Mountain Man exhibit comes to Airdrie

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Nose Creek Valley Museum is hosting a travelling art exhibit until July 19 titled Mountain Man, featuring photographs by the late Frederick Herbert (Bert) Riggall that are more than 100 years old.

Born in 1884, Riggall left England for Canada, starting a new life based on his fascination with mountains. He travelled to Switzerland as a child and fell in love with the mountains there, but after seeing a picture of the Rocky Mountains, he decided he had to see them with his own eyes.

After arriving in Calgary during the spring of 1904, Riggall was rewarded for his journey, describing his new home as a “Canadian Switzerland.” He eventually became a mountain guide and outdoorsman, providing tourists a safe glimpse at wildlife, geography and plants.

He also took photos of his travels and developed them himself during the winter seasons. He was able to create magnificent panoramic shots, depicting entire landscapes in ways a standard photo falls short.

After seeing Riggall’s photographs, Shannon Bingeman, curator and manager of Travelling Exhibition Program (TREX) southwest, decided the province needed to see his work.

Bingeman met with Wendy Ryan from the Bert Riggall Environmental Foundation (BREF), and Ryan picked 13 panoramas of various mountain landscapes to display. After finding out Riggall was a naturalist and hand-tinted his photographs, she picked three pictures of flowers to feature as well.

“I thought that was a really interesting juxtaposition, because he was this rugged mountain guy, who was a hunter, but he also took pictures of these real delicate wildflowers and he would hand tint them with water colours,” she said.

Sponsored by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the exhibition features 16 photographs by Riggall. An educational guide is also available to compliment the experience. Airdrie is the Mountain Man exhibit’s ninth stop. It’s expected to visit schools, museums and community centres across Alberta over the next year.

“(The exhibition) really speaks to his love for the area. He was a really important historical figure, creating those trails,” Bingeman said. “If you go to Waterton, a lot of the trails hikers go on today are trails he established himself. He has a huge connection to the community, and on top of that, they’re beautiful pictures.”

Bingeman said BREF continues to keep the artistic mountaineer’s legacy alive through environmental protection and advocacy. Riggall established a homestead where Waterton Lakes National Park currently sits, eventually retiring to Pincher Creek where he lived until he died in 1959.

Liam Fleischhacker, curator assistant at Nose Creek Valley Museum, said he is excited to showcase the Mountain Man exhibit.

“It’s just a really cool display of what’s all around us – it’s all mountain landscapes and backcountry scenery,” he said.

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