Written by: Suzanna Wagner, Edward van Vliet, Stephanie McLachlan
May 18 might be an ordinary Wednesday for some, but for Alberta’s Provincial Historic Sites, it’s a much anticipated day. After two seasons of COVID closures, seven historic sites will be re-opening to visitors next week.
In the eastern part of the province, Fort George & Buckingham House is kicking off summer 2022 in grand style. Not only has the site’s official book Opponents and Neighbours: Fort George and Buckingham House and the early fur trade on the North Saskatchewan River, 1792 to 1800, been published, but 2022 is the visitor centre’s 30th anniversary.
This season also marks the debut of a new exhibit. “Fur Trade Highways of Alberta: Water Transportation, 1780 to 1930,” covers fur trade companies’ gradual transition from canoes, to York boats, to paddle wheelers over 150 dramatic years of change in the fur trade. The exhibit features boating artifacts, a music station, a video about York boat building and life-size boat outlines in the ground to give visitors a real-life sense of how big these boats were.
To celebrate these many milestones, each weekend in July and August will have a different theme. There will be a book launch party, weekends celebrating the river, boats, and the new exhibit, weekends to explore the storied archaeological history of the site, events featuring stories of the many people who lived at Fort George & Buckingham House and a return of the ever-popular Bears and Berries festival!
Written by: Suzanna Wagner, Program Coordinator, Victoria Settlement and Fort George & Buckingham House
What can you find at Alberta’s provincial historic sites? History, of course. But what about an unstoppable fount of creativity?
Connecting Albertans with history is what staff a provincial historic sites do, but COVID closures have placed some particularly unusual barriers in the way of achieving this mission. Since some provincially-owned and operated historic sites were unable to open for the 2020 and 2021 seasons, staff had to find creative new ways for our communities to connect with the history we steward.
Below is a whirlwind tour of a few of the innovative ways Alberta’s smaller historic sites invited guests to explore their shared heritage.
Since the house was closed to visitors, Rutherford House staff (and its smallest resident, Rutherford Mouse) picked up stakes and travelled for a visit to the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village. They spent the summer inviting other visitors at the Ukrainian Village to join in a couple of Rutherford House programs.
The first program, Rutherford Mouse Visits the Country, was a scavenger hunt for young guests. Children (and adults) were invited to explore Pylypow and Hawreliak Houses and see if they could catch Rutherford Mouse visiting with his country friends by spotting his miniature mouse furniture and belongings hiding inside the houses, on window ledges, and beside the big-people furniture and artifacts. Children excitedly shared what they had discovered. More than 200 people took on the challenge!
Our second program, Making a House a Home, was an opportunity to compare and contrast the houses and interiors of the Rutherfords’ two residences here in Edmonton, as well as Pylypow and Hawreliak houses. Who had the fanciest floors? Whose house was a pre-packaged one? Did they all have maids? Where did everyone sleep? Almost 100 people took the opportunity to explore these amazing buildings.
With only a few weeks left in the official visitor season for Alberta’s historic sites, museums, interpretive centres and archives, there is still time for you and your friends and family to hit the highway and discover the fascinating stories from Alberta’s past. But don’t fret if you didn’t make it out this summer — some sites are still open year-round!
Discover history on the North Saskatchewan River along the Victoria Trail, where Reverend George McDougall founded a Methodist Mission to the Cree in 1862. This is where the Hudson’s Bay Company established Fort Victoria in 1864 to trade with the local natives. The Mission and Fort became the nucleus for a Métis community whose river lots extended six miles along the bank of the river. Read more →
Last fall (2012), I had meetings with the Municipal District of Spirit River and also had the opportunity to visit Historic Dunvegan Provincial Park. What a beautiful place to explore! Located approximately one hour north of Grande Prairie and fifteen minutes south of Fairview, this park offers camping, a walking trail that meanders along the Peace River, a Provincial Historic Site and stunning views of the Dunvegan Bridge. With a Visitor Centre acting as a gateway to the Provincial Historic Site portion of the park (of which, portions are also designated as a Provincial Historic Resource) interpretive staff provide guided tours of the historic buildings. If you time your visit carefully, you might even get to experience one of their special events. See below for more information.
Historic Dunvegan is a significant part of Alberta’s heritage because of its connection to the operations of the North West Company and Hudson’s Bay Company in the Peace River District, for being an example of early architecture in Alberta and for the archaeological resources located at the site. To learn more about the significance of Historic Dunvegan and its history, read its listing on the Alberta Register of Historic Places.
Historic buildings that you could tour when at Historic Dunvegan Provincial Park, include:
St. Charles Mission – The Rectory
St. Charles Mission – St. Charles Church
Revillon Frères Store (opening July 1st)
Tours of these fully restored buildings are offered daily.
Open Hours: May 15-September 2, 2013 from 10am-5pm.
Regular admission prices: $3.00 for Adults; $2.00 for Seniors; $1.50 for Youth; Free for children 6 and under.
Attention educators and youth group leaders! Educational programs or tours can be booked anytime during the summer.
Canada Day – Monday, July 1st, 11am-4pm. Celebrate a historical milestone at Historic Dunvegan by being part of the grand opening of a building originally constructed by the Revillon Frères free traders in 1909. Discover this significant chapter of Dunvegan’s story by exploring the building and hearing from many of the people who have helped bring it to life. The day’s festivities will also include a performance by Juno-nominated family entertainer Mary Lambert, tours of all historic buildings, games, cake and crafts.
Admission is half price!
Annual Fresh Air Market – Sunday, August 4th, 11am-5pm. Experience the time-honoured tradition of trading and gathering at Historic Dunvegan’s Fresh Air Market. Shop for jewellery, gifts, and other treats – all handcrafted by artisans from the Peace Country. Costumed interpreters will be offering tours of Historic Dunvegan’s three fully restored historic buildings. Activities for the kids will be provided. Regular fees apply.
Amphitheatre Entertainment –Saturdays (May 18, June 29, August 3) at 2:00pm. Join the staff of Historic Dunvegan for a humorous and often interactive dramatic presentation. Participation by donation.
Sunday Funday – Sundays (May 19, June 30, September 1) at 2:00pm. Have some fun with our historical interpreters as they host games and activities. Participation by donation.
JULY AND AUGUST
Day Camps – Most Wednesdays in July and August, 11am-4pm. For kids aged 4-10. Have some fun in the sun, learn a new craft, play a fun game, watch movies and more! Fee: $10/child. Bring a bag lunch.
Tea Leaves & Bannock Sticks – Most Saturdays in July and August, 2pm-4pm. Learn to bake bannock (traditional Scottish/Aboriginal bread) and enjoy a cup of tea while visiting with friends, family and historic staff. Participation by donation.