LEGACY-Local historian Michael Dawe takes a closer look at one of the portraits being featured in Nya Bachen: The New Land. The photo exhibit is showing at the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery through to Jan. 9.

Museum presents rich ‘visual record’ of local pioneer era

A fascinating and unique display reflecting a long ago period is currently on display at the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery.

Featuring photos taken by Bert Fors, Nya Backen – The New Land is being shown through to Jan. 9.

Fors arrived in Central Alberta from Sweden in the early 1890s, and quickly showed a keen talent for photographing family, friends and the changing community around him.

“He and his family settled in the Burnt Lake district which is between Red Deer and Sylvan Lake,” explains Michael Dawe, local historian and the one who selected the exhibit photos from a collection numbering about 200 portraits.

Originally, Ada Fors Bergstrom’s (Fors’ sister) estate had loaned 180 dry glass plate negatives to the Archives in 1979 and 1991. They were eventually donated in 2001. Museum staff recently digitized and re-housed the glass plate negatives.

“He really was quite a remarkable person, and had a real talent for photography and capturing images of people in the largely Swedish and Scandinavian communities around him,” says Dawe of Fors’ striking collection.

Images cover the gamut from portraits of homes, farms and clothing styles particularly of Swedish immigrant communities. It’s a fascinating and rare look into a time that wasn’t commonly captured photographically.

“A lot of people saw the emergence of the frontier, but very few left a permanent record,” says Dawe, emphasizing the uniqueness of what Fors spent so much time doing. “The chances of anyone else coming in and taking pictures when they first arrived were pretty small.”

Upon arrival in the area, the Fors family built a log cabin and settled into a life on the farm. When Bert Fors turned 18, he decided to take out his own homestead. He headed west to the New Hill area which was originally called Nya Bachen by the Swedish settlers in the district. This is southwest of Sylvan Lake, near the Eckville area.

He later bought land directly south of Sylvan Lake in a district called Centerville. Dawe said that Fors was very much interested in farming, gardening and horticulture. But there was always time to venture out and capture stellar images via his trusty camera equipment.

He also clearly had a knack for setting up a shot and capturing the personalities of his subjects.

“Another thing about his photographs is that in contrast to when folks would go into town to a professional photographer with artificial backgrounds, he took photos of people at their homes and in their communities,” says Dawe. “This provided a more naturalized, contextualized setting and is one of the things that makes the photos even more powerful.”

Fors never married, but remained nearby his growing extended family. He was also committed to the local community as his photos show so well.

“He was very active in the community, and when you look at the pictures you see that he obviously had made connections with the people around him.”

Fors died in 1968 and is buried in the Burnt Lake Cemetery.

“He seemed to be a man that had a real interest in people, and an interest in helping them keep the memories of these years alive.”

For more information, check out www.reddeermuseum.com or call 403-309-8405.


Just Posted

WATCH: Student-focused CAREERexpo returns to Red Deer

Annual event offers students opportunity to explore career possibilities

Pro Wrestling event looks to knock out cancer

Superclash against Cancer brings in some of Alberta’s top talent

Red Deer PCN Women’s Fun Run set for May 12th

The Mustard Seed School Lunch Program is the event’s ‘Charity of Choice’

UPDATED 2 Semi rollover on Hwy#2 causes traffic detour; one lane open

UPDATED 2 Exclusive photos of semi rollover clean-up on Hwy#2

Cartoonist captures public mood following Toronto, Humboldt tragedies

Cartoonist said he was trying to find a bit of positivity with an image that has garnered attention

Bill Cosby guilty in sexual assault case

Comedian convicted of drugging and molesting a woman

AACS receives funding from Red Deer County for life saving equipment

Red Deer County approved funding for $35,000 to AACS

Toronto sports fans come together in wake of van attack

Police probe Toronto van attack as details emerge

Maswacis RCMP looking for missing Aboriginal woman

Police say 34-year-old Jada Voyageur went missing April 24 from the Samson Cree Nation

Prince William to be Harry’s best man

Prince William will be Prince Harry’s best man at May wedding

Humboldt arena memorial ring to be removed

Arena ring of tribute to Saskatchewan hockey team to be removed as summer nears

Most Read