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History reborn: 100-year-old diary comes to life

An Alberta family has rediscovered history through a century-old diary held at the Provincial Archives of Alberta (PAA).

Alda Dale Randall, hubby and kids

Alda Dale Randall, hubby and kids

Donated to the PAA as a historical record, the diary documents the experiences of Alda Dale Randall and her daily life on the family homestead near High Prairie in 1920.

Adapted into an art exhibit by local artist and former PAA archivist Marlena Wyman, Randall’s words live on in the 21st century for her family and all Albertans to experience through a mixed-media exhibit, Illuminating the Diary of Alda Dale Randall. It will be on display at the PAA until Aug. 24.

“This wonderful story is a real-life testament to the importance of donating historical records and the preservation work of the Provincial Archives of Alberta. It’s my hope that Albertans who hear this story are inspired to donate their own records or photos because archives are just as important for our past as they are for our future.”

Ricardo Miranda, Minister of Culture and Tourism

The PAA is a provincially owned facility in Edmonton that acquires, preserves and makes available publicly important historical records, including the personal records of individuals and families. For 28 years, Wyman worked at the PAA as an audiovisual archivist and she took a particular interest in archival collections of early prairie women.

This exhibit marks a full circle journey for Wyman as both an archivist and artist. It includes oil stick, oil pastel and image transfers of archival photographs and Randall’s handwriting on encaustic (hot wax painting) and paper. Photographic enlargements of the pages from Randall’s diary are also included.

Family Reunion at the Archives

Shortly after the exhibit opened this past February, Alda Randall’s granddaughters reached out to the PAA and Wyman to learn more about their grandmother’s experiences and to share insight into the later years of her life.  

As a way to honour her, highlight the exhibit and emphasize the importance of preserving historical records, a Randall family reunion is being planned at the PAA on Aug.20. During the event, Wyman and family members will speak about the exhibit and interpretations of Randall’s experiences.

“The exquisite interpretive artwork of Marlena Wyman captures the spirit of our dear grandmother, Alda Dale Randall, who endured hard, terrible conditions on the homestead, but found beauty in the wilderness. We believe our grandmother ‘Dadie’, who was a modest lady, would have been delighted that her tales of daily life on the homestead inspired Marlena’s paintings featured in the exhibit. Our family is absolutely thrilled that Grandmother’s diary and words continue to inspire others in this day and age. This exhibit is an incredible tribute for an incredible woman.”

Lisa, Heather and Kitty, granddaughters of Alda Dale Randall

Find out how you can donate records to the PAA or how to preserve personal records at home.

Did you know:

  • The PAA acquires textual records, photographs, negatives, slides, films, videos, sound, recordings, and such cartographic records as maps and plans.
  • The PAA’s current collection includes:
    • 51,540 metres of government textual records
    • 4,360 metres of private textual records
    • 150,750 maps, plans and drawings
    • 1,788,700 photographs
    • 69,740 objects of audiovisual holdings including film, video and audio recordings
    • 14,625 resource library books

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