Museum Display

Posted by Sylvia Olsen on

During my stay at the Woolen Mill my historical display of Coast Salish sweaters will be displayed in the Carstairs Museum—a beautiful, vibrant and relevant place linking culture and history to current interest.

Carstairs Alberta, the closest town to Custom Woolen Mills, has a population of just over 4000. It has one major grocery store, one full time and one part time second hand store, one cemetery, six churches, and one main school. By all accounts a typical little prairie town.

The display begins with my small collection of old Cowichan sweater


These are two examples of the many Cowichan sweaters the late Mollie Thompson owned. The songbird sweater likely dates back to the 40s. The whale sweater was likely knit about 45 years ago.

What is exceptional about this town is that it has a full time museum/art gallery curator. Carstairs & District Historical Society operates the Carstairs Heritage Centre while Michael Dougherty manages the displays and is the man responsible for keeping the history and art of the region alive and accessible to the people. 

The sweater in the top right was knit in Tsawout in the early 1930s

Michael stays abreast of local events, such as my artist residency at Custom Woolen Mill, he promotes local artists in the small, but interesting, art gallery and hosts music performances in the old church hall (now one of the collection of buildings that make up the museum.)   

The bag is a repurposed old sweater that was full of holes. The white sweater is an exact replica of a sweater knit in the late 30s or early 40s. 

The story of Cowichan sweaters isn't complete without showing all the replicas--Mary Maxim, Le Chateau, Ralph Lauren, The Great Lebowski, the Olympic sweater, White Buffalo. These sweaters are the proof that Cowichan sweaters were Canada's most significant knitted garments.

It is these sorts of community hubs that illustrate how some small towns can really get things right.

Salish Fusion items showing the influence and confluence of knitting styles and images.

If you are in south central Alberta on Sunday, Sept 24th come in to the museum for a meet and greet and stick around for a concert in the evening.


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