Okotoks Our Place in History - A Series of Exhibits to Celebrate Canada 150.
It's hard to pack 150 years of history into a single museum exhibit. During 2017, the Okotoks Museum and Archives featured a series of exhibits that reflected upon our community's history since confederation. These exhibits celebrated the common Canadian connections that tie us together as well as highlighted the unique qualities that set us apart.
January 14 to December 20: Whether by trail or by rail, early settlers came to Okotoks with boundless hope and determination. They all have stories to tell. The Macleod Trail, stagecoaches and the arrival of the railroad had a significant impact on Okotoks.
January 14 to May 1: "From the Ground Up" -Early business and industries that relied on natural resources.
May 2 to September 11: "Have You Heard the News?" -Newspapers, telephone, mail, radio and TV helped keep us informed.
September 12 to November 12: "Setting up Shop" -Small businesses where the backbone of the community.
January 14 to June 30: "Policing the West" -Northwest Mounted Police, Alberta Police, and RCMP.
July 1 to November 12: "Fire! Fire!" -Major fires in Okotoks and the fire department that keeps us safe.
January 14 to May 1: "I Do Belong" -Churches, clubs and wedded bliss.
May 2 to October 30: "The Games We Play" -Our favourite sports and pastimes.
October 31 to December 20: "School Days" -The one-room school.
January 14 to June 30: Okotoks & World War I.
April 1 to June 30: The 100th Anniversary of Vimy Ridge.
July 1 to December 20: From the Boer War to Afghanistan.
January 14 to June 30: "Government Representation" and "Okotoks Loves a Party"
July 1 to September 11: "Remembering 1967" and "Water, Power, and Gas"
September 12 to December 20: "Mail Order Catalogue"
November 17 to December 20: "A Heritage Christmas"
Here’s a small sampling of the notes: I Love Canada Because …
“we are safe, accepted and FREE.”
“It is the friendliest place on earth.”
“it is beautiful.”
“of the snow.”
“of great maple syrup and poutine.”
“of our friendly people.”
“beauty, diversity, freedom.”
“we are free and enjoy unmatched natural beauty.”
“we don’t have Trump or really big spiders.”
“I’m free to be me.”
“it is my home.”
"Just Wait Five Minutes...or 15,000 Years" was a temporary exhibit that examined the weather's impact on Okotoks and its people. How did the Ice Age influence the local landscape, why do we get Chinooks, and how have residents coped with the ever-changing and often unforgiving rain, drought, hail, snow, and wind? The exhibit included fossils from before the Ice Age which illustrate that this region's climate was quite different than it is today. Environmental monitoring equipment, on loan from Environment Canada, was also on display.
Okotoks has, historically, been home to some unique businesses. Millineries, creameries, flour mills, and liveries were among the specialized stores that served the Okotoks community in the early 1900s. However, these businesses have since been lost from our landscape. Some were destroyed by fire, and others simply became obsolete or victims of change. Using maps, photos, and newspaper advertisements, this exhibit helped recreate the streetscape of "Lost Okotoks."
The great immigration of the early 1900's brought dozens of families to Okotoks seeking a better life in the "Last, Best West." Are their stories much different than the great wave of recent immigrants who are making Okotoks their new home? This exhibit featured the stories of early immigrants as well as encouraged recent newcomers to share their stories.
The theme for the 2015 International Museum Day (May 18) was "Museums for a Sustainable Society." We turned the day into a temporary exhibit which explored the history of living within our means --from the depression to Okotoks' sustainable vision --with a goal of inspiring change. This exhibit also promoted public awareness about the need for a society that is less wasteful, more cooperative, and uses resources in a way that respects the environment.
The indelible spirit and unwavering determination of early farmers and homesteaders was celebrated in this exhibit which focused on the early farming history of the Okotoks area. The exhibit opened in the spring, just in time for planting season, and continued right up to the Thanksgiving weekend when farmers were harvesting their crops.
Canada at Play was a travelling exhibit from the Royal Ontario Museum and included some of our favourite games and toys over the past 130 years. Topics included Winter Sports; At Home; Hand-made and Factory-made Toys; and Educational Toys.
To complement this exhibit, the second floor of the museum featured an array of artifacts from our collection that illustrated Okotoks residents at play.
A special exhibit to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II was on display in conjunction with the ongoing Okotoks and World War I exhibit. This temporary exhibit included some never before seen photographs by World War II photographer, the late Mac McLellan of Okotoks.
This semi-permanent exhibit explored Okotoks' special landscape, compelling characters and bright future. Photos, text panels, and artifacts helped bring to life the stories of the town's rich natural and cultural heritage. The two main floors of the museum focussed on such topics as early immigration, domestic life, education and commerce, as well as the Big Rock and the Sheep River.
2014 marked the 130th anniversary of mail service in Okotoks. The first post office in Okotoks was established in February of 1884 and was located in the stopping house operated by J.A. Macmillan (near the present day train bridge). It was one of the first nine post offices to establish in the district of Alberta, North West Territories.
Early immigrants to Okotoks brought a variety of Christmas traditions with them from their homeland. Many of these hoilday traditions have now become standard in homes across North America. This temporary museum exhibit celebrated these Christmas traditions and the history behind them.
Many early immigrants came to Western Canada with the hopes of providing a better life for their families. This is the common thread woven into the stories of local families who demonstrated an unwavering spirit of adventure, patience, and persistence. These stories of Okotoks families were awe-inspiring -from their long ocean voyages to their first impressions of the barren prairie.
The theme for this year's International Museum Day on May 18 is "Museums (Memory + Creativity) = Social Change." How do museums deal with Canada's not-so-politically-correct history? We don't brush it under the carpet but share it as part of our history. This exhibit included some of Canada's not-so-proud past including immigration policies, internments, and residential schools. Sharing history, warts and all, promotes awareness and helps lead to social change.
This exhibit celebrated our relationship with the Sheep River, including its vital role in our community's history and in our present lives. The exhibit aimed to provide visitors with a multi-layered understanding of the Sheep River (geologically, environmentally, culturally, and socially), and to improve awareness and appreciation for its existence.
Provincial Archives Week is from September 28 to October 5 and this year's theme is fashion. We extended the week into a month-long exhibit on some of the fabulous (and frightful) fashions from the museum's artifact collection...from spats to hats and everything in between. It also featured a number of photographs from our archive collection that illustrate the fashions worn in Okotoks over the years.
This exhibit honoured the men and women from the Okotoks district who served in the First and Second World Wars and also acknowledges the efforts made by those who remained on the home front. Care packages, letters and photographs from World War II were featured.
Twas the month before Christmas and all through the museum...were the sights and sounds of an old-fashioned Christmas. The museum celebrated the season with an exhibit featuring the traditions, toys, and memories of how early Christmases were celebrated in Okotoks. If you've heard of 'The Elf on a Shelf', you will enjoy the collection of elves that were hidden among our museum exhibits.
The Okotoks landscape was once dotted by five grain elevators that for decades served the agricultural community. These prairie sentinels have all vanished. This exhibit complemented the art exhibits on display at the Okotoks Art Gallery.
International Museum Day on May 18 helped launch a new temporary exhibit at the museum. The theme of this year's event is "Museums in a Changing World: New Challenges, New Inspiration." Our museum exhibit focussed on how our community has changed and how everyday objects have changed, including how we listen to music, talk on the phone, iron our clothes and take photographs.
Okotoks was one of the first eight communities in Alberta to connect to natural gas in 1912. What a difference that made in the lives of our residents. This exhibit celebrated 100 years of gas in Okotoks and also linked to the Atco Gas celebration entitled "Our 100 Days of Summer Centennial Tour."
The museum marked Alberta Archives Week by displaying some of the unique items that highlight this year's theme, "Archives and the Creative Process." Okotoks residents were a creative bunch, from playing in the 1906 community band to writing poetry. The exhibit featured photographs as well as early artwork, hand-made cards, and beautifully illustrated autograph albums.
This exhibit honoured the men and women from the Okotoks district who served in the First and Second World Wars and also acknowledged the efforts made by those who remained on the home front. This year, special tribute was made to those who paid the supreme sacrifice.
The holiday season marked an old-fashioned Christmas at the museum. This exhibit featured the traditions and stories of how early Christmases were celebrated in Okotoks.