Red Deer Museum coordinator of visitor experience Kim Verrier examines some skis in the back rooms of the Museum this week. A new program

Hands-on history in the back room at the museum

Slip on the thin, white gloves, brandish the magnifying glass and get into character every third Thursday of the month at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery.

Slip on the thin, white gloves, brandish the magnifying glass and get into character every third Thursday of the month at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery.

A new program, launched last month, is dusting off the boxes and bringing history directly into the hands of the public.

Look, Mix, Do incorporates a number of activities to engage the public through a new, interactive lens and strives to tell the stories of some of the thousands of artifacts the museum doesn’t have on display.

“We are calling them our Fusion Thursdays because it’s a mix of things going on — it’s not static,” said Kim Verrier, the museum’s visitor experience co-ordinator.

“For example, in the last one we did a mini skit and two crafting activities and everyone got into it. We also had food, snow cones to go with the arctic theme. If you think this is about sitting down and listening to a lecture, this isn’t the program for you.”

January’s drop-in event was titled Surviving Boredom on an Arctic Expedition and expanded on the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the National Museum of Nature’s Arctic-themed travelling exhibition, currently on display in Red Deer.

Participants made a team flag and explored the popular Inuit goggles artifact before constructing their own.

They also took a look at traditional Inuit tools, which they incorporated into the skits.

“We have Inuit parkas out and a snowmobiling outfit from the 1970s that actually belonged to Hazel Flewwelling (former mayor Morris Flewwelling’s wife). Then we had more modern coats to see the evolution. Those are all from our collection,” Verrier said.

About a dozen people from ages 17 to 70 showed up.

Look, Mix, Do is designed for an older crowd, ages 16 and up, added Karin Richardson-MacKenzie, assistant director for the museum’s marketing and development.

“We have family programs and they are very successful. This program was specifically designed for older groups. . . . It’s a great option for a date night or just a chance for people with common interests in history to get together,” Richardson-MacKenzie said.

The museum has over 80,000 artifacts of varying sizes (from marbles to pianos) and Fusion Thursdays provides the opportunity for museum staff to pull objects that the public has never seen out of the many storage rooms.

“This program can show the breadth of our collection, the diversity to it,” Verrier said.

Examples of artifacts tucked away from public view include an extensive collection of old skates that Red Deer’s Murray Palmer repaired for children on reserves in isolated northern communities, as well as an elegant black dress worn by a local woman in the 1950s to an RCMP black tie event.

“There are so many untold stories in these artifacts that really put a face to history,” Verrier said.

A planned late spring exhibit on war brides also whispers of numerous possibilities for Fusion Thursdays.

“We can look at the clothing around that time period. Have a build-your-own-fascinator workshop and a social tea or look into recipes from that time they would have used when there were so may shortages . . . I remember hearing about a soda cracker pie or something along those lines,” Verrier said.

According to Richardson-MacKenzie, Fusion Thursdays will also help the museum in reaching its future goal of building up the website to host a database of searchable artifacts in its collection for research and public interest purposes.

There is no extra cost to the program. Participants simply pay the museum’s regular admission fee for the evening.

Museum staff say any input from the public on what type of interactive Thursday theme they would like to see is always welcome.

The next session of Look, Mix, Do is still in the planning stages but will draw from the Remarkable Red Deer exhibit and take place on Feb. 20 from 7 to 9 p.m.

rfrancoeur@bprda.wpengine.com

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