Society and residents working to preserve history of Bearspaw
The Bearspaw Historical Society presented Rocky View County council with an update on current projects to preserve and archive the history of the area, May 15.
Projects the society has been heavily involved in over the past year include a replica of the barn located at the site of the Historic Bearspaw School, which was completed in January, as well as the first phase of the 1920 Bearspaw Historic School Oral History Project.
“We are a very active organization and are incredibly passionate to ensure accurate historical records of the region are preserved for future generations,” said Roger Pilkington, treasurer of the Bearspaw Historical Society.
Through the oral history project, the society interviewed several Bearspaw area residents, both present and past, who attended or taught at the school, to gather information on what life was like in Bearspaw in 1920.
“This project provides insight on the rural way of life in Bearspaw,” said Lisa Hart, a social anthropologist and Cochrane resident, who has helped with the project. “This is a great opportunity to see how children used the area in the past and how that changed over time.”
The society hopes to begin work on the second phase of the project, which will include archival research at the Glenbow Museum and collecting photographs of the area’s people and buildings. The images will be verified through consultation with community members.
The society also hopes to enlist the help of residents in gathering the information and will be holding workshops to train them on how to conduct interviews.
“It would be great to have other people in the community who could do interviewing as well,” said Hart. “It would help increase local capacity to participate in oral history research.”
The society wants to gather written submissions from those who don’t want to be interviewed and to expand the research to include the three other historic schools in the area.
Pilkington estimated the second phase of the project will cost roughly $100,000 over the next two years. He said $40,000 will come from Alberta Lottery funds, $30,000 from the Alberta Heritage Research Foundation and is requesting the County will provide the remaining $30,000.
“We want to go ahead with phase two as soon as possible,” said Pilkington.
Councillor Lois Habberfield said now is the right time for the project. “I think it’s great that you’re moving ahead,” she said. “People are getting older and memories are fading or people are moving away, so the sooner this can be done, the better.”
The society will be holding an opening celebration for the completion of the barn on June 9 from 2 to 5 p.m.
The new barn replaces the one that formerly housed student horses during the school day, and will provide a venue for community activities and music lessons.
The old barn was demolished in 2000 when the land on which it and the Historic Bearspaw School sat was sold. The school was moved to a new site nearby and restored. The buildings are located across from the Bearspaw Lifestyle Centre and north of the current Bearspaw School.