in creating & maintaining meaningful connections with communities.
The Lougheed House received the 2017 Leadership Award for Engagement for the Beltline AlTOURnative Project. In this post, the project team shares their story of engaging Calgary's Beltline community in a new and different way.
Lougheed House is known for traditional Victorian grandeur, and as a sandstone
sentinel of the prairie. The House offers interpretive tours that contextualize
its historical and current place in the growing city of Calgary throughout its’
125 years of history. However, there are many additional stories that could be
wound through and around this local landmark; stories that are challenging yet
necessary to tell.
Beltline AlTOURnative Project was an experiment in museum voice. The project
involved inviting four local Beltline residents to present an interpretive
experience in the House based on their own research and personal perspective.
Access to the house, library, and archives was provided as they developed the
tour. What they presented was up to them. Postcards were sent in the mail to
every Beltline resident, inviting them to come to a free tour given by one of
these four participants. The Beltline AlTOURnative Project was unique because
it expanded the realm of the House’s history. It allowed the House to share
stories that are not traditionally part of the organization’s public offering.
learned how pervasive the institutional qualities of the museum are. We are
subject to assumptions and prescribed behaviors because of the popular notions
of museums. It was challenging for the participants to overcome their
perceptions and to trust in their own right to interpret the space. The
Beltline AlTOURnative Project represents the first time that Lougheed House
invited individuals with different types of expertise in to interpret its
stories. The resulting four experiences were unique gifts to everyone involved.
The majority of visitors at the series had never been to Lougheed House; they
reported a desire to return, as well as increased interest in exploring Alberta
history and their places within it. The experience of exploring history from
their own perspective, and their subsequent public communication of their
knowledge and experience, was empowering for both guides and visitors who were
able to see stories like theirs reflected in the House.
“I’m grateful to have had the time to do this research and to share what
I found with the community. Women’s stories have continually been left out of
the museums and official histories; which over time left me less than enchanted
with the establishment as it not so subtly cut out the contributions of my
gender in history. In my lifetime there has been a great call to include
women’s accomplishments as young, motivated women look for the hidden role
models that came before us. I hope that more museums could open their doors to
more research and showcasing of the actions and contributions of women and
minorities.” – Camille Betts, Participating Artist
truly a community project and it couldn’t have been carried out without the
participant guides to whom the Lougheed House is profoundly grateful. Funding
for the project was provided by Calgary Arts Development Association’s Small
Experiments Grant. Additionally, the House is grateful for the AMA’s
Operational Staffing Grant which helped support this project. Finally Lougheed
House is indebted to the communities that it serves, who propel us to do our
very best in stewarding their grand House.