Feb. 17, 2023

To Oldman River: New Additions to UCalgary’s Military Collection

Historical artifacts speak to the development of Canada’s modern armed forces
Bison Fur Coat, RCMP
Bison Fur Coat, RCMP. Dave Brown, Libraries and Cultural Resources

To Oldman River: New Additions to UCalgary’s Military Collection, now on view in UCalgary’s Founders’ Gallery at The Military Museums until April 30, showcases significant new material in UCalgary’s Libraries and Cultural Resources holdings at The Military Museums (TMM). The exhibition includes firearms, uniforms, medals, relics and archival film from the mid 1800s through to the First World War, encompassing a massive swath of Alberta’s military history.

Artifacts and archives from some of Alberta’s most celebrated military personalities are featured, with a particular emphasis on three: Sir Sam Steele, Frederick Bagley and Wilfrid Reid May. Medals awarded to Steele, horseshoes and spurs saved by Bagley from his journey west as the youngest original member of the North West Mounted Police, and pieces of Manfred von Richthofen’s (the Red Baron’s) airplane preserved by May are just a few of the fascinating objects on display.

“These artifacts, together with those of several other personalities, are witness to diverse conflicts such as the North-West Resistance, the Boer War, and the First World War,” explains Jason Nisenson, archivist with Libraries and Cultural Resources at TMM Library and Archives. “Between them, they speak to the development of Canada’s modern armed forces.”

Museum objects provide unique portals to the lived experience of individuals, and through them To Oldman River offers an experiential understanding of Canada’s military development from a post-confederation militia model into a permanent armed force capable of full participation in international conflict. The beginning of this development is set in 1874 in the North-West Territories, a vast area stretching along the shores of the Arctic Ocean down to the 49th parallel from British Columbia to Labrador and long home to First Nations and Métis peoples, when the first cohort of the NWMP set out from Fort Dufferin in Manitoba to disrupt the illegal whisky trade at “Fort Whoop-Up” on the banks of the Oldman River.

To Oldman River:  New additions to UCalgary’s Military Collection features artifacts that were formerly located at the Glenbow Museum in downtown Calgary. The exhibition will remain on view until early 2023.

This show marks the completion of the relocation of these artifacts and the Glenbow Library and Archives to UCalgary. The move concluded in December 2021.

The Glenbow Library and Archives complements UCalgary’s well-known strengths in collections of literature, rare books, music, textiles, coins, architecture and military history. The Glenbow Western Research Centre in the Taylor Family Digital Library is the access point for Archives and Special Collections in UCalgary’s Libraries and Cultural Resources.