The Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery is being recognized provincially for investing in its programs and exhibits with a social conscience.
The Alberta Museums Association is presenting the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery (MAG) with the 2023 Robert R. Janes Award for Social Responsibility. This $3,000 prize recognizes the Red Deer museum’s work “to embed collaboration, partnership, and shared authority into the institution.”
Over the years, the MAG has built relationships and partnered with community members and organizations to help to tell a fuller story of life in Red Deer — from the Indigenous people who have lived there for millennia to newcomers who are just arriving.
Jennifer Forsyth, executive-director of the Alberta Museums Association, believes these strong reciprocal relationships have enabled the Red Deer museum to shine more light on underrepresented groups and their stories, showcasing the diversity of central Alberta.
The MAG’s award-winning Pow Wow! Ohciwin, the Origins show of First Nations dance regalia, is an example of an exhibit that was developed in the community and facilitated by the museum. Chandra Kastern, director of operations at the MAG, feels the museum became a forum for community members to show their work and educate the public about their culture.
She also sees the MAG as a community hub, or gathering place, where nuanced discussions about societal issues can take place.
“We want to be reflective of the community” — starting with diverse make-up of the museum’s board and the way staff work to fulfill the board’s objectives, she added.
Through integrating historical and modern perspectives, the museum is also keeping itself relevant to the community. And Forsyth believes this allows the MAG to help shape the future of the city, not just the past.
“Their joyful approach to community building, programming, and exhibition development makes (MAG) a gathering place that people want to be a part of.”
The $3,000 award will be used to investigate what makes the MAG’s programs work, to scale up the museum’s activities, and create models to allow this innovative work to be replicated at other museums. “We’re pretty honoured to be recognized,” said Kastern.
An awards gala will be held on Friday, Sept. 22, in the Gasoline Alley Museum at Heritage Park Historical Village in Calgary.
The Alberta Museums Association provides a variety of programs and services to over 500 museums and museum professionals across Alberta.