A new exhibit is paying homage to women from the past and present at the Lac La Biche Museum, opening up doors to explore local history and recognize familiar faces.
The Challenges and Triumphs: Trailblazing Women of Lac La Biche curation has been years in the making. It is not only an opportunity to celebrate women in the area, but a deep dive into local history, said Ally Fornad, one of the museum’s curators.
“It showcases five women and two groups that are women-centric and that have made and are making huge strides while accomplishing amazing things in the Lac La Biche region. We have women right from the 1930s and 40s all the way to the present day,” in the exhibit, which debuts on Sept. 2, explained Fornad.
Some of the women featured include the Girl Guides of Lac La Biche, Lebanese matriarch Hamouie Moghrabi who settled in the area in the middle of the 20th century, and youth care worker and jingle dress dancer Randi Lynn Nanemahoo-Candline.
The exhibit also explores the history of the Ukrainian Lac La Biche Cerna Dancers, a group that highlighted entertainment in the community in the 1980s and ‘90s, Fornad explained.
“They used to be showcased all over town,” from community parades to events hosted at Portage College, she said.
Additionally, celebrating the wave of Filipino nurses that settled in the ‘60s, adding to the rural healthcare needs, and one of the original members of the William J. Cadzow Hospital Auxiliary, Lorraine Bouvier will also be included in the display.
A collection of photos from well-known photographer and trapper Tannie Deschambeau who passed away in the ‘90s is also part of the exhibit.
“We have people like Tannie Deschambeau, who is prolific in what she left behind. We are very grateful for her, her photographs and her artifacts as well.”
The exhibit includes a collection of videos, pictures, stories, news clippings, interviews and a few artifacts that the curators were able to gather over the years from the women featured said Fornad.
“It's a whole array, we like to call it, kind of more in the archival exhibit because there was so much research done, but we let the artifacts speak for themselves as well.”
The collection took four months to put together, but years of slowly gathering the content from current and past staff.
Close to home
Creating the women-focused exhibit is not only an opportunity to tell the stories of women in the community but it has been a unique experience for the female staff at the museum, said curator Najiah Moghrabi.
“We are a women-run organization…We also come from different cultural backgrounds and we all have different ties to the community, so it’s kind of a personal project for us too,” she said.
For Moghrabi, the exhibit hits close to home. Hamouie who is highlighted in the exhibit was her grandmother and a woman who helped shape her family in the Lac La Biche area. Moghrabi says it was an opportunity to learn her own history too—through the female lens.
“Her story was relatively untold, up until, I guess, very recently. I thought it would be an interesting way to represent women in that sector because we always hear about the men who settled, especially in the Lebanese community, but we don't really get to hear about their wives.”
Moghrabi says the exhibit is an opportunity for her to learn about the women, such as her grandmother, who passed away in 1965, and the challenges her family faced during the harsh winter seasons settling in a new country. But, visitors will also get to experience who these women were.
“We have Lebanese representation. We have Ukrainian representation. We're trying to get all women in the community. We’re hoping to get more people just coming in to see their family and then learning something about someone else,” said Moghrabi.
The exhibit will be open from Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., beginning on Sept. 2. While admission is free, guests are encouraged to make a donation to continue to support exhibits.
“This is an exhibit we're proud of and we want to share with the community. This is how we want to approach our exhibits going forward,” said Moghrabi.