Museum closes space, permanent exhibit coming

Red Deer’s history will be reflected back to city residents when the local museum opens its permanent exhibit in March 2013.

Red Deer’s history will be reflected back to city residents when the local museum opens its permanent exhibit in March 2013.

To prepare for the big transformation to more than half the building, the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery is effectively closing all of its exhibit space for a month.

From Sept. 6 to 28, “we won’t have anything in our exhibits galleries,” as major wall construction gets underway for the permanent history exhibit that’s slated to open during Red Deer’s 100th anniversary year, said Karin Richardson-MacKenzie, the museum’s assistant director of marketing and development.

But the museum’s archives will remain open during this time, as will the Discovery Studio and ongoing programs such as MAG Saturdays, and MAG Sparks on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.

As of Sept. 29, the part of the museum that’s not under construction will host the final exhibit of the year — Profit and Ambition: The Canadian Fur Trade, 1779-1821. This travelling exhibit from the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa will show the rise and fall of the North West Company and take visitors on journeys with voyageurs and explorers.

The 8,000-square-foot Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery has largely been featuring art since its last renovation in 2009.

While visitors “were very supportive of our art collections, the public was saying, if we are a museum, we need to be showing our own history,” said Richardson-MacKenzie. That prompted the new historical exhibit project.

The museum’s previous 25-year-old permanent exhibit was pulled out in 2009 when the museum also upgraded its temperature and humidity features.

While the old exhibit had been popular, it had “reached its limit,” said Richardson-MacKenzie. “People loved to come and look at things” — but it was always the same artifacts. “It didn’t allow us to switch out our collections.”

The new 4,800-square-foot permanent exhibit will feature several cases that can be changed to reflect different seasons, special anniversaries, or other events.

The $1.5-million historic display will involve 1,000 museum artifacts, 500 archival photographs, maps and documents. It’s being created by Reichpetch Design International, a Toronto-based museum design firm.

Richardson-MacKenzie said the local themes will revolve around unusual beginnings, community spirit, leaders and innovators, and the diversity of Red Deer today.

Among the many resources will be 50 filmed stories from immigrants who have arrived in the area since the Second World War. They will be available for visitors to choose from and view.

Richardson-MacKenzie said the films includes older immigrants from Europe as well as more recent immigrants from Central America and Africa. They were a joint project between the museum and Red Deer College’s Motion Picture Arts program, with assistance from CARE (Central Alberta Refugee Effort).

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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