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Pieces of history

A green and yellow felt cap - it's a simple enough object, but years of history are woven into its fabric.

The cap is a frosh beanie from the 1950s and it once topped the head of an enthusiastic new student as he entered his first year at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), then called the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art (PITA). It is evidence of his time here — a piece of tangible history.

The hat is one of many artifacts found in the SAIT archives.

"We have some really unique objects," says Karly Sawatzky, SAIT Archivist. "Each artifact tells us a bit more about SAIT and the people who built our institution over the last 100 years."

These artifacts range from the frosh cap to an Interclass Entertainment Award trophy to an exquisitely detailed notebook from dressmaking student Muriel Norris.

"Without knowing it, students left us clues to SAIT's past," says Sawatzky. "Muriel Norris probably didn't think her school notebook would become a fascinating look into 1930s dressmaking education — she gave us a piece of her experience as a student."

The story of objects

Cufflinks - 1920s

cufflinks were designed based on the original PITA crest.
The oldest artifacts in SAIT's collection, these cufflinks were designed based on the original PITA crest. The green triangle represented PITA's three core institutional values at the time — progress, precision and perseverance.

Skeleton Keys - 1922

Photo of the original skeleton keys used when Heritage Hall

The two keys are the original skeleton keys used when Heritage Hall — or the Main Building, as it was then known — opened in 1922. One door in Heritage Hall can still be unlocked with a skeleton key.

Wing Pins - 1950

These cufflinks belonged to a student from the 1950 Aeronautics Department.

These cufflinks belonged to a student from the 1950 Aeronautics Department. There were 32 students enrolled and many of them were among those responsible for the design and construction of Canada's first jet interceptor and jet transport — which were Canada's first serious bid into the aircraft industry.

Historic Shield of Arms - 1922

photo of student-made artwork

This piece of beaded artwork, made by students, originally hung in the auditorium in Heritage Hall when the building opened in 1922.

T Awards

photo of T Awards patches sewn by SAIT students

Beginning in 1947, the T Awards were a way for students to recognize those among them who had made significant contributions to sports, clubs and extracurricular activities. There were six divisions of the award in 1947, but by 1980 they have been broken down into "Gold" and "Silver" awards.

In the early years of the award, the dressmaking students were responsible for creating and sewing all of the T Awards patches.

Frosh Beanies - 1950/60s

Frosh students wore yellow and green beanies, pictured here. Frosh” students would wear yellow and green beanies

By the mid twentieth century, "frosh" students — those who were attending their first year at SAIT — would wear yellow and green beanies as part of the initiation activities held during their first few weeks on campus.

Interclass Entertainment Competition Trophy - 1927


The first annual banquet was held in 1921, and the first Interclass Entertainment Competition began in 1927. The trophy was handed out each year to the best student-organized entertainment at the event.

Autograph book - 1929

Photo of autograph book belonged to Mechanical Drafting student Leslie Briscoe.photo of 1929 Autograph bookphoto of 1929 Autograph book

This autograph book belonged to Mechanical Drafting student Leslie Briscoe. He started classes in 1927, and his autograph book is filled with poems and drawings from his family and classmates during his time at school.

Drafting Tools - 1928

Drafting tools

These tools of the trade belonged to Leslie Briscoe, a student in the Mechanical Drafting department. Briscoe was a born and raised Calgarian who began classes in 1927. Briscoe's autograph book can also be found in SAIT's archives.

School Notebook - 1934

Notebook belonging to 1930s dressmaking student.

Dressmaking student Muriel Norris kept an extremely detailed notebook with fabric samples and analysis, notes and patterns. She began the dressmaking program in 1932 and graduated in 1934.

The dressmaking program started in 1922 as Dressmaking and Millinery and continued as Dressmaking and Tailoring until 1963 when day classes in sewing ended at SAIT.

Treasures for the next century

As part of the centennial year, SAIT will open two time capsules that offer further glimpses into the institution's past.

The youngest capsule, buried in 1991 in honour of SAIT's 75th birthday, will be opened in the lead up to the centennial celebration.

The 1966 capsule, created to mark SAIT's 50th birthday, will be opened at the centennial event on Sunday, Oct. 16. Artifacts from both capsules will be on display at the event.

While marveling at the treasures left by past community members, we will be preserving our own moments in time by filling a capsule to be opened at SAIT's 200th birthday party.

Blast from the past

If you have an object of interest to SAIT that you would like to donate to the SAIT Archives, please contact Karly Sawatzky.

"Artifacts can be anything from your grandfather's yearbook to mementos from your — more recent — time at SAIT," says Sawatzky. "Objects from today may not seem like pieces of SAIT history to us, but the archivist in 2116 will find them fascinating."

Join us on Sunday, Oct. 16 for our centennial birthday celebration.

SAIT centennial RSVP button

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