Museum moment: Holding Onto Memories

Before the discovery of vaccines and antibiotics, disease took the lives of countless children each year. Father Lacombe’s sister, Christine Harnois, lost five children in a week from Diptheria.

The Spanish Flu was even more virulent.

The L’Hirondelles were one of St. Albert’s first families. Jacques senior joined the Northwest Company before 1811. His son Jacques joined the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Edmonton in 1832. In 1913, three of his grandson’s left St. Albert and moved to what is now Lubicon Lake.

Josie L’Hirondelle, Jacques senior’s great grandson, and his bride Elise Bellerose began a family, but tragedy was around the corner. In 1915 they had their first child, a baby boy named Hector.

When Spanish influenza struck the region in 1918, Hector succumbed to the illness. The family kept Hector’s bonnet for just over 100 years, before donating it to the Musée Héritage Museum. It is one of several items from the L’Hirondelle family in our artifact collection.

To learn more about the Spanish Flu, check out this animated video explaining its history. You’ll also learn why it was called the Spanish Flu (hint: it did not start in Spain!):

Also check out these fun doctor crafts for preschoolers to try:

For a more in depth look at pandemics, please visit our online exhibition, Pandemic!. This exhibition was housed in our museum in early 2019, which we just republished online in April 2020.

We are also interested in hearing about your stories about coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. We are collecting stories from our community, so if you are interested in sharing a story, photo, or anything else creative about your experiences, please email them to