More behind-the-scenes tours in the works

The Glenbow Museum is experimenting with a new way to get Calgarians up close and personal with its expansive collection.

Two recent behind-the-scenes tours — one focusing on Halloween, the other on Remembrance Day — proved so popular that dozens of people were turned away.

“It gives them a chance to see things that nobody gets to see,” said tour organizer Penny Szmata.

The Calgary Journal got to take a sneak peek of the Halloween event which focused on torture devices, medical equipment and Victorian-era mourning practices.

Travis Lutley, collections technician, said the macabre tour titillated the public.

“They’re very excited, perhaps frightened, but they’re really enjoying it,” said Lutley. “We’re only getting positive feedback from these tours, so that’s very encouraging.”

Lutley and his colleagues are responsible for maintaining over 200,000 pieces in the Glenbow’s collection, most of which are never in view, kept in the 70,000 square foot storage area of the downtown Calgary museum.

The tours start in a creaky, dimly-lit freight elevator leading up to the storage space

Produced by Paul Brooks

Upon reaching the archival floor the Halloween audience was presented with an array of bizarre artifacts.

First up, a display of crude medical gear including bone saws, skull drills and tonsil slicers.

Next, the tour featured artifacts relating to mourning rituals of the Victorian era, including a wicker coffin next to a table of peculiar items such as wreaths made of human hair, flowing black veils and talismans.

The final stop on the tour featured devices of torture, humiliation and execution.

Artifacts ranged from simple thumbscrews, head crushers and execution swords to more elaborate devices, like the limb-mutilating Catherine wheel. (hyperlink)

Collections technician Travis Lutley shows off a medeval execution sword.

Photo by Paul BrooksThe Glenbow is developing more behind-the-scenes tours including a Game of Thrones inspired tour which is rumored to be in the works.

“It gives people an opportunity to see what the museum is doing besides putting out exhibitions,” said Szmata.

pbrooks@cjournal.ca