Charlotte Spencer: Historical Correspondent

Volunteers

My name is Charlotte and I have been a volunteer at Fort Edmonton Park since I was 5 years old. My family and I volunteer at special events and have been costumed interpreters on 1885 street since I was 6. I love Fort Edmonton and I am very interested in history and living history museums. Due to the recent two-year closure, I have had the opportunity to volunteer with two other historic sites: the John Walter Museum and the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village. The John Walter Museum, near Kinsmen Park, is a small site consisting of three houses that depict the life of Edmonton pioneer John Walter and his family from about 1875-1925. The Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village is a site of over fifty Ukrainian, Romanian, and Canadian houses, set up to portray the lives of Ukrainian immigrants to Alberta between about 1890 and 1930. I really enjoyed being part of these different places, and to notice the contrast between all three.

Me at the John Walter Museum, 2019

The John Walter Museum can be found in the Edmonton River Valley, and is directly next to Kinsmen Park. This is a lovely site, and something of a hidden gem. One thing that really stood out to me as a volunteer there was that there are so few buildings. This makes the site very interesting from a visitor’s perspective as you really get to know that building and what was going on with the Walters and the Strathcona area in general at that time. At this site, I really enjoyed being able to wear my own costume, and to choose which house that I would be in. I enjoyed interpreting in the third house where I could play the piano, drink tea, and work on my embroidery. One day, I made rhubarb lemonade! My favorite activity that I did at the JW has to be the John Walter Birthday Party on August 12, celebrating his 170th birthday. Many Fort Edmonton volunteers attended the festivities, as well as the Edmonton House Brigade, the York Boat Society and other groups. I loved seeing the site more animated with volunteers and visitors alike. (also, cake).

The Ukrainian Village is definitely much better-known than the John Walter and it is just as engaging and fun. I only made it out there a few times, but I very much enjoyed myself. The Village is located 25 minutes east of Edmonton, in Lamont County. This was a great place to be as you can really tell that the volunteers and staff care a lot about the site. Also, it was a bit of a shock to go from staying on one street at Fort Edmonton to being at such a large site, but the staff were very welcoming. One very big difference was the fact that at Fort Edmonton, almost all rooms and artifacts are securely roped off, so the visitors can wander through the house. At the Ukrainian Village, because it is meant to represent an actual house that

you (the guest) are visiting, there are no ropes. So, I (the interpreter) must stay with the visitor at all times. Of course, another big difference is the style of interpreting. At the other two sites, I would be interpreting as a modern person in a costume, talking about a historical family. At the Ukrainian village, however, I am interpreting as someone who lives in the house and as a person from 1927. Although difficult at times, this style is interesting for all parties—visitor and entertainer—and it lets me see the house and family through the eyes of someone like me. I enjoyed practicing a different accent and learning words in Ukrainian. One of the many fun and memorable things that I took part in at the Village was the Harvest Festival, where I had the chance to pick beets and dill in the garden of Hawrelak house. We also made paper dolls from the Eaton’s Catalogue and played badminton.

Me at the Ukrainian Village, 2019. I’m wearing my green dress in this photo. We volunteers were pretty spoiled there, as we got two costumes!

Volunteering with all three sites has really expanded my historical knowledge. I loved learning more about Alberta and Edmonton’s history through interpretation. I can truly say that I had a lot of fun at all three sites, and look forward to both the re-opening of Fort Edmonton, and next year of learning and interpreting.

Charlotte is a grade 7 French Immersion student in Edmonton. She enjoys reading, writing, drawing, and wearing historical and modern costumes. Outside of Fort Edmonton Park, she enjoys Viking and Fur Trade reenacting and visiting historic sites and museums.