Half a century ago, a group of community-minded Red Deerians started a society to plan a museum and help preserve the area’s history.
The Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery (formerly the Red Deer and District Museum) would soon open its doors — and become more than a place to exhibit curios from the past.
Over the years, the structure first conceived in 1972 and built after a $206,000 fundraising campaign in 1978, has evolved into a true community hub, with mom and tots programs, community art classes, walking tours, summer day camps and more.
The museum’s staff and volunteers are now planning to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the museum society’s vision through a special exhibition that will kick off this fall as well as various activities throughout 2023.
Exhibits coordinator Kim Verrier feels the museum was established out of a sense of community pride. The society’s founders — including indomitable volunteer Molly Banister — wanted to display local artifacts to be able to tell stories of the area’s history.
Among the farm implements, Victorian china and other surviving articles of pioneer life on the Prairies are some surprises: The Red Deer museum has among the largest textile collections in Western Canada, for example, as well as an array of Inuit art that was bequeathed by local resident Kathleen Anderson Swallow, a former doctor at Michener Centre.
Visitors, as well as newcomers to central Alberta, routinely come to the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery to get a feel for where this community came from, said Verrier.
“It gives us a sense of history, a sense of place…. It gives voice to people, to experiences and we want to make sure we have more of those stories as we go forward.”
Part of the museum’s mandate is also to provide a display space for artists, both local and from further afield. Two current exhibits are examples of both: In Adoration of the Precarious Bee is an exhibit of ceramics by Red Deer artist Dawn Detarando that runs to Aug. 20; In a gallery next door are sculptural collages made by Edmonton-based artist Lyndal Osborne out of collected materials found on the shores of Newfoundland and New South Wales, Australia.
Verrier feels both artists make statements about the perils of environmental degradation and need to preserve nature.
Summer is coming — and it’s the busiest time at the museum. While Mini MAG drop-in activities program for tots under age 5 will wrap up on June 29, MAG Saturdays will continue to offer family arts programs from 1 to 4 p.m. weekly. “It’s for people from two to 102,” said Verrier.
Kid’s day camps will start up, as will Sunday afternoon adult art programs, including a June 12 encaustic collages demonstration.
The museum is also starting Downtown Walking Tours of historic places and Ghost sculptures on Wednesdays and Saturdays from June 4 and 8.
Please visit reddeermuseum.com for more information on programs and fees. And any community volunteers who want to help plan special 50th Anniversary activities for late 2022 and 2023 can contact the museum.