by Zoltan Varadi
As the focus shifts from history to herstory in The Blue Sky Their Horizon: Alberta Women Making History - an exhibit showcasing all manner of archival documentation by and about this province's female population, curator Mridula Nath Chakraborty hopes the results will reshape how we look at ourselves.
Such was certainly the case for her own point of view as she poured over material for the project.
"It's very interesting; I've been in Canada only for eight years and actually it dispelled a lot of stereotypes I had about the province," said the native of New Dehli, India. "It's not just the pull of machines that made this place livable - it was all the little things..."
Blue Sky helped Chakraborty, as an archivist, chart her own place in the continuum of both documenting and making history.
"I had a little bit of emotional distance from this place, even though I feel very much connected to people and places in Alberta. But doing this archive actually helped me to see how a lot of women had gone through the same journey," she said.
Divided into four sections, the exhibit - through biographies, legal documents, school curriculums, church histories, newspaper articles, photographs, genealogies, memoirs, and even cookbooks - aims to restore a sense of balance to what Chakraborty calls the abundance of "particularly masculine" perspectives of our province.
For instance, she says the recipes included in the collection are "one of the most crucial ways a history of a place is constructed. They actually talk about how people lived at the time."
As exhaustive as the process of compiling the material was - she says by the time the exhibition catalogue went to the printer she had uncovered about 100 more entries that could have been included had it not been too late - Chakraborty emphasizes the work she's done was far from the first of its it kind. There have been tremendous efforts by others to document these often neglected accounts of our provincial progress and the role of women in that journey.
"I hope that this will actually start off or rekindle the kinds of efforts made by archival societies to look at our history in a much more complete way," she said.
The Blue Sky Their Horizon exhibit runs until January 2007 at the Bruce Peel Special Collections Library.