The Lougheed House team and its Alberta Museums Association Leadership Award for Engagement | Photo: Courtesy of Lougheed House

alTOURnatives at Lougheed House

Cultural geography experiment wins engagement award for historic house

Amy Jo Espetveidt

A historic piece of Calgary’s Beltline, Lougheed House recently threw open its doors for a series of unorthodox tours and in the process discovered new ways of seeing connections.

Asking community neighbours to create one-time tours that reflected the stories they wanted to tell,  alTOURnatives netted the Lougheed House Conservation Society an Alberta Museums Association Leadership Award for Engagement.

“The idea for alTOURnatives came from a desire to connect with local residents of the Beltline,” explains Lougheed House Curator Caroline Loewen. “I’m really interested in cultural geography, which is the study culture and place, how societies develop out of their local landscapes, and how they impact those landscapes. Lougheed House is a prominent feature of the Beltline landscape and we wanted to know how it had shaped people’s experience of the neighbourhood, and vice versa. We thought that the best way to do that was to invite our neighbours into the house to tell their stories.”

Funded through the Calgary Arts Development Small Experiments Grant Program, organizers learned that everyone viewed the house differently.

“One participant was really interested in the women in her family, and connections to the women of the Lougheed family. One was looking at the house as a ‘witness to history’ and talked about the changes that have occurred in the Beltline—houses been torn down, apartment towers going up. Lougheed House has stood through all of that,” continues Loewen. “I actually ended up learning a lot about the history of the house and of the neighbourhood.”

In the end, all four tours sold out and the series ended up creating a truly meaningful experience for the participants and the house.

“They had all committed hours researching and developing their tours, and the sense of pride they had after the tour was shared by all,” says Loewen. “It was really emotional to see people connecting to the house in meaningful and personal ways.”

The Alberta Museums Association Leadership Awards were handed out at the AMA/WMA Conference in September and recognized Lougheed House for cultivating museum and community interaction.

“A big part of community engagement is being inclusive, and offering people a space to be co-creators within the museum. For Lougheed House, engagement is a huge part of what we do and why we exist. Our mission is to be a cultural hub in the heart of the Beltline and it is a real honour for Lougheed House to have been recognized for our work in this area,“ continues Loewen. “Lougheed House is committed to being a place were people can both tell their own stories, and hear stories from diverse groups. We feel it is our responsibility to use our profile in the community, our archives and collections, our time and space, and our knowledge to enable the community to grow and to learn more about themselves.”

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