by Julia Petrov, Curator, Western Canadian History
Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment in our occasional blog series called Dirt, which is loosely themed around “dirt” and how that relates (or perhaps doesn’t relate!) to many curatorial programs at the museum. To read the first three Dirt blog posts, click on the links at the bottom of this post.
I recently came across this piece while working with our collection of models. It has such an extraordinary story, I wanted to share it.
This road scraper model was made by Thomas Gilman Ellis, who was born in Antrim, Michigan, in 1856, and donated by his son, Lloyd Ellis, a welder and repairman from Breton, Alberta.
Lloyd Ellis wrote a history of the object, which was so well-written,
it’s worth quoting almost in its entirety (all grammatical errors are in the
*If you are a member of the Ancestry website, you can see a photo of Mr. Ellis Senior with his wife outside the same log cabin described here.
As you can see from the photo, the model is entirely handmade. It’s remarkable to think that Mr. Ellis Senior was able to mould and cast each individual metal component himself. While today, we have motorised heavy-duty machinery to perform the work of moving dirt for road-building, such an ingenious modification might have greatly sped up the development of the West. It seems sad that such a clever invention was left to rust in neglect due to a lack of funds for its development. The Royal Alberta Museum collections contain other local inventions, some of which I may be able to share with you soon.
Dirt Post #1: Collecting dust
Dirt Post #2: Museum’s famed “finger rock” gets a spit polish!
Dirt Post #3: Clean: Christmas craft edition
Museum’s famed “finger rock” gets a spit polish
Most visitors to the old museum fondly remember the finger rock - a touchable rock covered in holes that was located near the entrance to the geology gallery.
Collecting Alberta’s History One Quilt at a Time
Documenting quilts might seem like an unlikely approach for collecting Alberta’s history but that is exactly what I have been doing for the past six years.
The Matilda Bailey-Day Quilt and the Settlement of African-Americans in Alberta
Matilda Bailey-Day used the Aunt Addie’s Album block pattern to make her quilt.