Waskesiu Heritage Museum celebrates 10th anniversary

By Sarah Wallace
June 26, 2015 - 7:23am

The Waskesiu Heritage Museum is celebrating its10th anniversary this summer.

“It was started by an enthusiastic group of a dozen longtime Waskesiu residents who were concerned that the human side of the history of Waskesiu would be lost if they didn’t start planning to collect and preserve the memories here in the town site of Waskesiu,” museum curator Chris Arnstead explained.

They began in a borrowed room at the Friends of the Park Bookstore and after receiving donations of artifacts, photos and memorabilia, the museum has slowly grown since 2005 to occupy half of the building with indoor displays.

Arnstead said they even have some outdoor displays.

“The outdoor displays are an original Shack Tent which was an early form of accommodation here in Waskesiu that gradually evolved into a portable cabin. They constructed a replica of the original camp kitchens that were available to Shack Tenters.”

The Shack Tents recreates what life would be like for people coming up for holidays back in the 1920s.

Other outdoor exhibits are a cupola which is a little cabin at the top of the old fire towers that were used in Prince Albert National Park back in the say along with the original rail cart that was used to portage boats from Waskesiu into Kingsmere Lake.

Arnstead said the indoor displays have recently been refreshed.

“A new paint job, everything has been rearranged and regrouped. We have artifacts that have been used in Waskesiu or are particularly interesting to be in a lake setting or in a National Park.”

Other artifacts include an antique Coke Cool, boats from the original boat liveries that were rented at Waskesiu, dishes people collected as souvenirs and antique breathing equipment that firefighters used to use.

“It’s a wide range of interesting artifacts,” said Arnstead.

In celebration of its 10th anniversary, the museum’s staff created audio guides.

“It’s a small handset that people can borrow from the Shack Tent attendant. There are numbered artifacts throughout the museum and if the visitor punches in the number of the artifact they will receive more information about that artifact as well as some interesting stories local people have told about that particular item or display,” Arnstead said.

She said museums are very important in preserving the history that people know, love and remember.

“We have many that people come in and bring their grandchildren or their family members to show them and give them a visual of what life was like for grandma and grandpa or their family holidaying here earlier.”

Many of the artifacts date back to 1928 when the park was first created.

She said the artifacts are a very important record of changes over the years, “[They] bring back wonderful memories for people to see these items and sparks a lot of storytelling.”

One of the museum’s board members who grew up living in a Shack Tent created a tabletop model of a tent so visitors can see what it’s like to have to assemble one like those that existed back in the early days.

The tabletop models have scale-sized furniture and the board member tried to replicate from memory what he could remember from his own Shack Tent.

“So a small idea grew into quite a successful museum. [The museum] has several thousand visitors annually to the museum and put on a number of different events for the public over the summer season as well.”

Over the summer the museum hosts a variety of different events including concerts, a vintage fashion show, a ceremony honoring the HMCA Waskesiu, yard sales, a dog show, Canada Day celebrations and volunteer appreciation dinners.

To help raise funds for the museum, volunteers sell tickets every summer for a kayak and every Wednesday night in July and August they host the very popular family friendly bingo at Terrace Gardens.  

The museum is located on 928 Waskesiu Drive in Waskesiu, right across from the Twin Pines Cinemas.

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