Museums are a fantastic way to experience the area that you are travelling through and can give us a glimpse of the past through the eyes and experiences of others. Not all museums have to be the stuffy, formal museums of our childhoods though. Many organizations and individuals are coming up with unique ways of bringing history, or parts of history to life. Alberta is home to an astounding number of museums, ranging from tiny sites to museums based on specific items, such as tractors and carriages. As well, the province boasts some of the most unusual museums in the country, including the famous Gopher Museum and the weird Museum of Fear and Wonder.
Museum of Fear and Wonder
This very unusual private museum located by Bergen, was created to highlight the psychological and narrative qualities of objects and looks at the relationship between people and possessions. The curators will be happy to take you through to explain and take a look at some of the decidedly creepy objects that have found their way to this museum. Please note that this museum is open by appointment only (you need to book in order to get the driving directions) but is free for visitors.
Neon Sign Museum
The twenty neon signs that are displayed here were originally from local stores, theatres, and railroads. This outdoor museum, which is free for anyone who wants to venture downtown to have a look, is home to signs that have historic significance to the city of Edmonton. Neon signs were a standard for businesses in the 20th century, and are now appreciated by visitors as unique works of art.
10405 104 St NW, Edmonton
Torrington Gopher Hole Museum
Opened in 1996, this quirky museum contains more than 40 dioramas set in neatly constructed wooden boxes, each representing a gopher hole. Inside the holes are taxidermized gophers, dressed in costumes and depicting everyday situations. Check out the RCMP gopher, or the hairdresser gopher, along with all the other fun depictions. If you are looking for a one of a kind experience, this is definitely it.
208 1 St S, Torrington
Remington Carriage Museum
Authentic 19th and 20th-century carriages of all sorts have found their forever home in this unique museum. Highlighting the importance of this mode of transportation during the early years of the province, this is one of the largest collections of carriages, buggies, and wagons in the world, with approximately 270 horse-drawn vehicles to enjoy. Considering this was voted “The Best Indoor Attraction” in Canada four times, it is well worth taking an afternoon to visit.
623 Main St, Cardston
Take a walk to find this cute little “museum” that is tucked in a fence along a public sidewalk in Canmore. Exhibitions at this micro museum explore ideas both large and small, on subjects factual or fictional, and range from the whimsical to the serious, with no limits except what fits within the museum itself. Founded and curated by Enza Apa, the Curbside Museum is an ongoing project with new exhibits every 7-8 weeks.
National Music Centre
Telling the story of music in Canada through artifacts and music instruments, this museum spans over 450 years of music history and innovation with more than 2,000 pieces to be viewed. Many unique pieces can be found on display throughout Studio Bell, and the “living” collection provides artists with access to more than 200 fully functional historic instruments.
850 4 Street SE, Calgary
The Donalda & District Museum
While this museum is home to an impressive number of Metis artifacts and more than 4,000 items depicting the local history, the reason to visit is the incredible number of lamps on display here. In fact, there are more lamps in this museum than there are residents in the town. With approximately 1,100 lamps dating from the 1600’s to the mid 1900’s to be seen, you will probably want to allocate at least an hour to enjoy every aspect of this museum.
5001 Main St, Donalda
The Military Museums
If you are interested in the history of the armed forces, this is the place to visit. There are eight museums here to enjoy with exhibits including items that are connected to the Northwest Rebellion in 1885, World Wars I and II, and current-day peacekeeping operations. Walk through a war trench or witness a bomber squadron’s mission over enemy territory. Make sure to see the large mural comprised of 240 individually painted tiles depicting war-related images. Step back to see a larger image in honor of the Canadian forces.
4520 Crowchild Trail SW, Calgary
Bomber Command Museum of Canada
This aviation museum opened in 1986 with the intention to protect and restore the Avro Lancaster FM159, one of only 17 remaining in the world. The history of this plane is fascinating and it’s understandable why the community chose to come together to create this facility. Along with the unique plane, there are tons of artifacts and vehicles from WWII displayed here, and over the years this site has grown into being one of the best for restoring important historical aircraft.
1659 – 21st Ave, AB Hwy 2 South, Nanton
Frank Slide Interpretive Centre
This interpretive center marks the landmark site of the deadly 1903 landslide in the area. Offering a viewing platform and exhibits in their facility, this is an incredibly important historical site in the province. Through storytelling and interactive displays you can see and hear first-hand accounts of Canada’s worst landslide.
1.5 km off Highway #3, Crowsnest Pass
Museum of Miniatures
Housing an extensive collection of miniatures, you can “visit” the Old West, Native Villages, farming and logging communities, wildlife scenes, African jungle animals, a circus, fossils and pre-historic animals, all built to a 1/12″ scale which is slightly larger than the norm, but more accessible to the greater audience. A lot of pride and hard work has gone into this special museum that will be enjoyed by adults and children of all ages.
2120 19 Street, Nanton
Historic Markerville Creamery Museum
The creamery was built back in 1902, and with the interesting history here, this museum is certainly a hidden gem in Alberta. A working creamery until 1972, the site was restored in 1986 so that future generations could see the hard work it took to make the excellent butter, for which they had won many awards. Now, you can see the internal workings of the creamery, along with the lives of those who lived and worked there, as part of the museum and exhibits. Don’t forget to try the excellent ice cream!
114 Creamery Way, Markerville
Devil’s Coulee Dinosaur Heritage Museum
This a key historic site in southern Alberta, as in 1997, ten fossilized dinosaur eggs, believed to have come from a Hadrosaur, were found at Devil’s Coulee site. While visiting, you can book an informative guided tour to where the eggs were found and explore the museum to see a Hadrosaur nest and embryo, murals, exhibits, ancient fossils, and dinosaur models. There is also a large Heritage exhibit included detailing more recent history of the province and area.
300A county road, Warner
Etzikom Museum & Historic Windmill Centre
A very unique look at the history of using wind for power in the province, this museum and historic windmill gives visitors the perfect opportunity to learn more. The exhibits include a collection of antique windmills as well as reproductions of a general store hotel, rooming house, schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, barber shop, post office and an early 1900s home complete with parlor bedroom and kitchen.
Hwy 885, Etzikom
The Danish Canadian Museum
The building for this museum was originally a dormitory for students attending the high school in town but was converted in order to tell the interesting story of the Danish immigrants to the area, and to Canada in general. Here you can explore and experience the stories of Danish immigration to Canada and the contributions Danes have made to Canadian culture from Viking times through to the modern era. Don’t forget to stop into the Saga Cafe to sample authentic Danish Canadian Cuisine. Explore the garden surrounding the museum that is built in the tradition of authentic Danish gardens.
Range Rd 31, Dickson
Mineralogy and Petrology Museum
With an impressive collection of more than 12,000 rock and mineral specimens from all around the world, this is a fantastic destination for those who have any interest in this subject. Established in 1912, this is one of the oldest systematic collections in Canada, actively used for geological teaching and study, including research in geochemistry, the tectonic history of Alberta, and the search for hydrocarbon reservoirs.
Earth Sciences Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton
Valley Doll Museum & Gifts
This unique, quaint museum features more than 700 dolls, which are made of materials including wax, felt, coal, porcelain, bisque, cloth, and even one with a tin head. There are some unusual finds, such as a three-faced doll. There’s a display of King Henry VIII and his wives, as well as several celebrity and character dolls like Shirley Temple, Scarlett O’Hara, John Wayne, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Dolly Parton. Other antique items can also be seen in the Museum, and you can visit the attached gift shop to purchase a doll of your own or an antique.
84 3 Ave W, Drumheller
Oil Sands Discovery Centre
The Oil Sands Discovery Centre in Fort McMurray is where you can learn about Athabasca Oil Sands. The Centre is an educational facility committed to increasing public awareness and knowledge about the oil sands. One can learn about the history, science, and technology of the oil sands. Check out 150-tonne heavy hauler truck and outdoor display area that features mining equipment that was once used in the oil sands mining industry including “Cyrus,” the 850-tonne bucketwheel excavator, one of the largest land-based artifacts in Canada.
515 MacKenzie Blvd, Fort McMurray
The Grain Academy & Museum
Previously located in Calgary, this museum has moved to be part of the larger Pioneer Acres site in Irricana. This agricultural museum explores the evolution of the grain industry through exhibits, touch TV’s and film presentations. In addition to giving people the facts about how much and what kind of grains are grown in Canada, visitors can learn that 90 nations buy grain from Canada, and the array of products made from grain. Other displays include pioneer farm equipment and much more.
Heritage Acres Museum
This 180-acre, open-air museum showcases antique machinery and vintage cars, along with a significant number of relocated buildings dating from 1880 to 1960. Fantastic for anyone interested in the history of farming in Alberta, it is working museum which is operated by the Old Man River Antique Equipment and Threshing Club, and you can find, along with the exhibits, a place to purchase snacks, beverages and local arts and crafts.
Northeast of Highway 3 and Pincher Creek
Canadian Tractor Museum
An excellent museum dedicated to the preservation of this unique portion of Canadian farming history. Working to prevent the loss of important historical farming artifacts, the organization has over 90 restored full-sized tractors, 30 stationary engines, 100’s of toy sized tractors and implements, along with the world’s largest working weather vane at 50’ with a 1942 Model D CASE on top!
9704 96 Ave, Westlock
Norwegian Laft Hus Society & Museum
Norwegian Laft Hus Museum is a cultural museum celebrating the Norwegian heritage. In visiting the museum, a guest is welcomed by a costumed interpreter who will offer a tour, some Norwegian baking and a beverage. The one room museum, itself a replica of a 17th century farm house, also known as a “stue”, is full of interesting artifacts and is often bustling with activities. The museum also features Buttik with handmade Norweigian items, food and more!
4402 47 Ave Red Deer
Reynolds-Alberta Museum is dedicated to the mechanization of Alberta’s transportation. Learn how lives of Albertans changed as gigantic farm machinery, and powerful vehicles replaced animal agricultural implements, horse-drawn buggies and wagons.
6426 40 Ave, Wetaskiwin
Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology
Located in Midland Provincial Park, Royal Tyrrell Museum houses one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaurs and is the only museum in Canada devoted exclusively to the science of paleontology. It is home to more than 160,000 individual specimens, over 300 of which are holotypes and is a world-renowned research facility.
1500 N Dinosaur Trail, Drumheller
Banff Park Museum
Built-in 1903 for Victorian-era visitors who wanted to see the wild animals without much trouble, Banff Park Museum is the oldest natural history museum in Western Canada. The museum houses more than 5,000 historic botanical and zoological specimens. Explore the Victorian-era collection, while admiring the stately 1903 museum, a log masterpiece and the oldest surviving federal building in any Canadian national park.
91 Banff Ave, Banff