July 15th, 2024

New CEO takes the reins at the Galt Museum and Archives

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on June 21, 2024.

Galt Museum photo - Sarah Newstead has officially moved into the role of executive director and CEO of the Galt Museum and Archives and Fort Whoop-Up.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

While working on her undergraduate degree in Vancouver, B.C., Sarah Newstead discovered she loved digging through garbage.

With an interest in the past and stories of the past, she wanted to be a historian, but during her undergraduate studies she decided to take an archeology course.

“Just on a whim, because I had no idea what archeology was,” she says.

She quickly found out, but perhaps not in the way she expected.

“The prof came in the room and dumped a bucket of garbage on the table and said, ‘this is archeology. You want to study archeology because it’s all about people’s connections to things and the things around them.’ And I got hooked.”

Since then Newstead has participated in excavations in a number of areas around the world, her last in 2016 at Bradgate Park in central England, the childhood home of Lady Jane Grey who, in 1553, was Queen for only nine days before she was beheaded.

“We actually dug through her garbage, her family’s garbage. It was a huge public dig with thousands of spectators every day.”

So what does one find in the 500-year-old garbage of uppercrust families? Well, dresses for one thing.

“Their dresses weren’t sewn together,” Newstead points out. “They, especially uppercrust women, would pin them together so that you could change things fairly easily. I went through a section of the place where I was excavating…and it was full of these little tiny silver pins, like a ton of them, and it immediately connected you to these women wearing these really big silk dresses. It was like a window directly into the past.”

Fast forward to 2024 and Newstead finds herself in Lethbridge where on June 5 she officially took over as executive director and CEO of the Galt Museum and Archives and Fort Whoop-Up, after spending about seven years in Drumheller as the executive director of the Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site.

“We probably won’t be doing any archeology at the Galt Museum,” Newstead quips, but she will, as she had done in recent years, focus on the community connection and getting people connected to their history and the heritage of the area.

“Getting people learning about not only the recent history of Lethbridge but also the longer-term history in Lethbridge. There’s a lot of history here that is really, really neat.”

One of Newstead’s main goals as the Galt’s new leader is to attract more people to the museum. “So getting more residents of Lethbridge coming in and using this amazing public resource that we have both here and at the fort.”

Newstead said the COVID pandemic impacted all museums in Alberta and it’s still recovering.

“We’re just sort of getting back to the new normal now, and making sure that the community’s actually utilizing this resource in a really deep way. I want everyone to come and revisit their childhood memories here because we store a lot of that stuff here.”

Jesse Sadlowski, chairperson of the Galt board of directors, says Newstead’s background in archeology and her experience leading the Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site, speak volumes about her capabilities.”

“Sarah is not only a leader but also a practitioner of continuous learning, embodying a growth mindset that inspires those around her,” Sadlowski says. “She actively supports others and embraces new challenges with enthusiasm.”

Newstead was born in the province of Nova Scotia and raised in Muskoka, Ont. She moved to Vancouver, B.C. for her undergraduate degree, then headed across the country to St. John’s, Nfld. for her Masters degree, followed by a move to England to get her Ph.D. in archeology.

Archeology and history aren’t Newstead’s only passions, however. She also loves horses and looks forward to attending rodeos and becoming involved in the southern Alberta horse culture and learning more about Lethbridge where she and her husband, Foster, now call home.

“We’re super thrilled,” Newstead says. “It’s a really nice city. I’m really liking the trees here and the whole arts and culture vibe.”

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