The new permanent history exhibition at the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery opened on Monday in time for the City’s centennial.
The grand opening celebration is set to take place on April 14th.
“We are so excited. This is really our opportunity to tell Red Deer’s story in the most complete way we’ve ever been able to tell it,” said Lorna Johnson, executive director of the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery. “This really is a milestone and it sets a new pace for what the museum will do. Our goal is to be the hub for information about the history of Red Deer and Central Alberta and the exhibition really sets the platform to be able to do that.”
More than 50% of the 8,000 sq. ft. of available gallery space has been a construction zone for the past number of months in preparation of the opening of the new exhibition.
In the exhibition, several of the City’s landmarks and iconic buildings, including the train station on Ross. St., the Club Café, complete with the original jukebox from the restaurant that will play tunes from the last 100 years, and the Michener Centre, among others, will guide visitors through Red Deer’s first century.
The other gallery spaces will become staging areas. About 1,000 items from the MAG and the Red Deer & District Archives will be on display throughout the new exhibit. This will include 450 photos from the Archives and 300 artifacts from the Museum’s collection.
The exhibition will take the public through the City’s military history, the City’s environmental history as well as an area called ‘Contemporary Red Deer’ where a number of ‘newcomers’ to the City were interviewed.
“We spoke to 45 people who have come to Red Deer in the last 50 years. They have shared their stories with us. The neat thing is that they have come from 30 different countries and have all stayed in Red Deer,” said Johnson.
There is also a children’s gallery where a number of books by Red Deer authors are being showcased as well as an area where booths will be set up and the public can learn about influential people in the City’s history.
There is also an area for presentations equipped with a SMART Board where different groups or school children can come in and learn about the City’s history. There will also be six different movies to watch on an ongoing basis for the public to see.
Officials at the MAG said a number of people have checked out the new exhibition already.
“Their reactions have been very favourable. We had some kids come and play for about two hours and dress up as various characters as well. There is a lot to see so we hope people will come back more than once,” said Johnson.
Meanwhile, Johnson said it was important to do this project for the centennial year because they were hearing from visitors that they wanted an anchor for history.
“When you look at Red Deer now the majority of people who live here were not born here. We wanted to make sure they felt like insiders in the community – they understood some of our stories, they understood what made Red Deer special as a community. That seemed like a really great thing to do as part of the centennial celebrations.”
As part of the grand opening in April, there will be a number of performances and artists on hand to help celebrate. Spandy Andy is creating a video to get the grand opening warmed up, Frank Pavlick, a sports poet, will be on hand as well as singer/songwriter Donna Durand. The Aboriginal Dance Troupe will also perform at the grand opening event.
There will also be arts and crafts for the kids and cake for attendants to enjoy at the celebration as well.