Writing About the Bow River

by Gerald T. Conaty, Senior Curator, Ethnology


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Sometimes when I work on an exhibit, the opportunity arises to write an accompanying book or catalogue. This is always exciting because it allows me to expand on the information in the exhibit and to explore additional ideas. But it is also challenging to work simultaneously in two media — print and exhibition.

Early in the development of Our River: Journey of the Bow, our presenting sponsor, Enbridge, indicated that they were interested in having a book to accompany the exhibit. As lead curator on the team, it fell to me to organize the book and, ultimately, to write most of the text. Time was of the essence - our publisher gave us six months to present them with completed text and images.

Both the exhibit and the book look at the Bow River in a series of sections, from its source to its confluence with the Oldman River. I began by collecting a stack of reading material on the geology, ecology, and history of each part. As I completed the reading on a section, I then drove that part of the river and talked with people who lived and worked along the waterway. Seeing the river brought my research to life. I began to see things in a different way. For example, after reading about the phenomenal effort to irrigate the region downstream from Calgary, I drove along many kilometres of canal and developed a new awareness of the incredible ways we have changed the landscape. We really have engineered the Bow.

The stories we tell at Glenbow Museum lend themselves to all kinds of media: exhibits, print, video, audio, websites. Each of these requires thinking about the subject in a different way. Each of these requires a different set of skills. This variety keeps my job exciting and stimulating.

To purchase a copy of The Bow Living with a River visit the Glenbow Museum Shop.

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