Looking a Little Deeper – CHDA S.W. Museums Tour
If you’re like me, you love history. When I go on vacation – I have one stipulation, I want to learn something. Now, maybe that’s just the teacher/lifelong learner in me but I think it creates a richer experience wherever I may be. If you have ever been to the Cypress Hills Destination Area (CHDA) you know that it is made up of picturesque views and unique geographical traits – all of which are particular to that specific area. The CHDA is visibly very attractive, but it’s the history of each part of the area that makes it truly special! I made a loop and visited five museums in one day; here is what I found!
S.W. Sask Oldtimers’ Museum & Archive Association
My day started at the S.W. Sask Oldtimers’ Museum & Archive in Maple Creek. This association consists of three buildings and has been around since its establishment in 1935. One of these buildings is the C.M. Glascock Building – which currently houses the majority of artifacts that belong to the Oldtimers’ Museum. Maple Creek was established in 1883 and is now known as Cowtown. This old ranching community is well depicted throughout the S.W. Sask Oldtimers’ Museum. It follows a timeline of everything from the how the town was formed to the relationship with the First Nations’ groups in the area and prohibition to the timeline of buildings that are still in existence. This museum is an important timeline from then until present. As I write the Oldtimers’ Association is collecting funds to finish their new building – a replica of the original log building that was constructed in 1935 – and will house the artifacts that belong to the museum.
Eastend Historical Museum
My next stop was in Eastend at the Eastend Historical Museum. In this amazing 6 building museum you will learn why Eastend is so unique physically and why it is known for it artist population. Surrounded by whitemud clay, Eastend is vastly different landscape wise, in comparison to its neighbours. This museum consists of donated items from community members and depicts a story that includes the patrons who played a huge role in the formation of the areas history. With everything from the first telescope in Eastend, a small test airplane that was crashed and an 80 year old piece of bacon. All of these hold a quirky significance to the community and if you really want to dive into the history of the area and get to know Eastend – this is the place to do so! The Historical Museum is currently under renovation and are awaiting a new building where more artifacts will be stored!
T.rex Discovery Centre
Travel back 65,000,000 years at the T.rex Discovery Centre, also located in Eastend. This branch of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum will always be a southwest Saskatchewan wonder! I have been going for years and I am constantly taking in new information. It always amazes me that little old Eastend can be home of one of the largest and most complete T.rex skeletons in the world. Even if you’re not a dinosaur fanatic (I’m more of a giraffe person myself), this is a MUST stop on a family vacation in the area. They have programming for kids of all ages, a gift shop and a theatre. With a short documentary, a guided tour and taking part in a dig, you will soon be on your way to becoming a paleontologist. Can’t make it in the summer? No worries, they offer events and programs throughout the year! Just keep a watch on our website for their events such as “Tea & Fossils”.
Grand Coteau Heritage and Cultural Centre
The Grand Coteau Heritage and Cultural Centre – the heart of Shaunavon, Saskatchewan. With two museums, an art gallery and a library there is tons to explore in this small town museum. Start upstairs in this split level wonder with the art gallery – see who the featured artist or exhibit is for the month. When I went it was Maurille Hammond and his BEAUTIFUL woodwork carvings and scenes. In the Natural History Room you will experience the outside world that exists throughout the CHDA. It includes a Grasslands display, a winter and summer scene from the centre block of Cypress Hills, Sask including Loch Leven, an abandoned farmyard and so many more. Lots of these taxidermy animals date back to the 1930’s when the Grand Coteau Museum was first established. Downstairs you will find the Heritage Room. These displays feature historically significant features to Shaunavon including the printing press that was used for the Shaunavon Standards beginning in 1913 to all of the equipment from the Crystal Bakery that closed in the 1950’s. Here you can find information about people who were important to the area as well as how the town was established and why it is known as both The Oasis of the Prairies and Boomtown.
If you have time to linger in the area, this amazing booklet of buildings and cemeteries will allow to explore the area further!
Gull Lake Museum
I ended my CHDA S.W. Sask Museums tour at the Gull Lake Museum. This museum consists of three buildings (and a jail cell) including the main building – which is setup as a house with artifacts throughout, the schoolhouse (which is ALWAYS my favourite display) and a workshop. This museum is run by local volunteers and one summer student. They host Monday afternoon tea and Wednesday afternoon games that run each week throughout the summer. Without the help of the amazing volunteers this museum would not be run year round and open for the public’s viewing pleasure daily in the summer. The staff will bring you through the museum and explain each room and what it represents. It is filled with items that are donated from communities that surround Gull Lake. This quaint little museum depicts life not only in the small town of Gull Lake but also of surrounding communities. It is a hidden gem in the southwest.
Even though I had spent my entire childhood in southwest Saskatchewan, I gained so much from this experience. It truly shows that unless you go out looking for information you may never find out the answer. If you are curious about the area in which you are vacationing or live – find a museum and ask your questions. Somebody will know the answer and they are always eager to tell you what they know. So, I challenge you, when you go on your vacation (or stay-cation), learn something new! This will enrich your experience in the area and answer those questions that you have been longing to ask!