Uncovering a hidden bathtub in the Michener House Museum was the first surprise for staff at the Lacombe and District Historical Society.
Getting more than 100,000 social media views from a TikTok video about the discovery was their second surprise.
It’s funny what captures the public’s imagination during the COVID crisis, said Melissa Blunden, the society’s executive-director on Wednesday.
The secret bathtub was found by a museum conservationist earlier this month. Denzil Paterson had been opening up the first floor ceiling of the home and found a sunken tub still hooked up to plumbing.
“I think the mystery of the tub (was intriguing). People wondered how we don’t know there was a bathtub there,” said Blunden.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the kind of historic claw-foot iron tub that might have been original to the home — Blunden explained, “It’s the kind of tub that can be found in any other house…”
She believes it dates from the 1960s or ’70s — when the historic society turned the upper floor of the house into a rental suite.
The bathtub had likely been boarded up in the 1990s when the upper floor of the Michener House became a society office. Since the boarded-over tub was located at the very back of what’s now a storage closet, no one who currently works for the society had noticed it before, she added.
She marvels over how a “silly story” can produce a viral video, but hopes it brings more visitors to the Michener House Museum when it reopens for the summer season in May.
The more people talk about the Michener House, the better, added Blunden, who often hears local residents say they didn’t realize there are three museums in Lacombe.
The Michener House Museum celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021.
The Society operates this historic home, the birthplace of Canada’s former governor-general, Roland Michener, as well as the Lacombe Blacksmith Museum and the new Flatiron Building Museum. The latter was launched in September.
The new-found tub is slated for removal next year. Blunden said the society’s office is no longer located in Michener House, but is now at the Flatiron Building Museum.
Community input was sought on what to do with the vacated office space in the Michener House Museum. And Blunden said most people wanted to see artifacts from the now defunct Lacombe Globe newspaper displayed there. She believes work on this project will start late in 2022.
Meanwhile, the society is preparing for a new display in the Flatiron Building Museum — a travelling exhibit on the Rebellion of 1867 and Confederation, from the National Museum in Ottawa, to run from Jan. 1 to March 26.
Blunden is excited about this first touring exhibit for the new museum, located in Lacombe’s well-known triangular cornerstone building. She hopes people will come and check it out in the New Year.
Those on social media can look for @lacombemuseums on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram.