Rod Trentham

Exhibit to showcase oil and gas industry impact on Central Alberta

A new museum exhibit in Red Deer will show how the oil and gas industry has affected Central Alberta, and how area residents have affected the industry.

A new museum exhibit in Red Deer will show how the oil and gas industry has affected Central Alberta, and how area residents have affected the industry.

Both sides of this important, interconnected relationship will be represented in a future exhibit at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery.

Interviews wrapped up last week with local movers and shakers who have worked in the energy sector since the 1950s. Project researchers Rod Trentham and Bria Graham held on-camera discussions with some 37 people to create an oral history segment for the museum’s Remarkable Red Deer exhibit.

Some of the interviewees are well known personalities, such as Parkland Industries founder Jack Donald, or oil and gas historian and author David Finch. But the personal testimonials given by lesser-known people are no less interesting, said Trentham, the museum’s former educational programs co-ordinator who is now researching for the oil and gas project.

For instance, Gary Hewitt talked about his half-century working as a tool push on drilling rigs throughout the world. Another interviewee was Andy Nelson, who started out driving water trucks for a family company and is now a Class 1 hauler in Alberta and B.C.

“We started in Turner Valley,” where the first oil and gas reserves were discovered, said Trentham, and followed the movements of Central Albertan individuals and companies right to today’s corporate offices in Calgary.

All sorts of local engineers and skilled trades specialists, including surveyors and welders, were asked to tell their stories. So were people who run oilfield service sector businesses or manufacturing operations in Central Alberta. Women as well as men were interviewed, said Trentham, although a few people who were approached were too busy to participate.

“Red Deer’s role is (mostly) as a service centre. You know it’s big, but then you do this and find out how big a role it is,” said Trentham, who personally worked in the oilfield from 1979 to 1985.

Graham is a Red Deer College student entering her last year of the Motion Picture Arts program.

She knew more about technical camera operations than the oil and gas industry before starting on this project.

The Lethbridge native was surprised to discover how dedicated many of the people are who work in the industry. “For me it was a surprise to learn they are real people who are running these companies, not just these money-gobbling people. … They care about their workers and care about the environment and are passionate about what they do.”

Graham said she also discovered how closely tied Red Deer’s growth has been to the fortunes of oil and gas. “It’s been educational because I’ve learned about how much the oil industry has impacted my life.”

Trentham appreciates the loan of a camera and other recording equipment by Red Deer College, saying the project wouldn’t have been possible without RDC’s help.

The videotaped testimonials still need to be edited, then incorporated into an interactive museum display. A touch screen will eventually allow museum visitors to select a person’s image and hear what that person has to say — in much the same way as an existing museum screen allows immigrants to Central Alberta to tell their stories in their own words.

Trentham said no time line has yet been determined on when the oil and gas segment can be incorporated into the Remarkable Red Deer display.

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