By TYLER DAWSON
During Hurricane Sandy, Red Deer Museum preparator Melanie Berndt was worried her mannequins weren’t going to make it from New York City.
The upcoming permanent exhibition, Remarkable Red Deer: Stories from the Heart of the Parkland, features a department storefront with mannequins sporting decades-old fashions.
There was one problem. The initial set of mannequins Berndt received stood six feet tall and their shoulders were too broad to fit in the petite outfits. Fortunately, she managed to find different, svelte mannequins in New York and had them shipped to Red Deer.
To prevent damage to the clothing from gasses released by the plastic, a medical grade covering will be placed on the mannequins before they are dressed.
While artifacts are gathered and mannequins prepared, workers were busy constructing the walls of replicas of Red Deer’s iconic buildings.
These buildings stand on the 4,800-square-foot exhibition floor, which covers half of the museum’s area.
Assistant executive director Karin Richardson-MacKenzie said that everything is on track to be completed by opening day — March 25.
The exhibition project was launched around a year ago when the city gave $1 million to get the project started. The museum is hoping to fundraise an extra $500,000 to complete the exhibition.
The City of Red Deer is celebrating its 100th birthday in 2013, and Remarkable Red Deer tells this story from the earliest days when land was purchased by settlers.
Visitors to the exhibition will walk through local landmarks such as the Club Cafe, Michener Centre and the Capital Theatre.
“We managed to purchase the old, hard theatre seats,” said Richardson-MacKenzie.
In the retro Club Cafe — complete with jukebox — visitors will be able to play interactive games at each of the four booths.
The exhibit will also feature personalities from local history.
“We’ve taken 12 key figures that become storytellers for a particular era,” said Richardson-MacKenzie.
There will also be an exhibit for 29 local soldiers who were captured during the disastrous Allied raid on Dieppe during the Second World War. When they were imprisoned by the German army, the Red Deer community rallied to support them.
“Our Home Comfort Society was able to send things to make their lives a little easier,” Richardson-MacKenzie said. All 29 prisoners of war made it home.
The museum has also partnered with the film studies program at Red Deer College to record the stories of 50 people who settled in Red Deer over the years. It will showcase a variety of stories, from war brides to recent refugees.
The exhibition will be in the museum for a minimum of 10 years, although the previous permanent exhibit was there for nearly 25.
Richardson-MacKenzie said the exhibition is a “permanent starting point for history in the community.”