If these things could talk (video)

Valerie Miller flips the lights as she enters Red Deer Museum’s vast storage space and illuminates more than 80,000 treasures from Central Alberta’s past.

Val Miller

Val Miller



Valerie Miller flips the lights as she enters Red Deer Museum’s vast storage space and illuminates more than 80,000 treasures from Central Alberta’s past.

Dolls from the turn of the 20th century stare back, soda bottles and kettles that haven’t held liquid since the Great Depression-era fill a half dozen shelves, and pianos that once played in historic Red Deer taverns sit voiceless under white sheets.

“The objects are great, but it’s the stories they tell which are important,” said Miller, who has been working in the museum’s collection co-ordination department for 25 years.

The Red Deer Museum is committed to displaying more of its collection to the public over the next few years, to hopefully better engage Red Deerians and remind them of the area’s unique heritage, Miller said.

“It’s a very selective process, we consider many things when people offer us something for our collection,” Miller said.

“It has to tell the story of Red Deer and Central Alberta, first and foremost.”

Miller and her team spend thousands of hours each year researching, documenting, and archiving the museum’s ever-growing collection.

“Sometimes people don’t want to give things up, so we document the object and give it back to them; sometimes we interview people for historical record and archive the interview,” Miller said.

Miller reaches onto one of the shelves and pulls off a stuffed green and yellow parrot, mounted on a piece of bark.

“Peanut was a parrot that lived at the Club Café, and when he died, he was stuffed and mounted by the club’s owners. He’s not in very good shape but we consider him an important piece of our collection,” Miller said.

The pieces in the museum’s collection often belonged to regular people who lived regular lives, but the details explained by these ordinary objects (like Peanut) tell a much grander narrative, Miller said.

“This collection of skates belonged to Mr. (Murray) Palmer; he gave them to children who couldn’t afford skates, and when they outgrew the skates, he’d lend them another pair,” Miller said, pointing to the two dozen pairs of old skates, lined up in neat rows.

The museum’s collection tells many happy stories like the one of Palmer’s skate collection, but there are also artifacts from darker periods in Canadian history.

“That bellows is from the Indian Industrial School, which was run by the Methodist Church and was a residential school for First Nation’s children,” Miller said.

The bellows is a direct link to one of Canada’s great historical shames, but Miller said all stories — triumphant to terrible — are important to knowing where Red Deer has been, and where it is going.

“The collection is about connecting to our past, and remembering through these objects how people lived and better understanding their lives, and our own lives, too.”

From Our Collection, an exhibit displaying historic fossils, artifacts, and cultural relics from the museum’s collection, is on now until Nov. 30 at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery at 4525 47A Ave. For more information, call 403-309-8405 or visit reddeermuseum.com.

syoung@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta recorded a single-day record of over 57,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta hits daily record of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered

Central zone has administered 111,735 doses of the COVID-19

Alberta reported an additional 1,980 cases of COVID-19 Friday. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Red Deer adds 37th death from COVID-19, active cases drop

Alberta Health identified an additional 1,980 cases of the virus province-wide

Kris Sturgess with Calgary Ghostbusters. (Photo from GoFundMe)
GoFundMe account salutes Red Deer prop builder

Kris Sturgess died unexpectedly April 28

A rodeo south of Bowden drew a huge crowd on May 1 and 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy Mom’s Diner’s Facebook page)
FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

Toronto FC coach Chris Armas talks with his players during a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second leg soccer match against Mexico's Cruz Azul at Azteca stadium in Mexico City, Tuesday, May 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Fernando Llano
Toronto FC coach Chris Armas returns to Red Bull Arena to face former team

Toronto FC coach Chris Armas returns to Red Bull Arena to face former team

Gymnastics Canada skipping Olympic qualifier because of COVID-19 concerns

Gymnastics Canada skipping Olympic qualifier because of COVID-19 concerns

Runner Melissa Bishop-Nriagu speaks to the media at the opening news conference at the Canadian Track and Field Championships, in Montreal, Thursday, July 25, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
After pregnancy, injuries and a pandemic, Bishop-Nriagu finally hitting her stride

After pregnancy, injuries and a pandemic, Bishop-Nriagu finally hitting her stride

Lille's Burak Yilmaz, center, reacts with teammates after scoring during their French League One soccer match between Lille and Nice in Villeneuve d'Ascq, northern France, Saturday May 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
Canada’s Jonathan David scores milestone goal as Lille moves 4 points ahead of PSG

Canada’s Jonathan David scores milestone goal as Lille moves 4 points ahead of PSG

Jean Carlo Salas of Costa Rica vies for the ball with Canada's Ian Bennett (right) during a CONCACAF Futsal Championship in Guatemala City, Guatemala, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-CONCACAF-Norvin Mendoza MANDATORY CREDIT
Canada denied a trip to the FIFA Futsal World Cup in penalty shootout loss to Panama

Canada denied a trip to the FIFA Futsal World Cup in penalty shootout loss to Panama

Canadian Stephen Ames one shot back of leaders at Regions Tradition

Canadian Stephen Ames one shot back of leaders at Regions Tradition

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson leaves the ice after defeating China at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Friday, May 7, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canada’s Einarson beats China 6-4, qualifies for playoffs at world curling playdowns

Canada’s Einarson beats China 6-4, qualifies for playoffs at world curling playdowns

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks to a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday May 4, 2021. A broad coalition of MPs from all five parties wants the federal government to support waiving the global rules that guard vaccine trade secrets. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
As MPs urge support, Trudeau demurs on whether government backs COVID-19 waiver

As MPs urge support, Trudeau demurs on whether government backs COVID-19 waiver

Most Read