University of Calgary

It’s “Always an Adventure” for Hugh Dempsey

UToday HomeSeptember 27, 2011

Always an Adventure An Autobiography by Hugh A. Dempsey has just been published by the by University of Calgary Press. Image courtesy the University of Calgary PressAlways an Adventure An Autobiography by Hugh A. Dempsey has just been published by the by University of Calgary Press. Image courtesy the University of Calgary PressThe University of Calgary Press has just published ‘Always an Adventure,’ the autobiography of popular western historian Hugh A. Dempsey.

One of Alberta’s most prolific and influential public historians and author of more than twenty books, Dempsey recounts the events, challenges, frustrations and joys that have made his life “always an adventure.”

“The memoirs of Hugh Dempsey read like the recollections of a man who has observed history for centuries… this historian who married into the history of the West provides an unparalleled perspective on the Canadian experience,” writes historian David Finch in Alberta Views.

Born in Edmonton in 1929, Dempsey began his writing career as a journalist for the Edmonton Bulletin newspaper from 1948 to 1951 before becoming a publicity writer for the Alberta Government.

In 1956, he began his life-long involvement in western heritage when he became the archivist of the recently established Glenbow Museum in Calgary. At the time he wasn’t even sure what an archivist did. “I knew the meaning of the world ‘archivist,’ but that’s about all I knew. However, the prospect of looking after all the documents and photographs collected by Glenbow seemed like a thrilling one.”

The thrill of being involved in one of western Canada’s premier heritage institutions continued for the next 35 years. Dempsey served as Glenbow’s archivist, and later curator/director, retiring in 1991.

Throughout his career, Dempsey has helped shape the development of key Alberta institutions such as the Indian Association of Alberta, the Historical Society of Alberta and the Glenbow Museum. Through his marriage in 1953, to Pauline Gladstone, daughter of Canadian Senator James Gladstone of the Kainai Blackfoot, Dempsey deepened his growing interest in Blackfoot history and became thoughtful archivist and biographer of Native culture. For his contributions, he became the honorary secretary of the Indian Association of Alberta and was made an honorary chief of the Kainai Nation in 1967. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Calgary, and in 1975 was invested as a
Member of the Order of Canada.