THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BANFF
HISTORY: INTERVIEW WITH
FOUNDER DAVID FLEMING
By Tera Swanson
History is easily forgotten unless we can find creative ways of keeping it fresh, accessible and interesting for people. With the Encyclopedia of Banff History, old stories are brought to life in a modern-day format. Founder David Fleming has created a Facebook Group, where he is archiving digitized newspaper clippings and images from Banff’s history into categorized albums. In this Q&A, Tera Swanson finds out what compelled him to start this project, and what he’s learned about Banff through the process.
TS/ Can you explain the Encyclopedia of Banff History initiative for someone who’s never heard of it before?
DF/ It’s an online encyclopedia based on clippings from the Crag and Canyon newspapers from 1900 to 1959. We’ve clipped and stitched publicly available digitized copies of the articles, made possible by the University of Calgary and the Alberta Heritage Digitization Project, in an easy-to-read format – by placing them into albums on a Facebook page.
TS/ What inspired you to start this project?
DF/ Banff is my hometown, and over the years I’ve always had an interest in its history. Various Banff-based clients with my security business have allowed me to accumulate a variety of information, by coming across different historical photos and documents on display in the buildings. A couple of years ago, I joined a Facebook group for those who had grown up in Banff from the 40s-70s, and I thought that was a perfect outlet to distribute this information. By natural happenstance I became the group historian, and along the way my brother told me about the digitized Crag and Canyon newspapers. As people in the group started asking questions, I began clipping and stitching these articles to answer them.
As time went on, the albums got larger with more information. I realized how incredible this particular format was, and that it needed to be public. I believe that history belongs to all of us, and if there’s a great way to learn about history, it should be done. So I felt compelled to get this into a public place.
TS/ Are there any pieces that have stuck out to you as particularly intriguing?
DF/ I’m totally fascinated by the entire thing. I first launched the project last August with three albums – one was called ‘Our Banff Boys That Went to War,’ ‘Banff’s Enemy Alien Internees,’ and ‘The Village of Banff During the Great War.’ I released them in collaboration with the Whyte Museum’s First World War Exhibit last year. I thought that was a good way to launch the project, and to learn about and respect what actually happened with people in the First World War.
As for the enemy internees album, we have an exhibit down at the Cave and Basin and I knew a little bit about it, but through the project I found out all the things that the internees did – building 9 holes on the golf course and the highway from Castle Mountain to Lake Louise, which at that time was basically just a road in the trees.
TS/ How has your view of Banff and its history been shaped and changed since beginning this project?
DF/ What’s stuck out to me as remaining unchanged are the mountains – being able to look up at Cascade and Rundle and realize their timelessness. I’ve always enjoyed the town for years and years, but I’ve also done a lot of hiking and skiing, and I’ve been in the backcountry an awful lot. What I love about Banff the most are the things that haven’t changed.
Growing up here, you think you know a lot about the area, but there’s so much more to learn. It’s like putting glasses on and looking at the town’s history. Before going through the articles, you kind of know what’s going on with the town’s history but it’s blurry. Once you start looking through the articles it just clears everything up.
Whether she’s booting down trail runs, trekking up peaks or travelling the globe, Tera Swanson is never content idling for long. Pairing this with her love for writing came as natural as her Bow Valley backyard.