Pioneer Museum marks 25 years of preserving local history
Thursday, May 11, 2017 6:26:25 MDT PM
The Harvest Festival predates the Pioneer Museum itself and has become a fun annual tradition. File photo
It started with two men who wanted to preserve the farming history of the Stony Plain area.
Now, the Stony Plain & Parkland Pioneer Museum houses more than just farm artifacts — it holds the stories of the people who helped make the community what it is today. The museum was the dream of Henry and Lydia Goerz and Peter and Lil Washburn, who held their first meeting on May 28, 1989 to discuss starting a museum. In April 1990, the Pioneer Museum was formed under the umbrella of the Stony Plain & District Exhibition Society. The Stony Plain & District Pioneer Museum Society was officially incorporated on April 10, 1992. David Fielhaber, executive director and curator of the Pioneer Museum, said it’s amazing to see how much the museum has grown in 25 years. “It has not only survived 25 years, but blossomed,” he said.
The museum itself was officially opened on Oct. 15, 1994. Its first building was a barn moved from Don Gray’s farm. The museum has grown to include 18 buildings — the Founders’ Building, Baron Barn, Myshak Building, Legacy Street and Interpretive Centre, Blacksmith, M.D. Office, Don Gray Barn and Women’s Exhibit, Warden School, Teacherage, Town Hall, Brightbank Church, 1895 House, 1905 House, 1915 House, Trapper’s Cabin, Pioneer Tea House and the Museum Office. The Tea House — which just opened for the 2017 season on May 12 — has been a part of the site since 2002 and remains the largest fundraiser for the museum. Guests enjoy light lunches inside the cabin relocated from Seba Beach.
Even before the society was formed, there was the Harvest Festival. Now an annual tradition, it showcases the intensive harvest and threshing machine work of old. City Slickers has given children from inner city schools the chance to experience early pioneer life. Organized by the Multicultural Centre, it has been running annually since 1999. Other activities held at the museum over the years include log sawing, car shows, quilt shows, Aboriginal days, Alberta Culture Days and Civic Appreciation Day.
To mark the 25-year milestone, the Pioneer Museum is holding several special events this year. It all starts with the official opening of an anniversary exhibit depicting the passage of time at the museum, which will take place on June 3 to coincide with Farmers’ Days. It is located in the new Town Hall replica building’s upstairs exhibit room. On the main floor of the Town Hall building, the museum will officially be opening its new lamp collection exhibit at the same time. With 820 antique lamps, the museum now has the second largest lamp collection in the province.
Its new Kinsmen interpretive centre, located at the front of the 1930s Legacy Street building, will also be officially opened on June 3. With the 25th anniversary coinciding with Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, the museum staff and volunteers have teamed up with the Stony Plain Horticultural Society to plant red and white flowers on the grounds. In the fall, the Pioneer Museum will be hosting a gala to celebrate the achievements of its volunteers over the last 25 years.
The museum keeps on growing. This summer, restoration work will begin on a teacherage it acquired from a property in Parkland County. Fielhaber noted it is a true treasure, as original teacherages are difficult to find. It is expected to open during this year’s Harvest Festival. In marking 25 years, the Pioneer Museum is also using it as a time to plan for the future. With phase two of Legacy Street now complete through the opening of the interpretive centre, staff are now shifting their focus to planning for stage three and four. This will include the eventual addition of 1940s and 1950s streetscapes. Volunteer appreciation
With the never-ending events and projects around the Pioneer Museum, volunteers have been an integral part of its operations. The museum currently has about 75 members, most of whom will volunteer at various points throughout the year, Fielhaber said. But a core group of about 25 people volunteer on a regular basis, and another 10 volunteers assist with restoration work. “This whole place is a testament to volunteers,” Fielhaber said. He added the community, municipalities and local companies have been very supportive of the museum over the years as well.
“There’s so much that couldn’t have been accomplished without the entire community helping out when needed, and just being there for the museum,” Fielhaber said. “It’s a success story not just for the volunteers, but for the whole community.”