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Thursday, 04 August 2011 14:21

Claresholm and district expands its historical archive

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By Susan Quinlan
As many may have noticed, the Claresholm and District Museum recently grew, opening a second building with an abundance of artifacts collected over many years.

Board chairperson, Anola Laing, said the antiquities collection outgrew the CPR Depot that had served as the museum, and the dream of expanding began to materialize around 2001. 

“We should have a new bigger building to house our artifacts. Before we could build, we needed to raise the money. Volunteers organized bridge parties and coffee parties. Others sold baking at the farmer’s market over two or three years … Rae Trimble worked so hard at accessing government grant money,” said Laing.

Eventually, they managed to raise $300,000 from individuals, businesses and service clubs in the community. 

“The Town of Claresholm provided the site while the M.D. of Willow Creek donated their crew and equipment for the site preparation and we were in business.”

Laing said under the direction of Rae Trimble, past board chair, grant money was accessed from the Lethbridge Foundation, the provincial and federal governments, and on Sept. 11, 2010, the museum opened its second building.

“I think the final cost of the building was just under $1 million.”

During the past year, new exhibits have been built to portray the history of Claresholm, said Laing. 

“On display now is the first motorized school bus in all of Canada. Two of Claresholm’s early fire engines and a John Deere Waterloo Boy tractor are also indoors. We are a work in progress, as we strive to inspire curiosity and wonder telling the story of how our grandparents lived their lives.”

For example, said Laing, 70 years ago the airport at Claresholm was opened to train pilots for the Second World War under the British Commonwealth Air Training Program. To commemorate that training event, museum staff prepared a display featuring war brides along with brides through the decades.

As to future plans for the museum, Laing said an executive director has now been hired, so the museum will be open year round. Trisha Carleton, originally from Alberta, but currently residing in Victoria, will soon take up the new post.

In addition, said Laing, plans are in the works to build a platform between the depot and CPR rails which lay directly east of the museum, as the museum’s collection includes a speeder car that can be placed on the tracks.

“We’re also trying to build up a base of volunteers interested in building Claresholm’s history and telling stories, that will be there in the summer during the afternoon.”

A high tech feature that will soon be in place, said Laing, is having the museum serve as a free Wi-Fi hot spot, so visitors passing through town can check their email, search for local restaurants and lodging, and so on. The WiFi connection is complements of Claresholm’s Economic Development Committee and the local Chamber of Commerce.

As to special events this summer, Laing said they’re looking forward to hosting an old fashioned tea on the lawn during Claresholm Fair Days Aug. 13.

In describing the museum’s collection, Bob Lacelle, Alberta Tourism employee and museum guide, said it covers everything from the area’s first inhabitants, the natives, through to development of its farming and ranching history, complete with a log cabin and Alberta’s first school house. There are also artifacts that tell the story of settlement in the region by families from Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, and a number of other artifacts depicting the local airport’s role as a flight training school.

“Come to learn the history of the town. It’s a real treasure, with antiques from the 1800s,” said Lacelle.

The museum is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. seven days a week until the Thanksgiving weekend, at which time museum hours will change.

For more information, phone 403-625-313. Admission is by donation.

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