This was my first summer as a Costumed Historical Interpreter at Fort Edmonton Park. Born and raised in Edmonton, I started at the beginning of May wide-eyed and eager with no idea of what to expect. With a love of history and a background in the performing arts, I spent my summer learning and sharing with Edmontonians of all ages and what I’ve learned has stayed with me as this summer has faded into fall and fall into winter.
I acquired many new skills this summer that I continue to practice now that the season has ended. I learned the Victorian arts of knitting and embroidering as well as the Métis arts of finger-weaving and moccasin beading. Spending time in beautiful gardens I also learned about the properties of a wide variety of plants and herbs, including their usefulness in cooking and baking. I learned to cook over an open fire and bake in a Dutch oven. And once we acquired one, I began to learn the joys and difficulties of using a wood-burning stove.
This summer I also learned the stories of the people who helped to establish and Edmonton as a city. Placed on 1885 Street, I learned about those who made Edmonton a settlement after the closing of the Fort. Kenneth and Emma MacDonald, whose original house is on site, were the first to settle outside of the Fort; Richard and Frances Ottewell broke world records for their crops in 1886 and encouraged many to make the trek West for this fertile farmland; Frank Oliver created and ran The Edmonton Bulletin – Edmonton’s first newspaper and Mr. and Mrs. McDougall’s faith and generosity of spirit led them to care for all in the area, eventually founding the McDougall Methodist Church. I have learned that this city was built on the shoulders of hard-working people who believed in the land and shared with their communities.
What I loved most about working at Fort Edmonton Park was the sharing. Whether it was a visitor sharing a memory of their mother’s old Singer sewing machine or the joy on a child’s face after they’d written their name in ink, this summer was unendingly satisfying. I know that what I’ve already learned is going to stay with me and the next season is only months away!