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New exhibit ‘Country Hall, Community Hubs’ now on at the Flatiron Gallery

Explore the histories of country halls and community hubs via a brand-new exhibit at the Flatiron Building Museum Gallery.
File photo

Explore the histories of country halls and community hubs via a brand-new exhibit at the Flatiron Building Museum Gallery.

‘Country Halls, Community Hubs’ - an exhibit by the Lacombe and District Historical Society - runs through July 1.

Organizers say the goal for ‘Country Halls, Community Hubs’ is to connect visitors to, “thriving rural communities, past and present, and hopefully inspire them to build the strong communities of tomorrow.”

The exhibit takes a closer look at the communities of Lacombe County’s rural districts from their very beginnings. Right from the get-go, these halls were really the heart of community life in many ways.

“The idea started when we received an accordion into our collection,” said Samantha Lee, community engagement and visitor services coordinator with the Museum. Other accordions and instruments were in the collection, but due to a lack of space, there wasn’t room to showcase them. “We thought about how we had never had an opportunity to display any of the instruments in our collection, and we do have more than just accordions.

“But now, we had the chance to build a display around these instruments.”

The connection to the popular tradition of community dances at local community halls surfaced, and the idea for this particular exhibit took off from there.

“Dances were an important part of the way rural residents built their communities. So the halls also supported that feeling of community, too.

“Historically, a lot of halls also started out as the schoolhouse for that district. So everyone would have been visiting them at least a few times a year to see what their children were up to,” she explained.

“The halls were also often where worship services were held if the community didn’t have an actual church building,” she said. “Also, a lot of local groups became associated with the halls - like women’s groups, for example.”

These ran the gamut from women’s auxiliary and UFA groups to the Red Cross, she said.

Of course, they were often the sites for weddings, funerals, concerts, and gatherings like picnics or other types of celebrations, she said.

Sadly, most of these halls are no longer standing - and if they are, they often aren’t being used - so it’s certainly a special chapter in the local history.

Lee said she hadn’t realized how many schools there were throughout the County that were situated in the local halls.

“Those locations either don’t exist anymore, or they aren’t used,” she said. “It’s sad to think about.”

Melissa Blunden, the Society’s executive director, said the exhibit offers visitors a whole new perspective on these buildings and these sites.

“It’s a way to see them as witnesses to ‘time’ and how things have changed around them. And as Samantha said, many of the buildings are no longer with us,” she said. “But those spaces where they were have almost become sacred to what they witnessed - a lot of love and a lot of sorrow,” she explained.

“I think to recognize that is important. And I don’t know if our culture really does that very much. Coming from a heritage background, I see it in that kind of light and I hope people come to that realization - that this history is nearly lost.

“And maybe (through our exhibit) they can come to the next step of recognizing what it all really meant.”

Mark Weber

About the Author: Mark Weber

I've been a part of the Black Press Media family for about a dozen years now, with stints at the Red Deer Express, the Stettler Independent, and now the Lacombe Express.
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