Behind the Scenes | The Herbarium Collection

Herbarium Specimens are a wealth of information on the natural history of any given region. Here at the Lacombe Museum & Archive, we have a small collection of such items from the Gull Lake area – but how we attained them is just as interesting!

Here is a small sneak into our Gull Lake Herbarium Collection, how we found it and how we worked to properly conserve it.

A special surprise from the past

As archivists and curators, we never know what to expect in the donations that come through the front doors. Over the past 50-years, we have collected and preserved some of the most unique and fragile items that share the story of our area here in Lacombe. When a set of hard-bound editions of The Girls Own Paper came to us from a family home being cleaned out in Gull Lake, imagine our surprise while flipping through the pages to discover these treasures.

Conservation Challenges

Removing these fragile specimens from the pages of the books proved to be a challenge without causing any damage to them. Traditional tools like conservation spatulas and tweezers were too rigid for the task. Our team had to be extremely patient, and with steady hands (and holding our breath!) slide 1 sheet of herbarium paper along the edge of each page, underneath the fragile florals and delicately scrape them off and onto another pristine sheet that was waiting for them to be their new permanent home.

As part of our Storage Policy, each specimen is laid on a single sheet of herbarium paper, in a polyethylene casing, which has a label affixed to it – then sealed in a polyethylene bag to make sure nothing can damage the specimens over time (this is in practice with our Integrated Pest Management Plan, as a variety of pests love the pollen and seeds, even in dried and pressed flora!)

More Finds

It didn’t take long for the team to start looking through the other editions, finding more pressed plants, including both a corsage and bouquet, hand-drawn Easter Cards, Canadian Red Cross membership cards, prayer cards, polaroids and more! With thousands of pages to go through, we are sure there are more treasures tucked away in these books waiting for us to find. Watch this BTS video of the accessioning process.

Supplies used from Carr McLean included: Herbarium Mounting Paper; Herbarium Specimen Sheet Protectors; Ziplock Polyethylene Bags; Acid-free Labels; Archival Pen.

Written by Melissa Blunden,
Executive Director and Curator, Lacombe & District Historical Society.

Behind the Scenes | The Lacombe Globe Collection

The Lacombe Globe was originally founded as the Western Globe by J.D. Skinner in 1900 and printed its final issue in January of 2020 after 119 years of reporting local Lacombe news and events. Over the past 50 years, we have made an effort to collect all of the newspapers of Lacombe on a weekly basis – having original copies of the Lacombe Globe back to 1907.

Original Lacombe Globe offices on 50th Street

In early 2019, when the office was relocated from its downtown location, the Lacombe & District Historical Society was able to accept a large donation of items otherwise meant for the recycling depot – take a look below through the journey that relocating this large donation into our stewardship truly meant.

the print room

A Look into the Lacombe Globe Collection

The logistics behind this large accession took months to arrange, given our small space and being at capacity already. With help from the City of Lacombe and the Lacombe Globe staff, the Lacombe & District Historical Society team were able to carefully relocate the entirety of the collection to temporary storage for 6-months at a City of Lacombe facility.

storage inside the Lacombe Globe office basement, 2019

Some of the records were incredibly fragile, deteriorating from years of being mishandled and stored in an unideal location. Over the course of 2019 summer students and volunteers were able to inventory and sort through the donation which totalled:

  • 20,000 (+/-) photographic negatives Lacombe Globe Reporters had taken throughout the years in Lacombe and surrounding communities;
  • 73 years of large bound-copies of the newspaper;
  • photography equipment and boxes of DVDs and CDs of digital data on them.

By end of August 2019, the Lacombe Globe donation had formally been accepted into the Lacombe & District Historical Society Collection, and moved from temporary storage to our Permanent Collection Space. Combined with our original editions of the Lacombe Globe (Lacombe Westerner at the time) records, which span back to 1907, this means we have over 6000 original Lacombe Globe newspapers in our Archives, plus the Reference Collection, Photographs and Negatives! (with the 4 other local newspapers we have collected, we have over 8000 issues in our Newspaper Collection!)

packaged and waiting for transport

Public Accessibility to the Lacombe Globe Collection

The newly accessioned bound-issues of the Lacombe Globe will be made available to the public for in-person research once the COVID-19 Pandemic has ended and museums and galleries are able to open. Our pristine condition issues will remain in the archival storage, however we are actively digitizing them!

Skinner and his original printing press

We have worked for over a decade to bring all of our collections to the publics hands as easily as possible. This work included loaning the original newspapers from 1907-1939 to the University of Alberta for the Peel’s Prairie Provinces Newspaper Project, where they were digitized and then resent back to us for safe keeping. A wonderful online research resource, Peel’s Prairie Provinces hosts 1197 issues of our Lacombe Globe records; 168 issues of our Lacombe Guardian records; & 155 issues of our Advertiser and Central Alberta News records.

The End Goal?

With an overhead scanner being loaned to the Lacombe & District Historical Society, staff and volunteers have made progress over 2020 and 2021 in scanning the next 8 years of Lacombe Globe Newspaper Issues – a project that has taken over 350 hours to date – watch this BTS video of the digitization process.

The Lacombe Globe Negatives we accessioned at the same time are also going through a similar process of digitizing, after being cleaned, rehoused, labelled and described by our team members. Watch this BTS video of the digitization process.

Lacombe & District Historical Society Staff clean and describe thousands of Lacombe Globe Negatives strip by strip

While this is all very time consuming and is repetitive work, it is so important to our collections in the future, for two key purposes:

  1. heritage belongs to all of us, and it is our duty as heritage professionals to safeguard and share our collective heritage on behalf of the public trust. Heritage information should be widely available, accessible, and useable. Everything we do in the heritage realm is values-based, which helps us develop and maintain best practices with regards to heritage management. If we fail to make heritage accessible to all, then who are we preserving heritage for?;
  2. While there are various ways that heritage records can be kept and identified, they must be standardized, be kept somewhere safe and accessible, be backed up, and be migrated and/or updated often. This principle contributes to better overall heritage management because without heritage records, how can we safely and efficiently preserve our heritage? In other words, information is only as good as its maintenance and usability. If all our heritage was stored on 8tracks or floppy disks, arguably obsolete forms of digital storage, how useful would it be in 2021? Conversely, if we allow our heritage to remain only in its original format (e.g., newspapers, acetate photos, cassettes, etc.) without any form of up-to-date digital backup, any one of the ten agents of deterioration would severely impact the longevity of that heritage.


We look forward to completing this work over the coming years, and making available the collections online, decade by decade, for the public to have access!

Written by Melissa Blunden,
Executive Director and Curator, Lacombe & District Historical Society.

Visit the Globe Online at Peel’s Prairie

Behind the Scenes | Restoring the Lacombe Blacksmith Shop

A common misconception with conservation or restoration work to buildings is that they should look brand new upon completion. Work on historical building such as the Lacombe Blacksmith Shop (built in 1902), isn’t about updating or giving the building a fresh new look, rather maintaining and preserving what is already there.

The blacksmith shop, now the Lacombe Blacksmith Shop Museum, was first opened in 1902 by A. F. Weddle. It was the fourth operating blacksmith shop to open in Lacombe at the time, so while it may seem like an isolated relic on its original site now, it represents a once bustling and competitive industry.

Ownership of this shop on Glass Street changed hands several times over the years, until it was taken over in 1939 and later purchased by Jules Selvais. The Selvais family owned the shop for the longest period, from the early 1940s until it was purchased by the Lacombe & District Historical Society in 1993. Jules and his son Roger operated the shop and added a welding shop on the west side in 1953. During the early 1950s, actual blacksmithing ceased, but many of the tools, such as the imposing Trip Hammers, were retained, a fact which greatly enhances the historical value of this site. Roger and his son Ronald operated the shop commercially until 1987.

Lacombe Blacksmith Shop Museum 1991 vs. 2020

Original Restoration Work (1993-94)

In 1991, not long after commercial operations ceased, the Lacombe & District Historical Society began looking into purchasing the shop and restoring for use as a museum. After 2 years of fundraising, the shop was bought by the LDHS and restorations began during the summer of 1993. The foundation, interior and exterior walls, and the roof were repaired and the sliding doors at the front of the shop were restored. The Blacksmith Shop Museum officially opened on July 16, 1994 as part of Lacombe Days celebrations. In 2011, the Blacksmith Shop Museum became a designated Provincial Historic Resource as the Oldest Blacksmith Shop in Alberta on its original location. In 2015 it was designated as a Municipal Historic Resource, and is now a popular attraction where museum guests can watch live demonstrations or enrol in blacksmithing classes.

Lacombe Blacksmith Shop Museum restoration work circa 1990’s.

Recent work to the doors & windows (2019)

With financial support from the Alberta Historical Resource Foundation, Echo Lacombe Association & the City of Lacombe Heritage Resource Committee, in 2019 the Lacombe & District Historical Society funded conservation and restoration work to the Lacombe Blacksmith Shop. Denzil Paterson of Central Valley Furniture dismantled and repaired all of the original wooden windows, did some minor repairs to two of them, made new storm windows to replace the existing plexiglass over the windows, repaired flashing above doors, and repainted all of the exterior woodwork including all doors and signage.

While doing this work, we rediscovered Bill Marquardt’s original signature with ‘1997‘ on the sign he handmade for the Shop. After having it repaired, we made sure to get him to resign it for us! Look closely when you visit next at the sign and see if you can see his fresh signature waaaaay up there!

Future Work

Pending Provincial Grant approvals, in 2021 work to the buildings envelope, including roof and siding repairs, will be completed by Central Valley Furniture. Repair work and servicing of the two original trip-hammers and antique engine are also on the docket.

Written by Melissa Blunden,
Executive Director and Curator, Lacombe & District Historical Society.