Longtime Melfort Museum Curator to retire April 30

Tarynn Freed Photography Gailmarie Anderson, who retires on April 30, accepts the Community Involvement-Non-Profit Award at the Mel-Bex Awards on March 23, 2024.

Longtime Melfort and District Museum curator Gailmarie Anderson will retire as of April 30. Anderson has been curator and Cultural Coordinator for the City of Melfort since 2005 and announced her retirement earlier this year. Anderson said she felt that the opportunity was right.

“It’s just time. I really hated to leave the museum and the job, per se, and the people and everything, of course. But, I’m getting over the bureaucracy and all the stuff that goes with that administration and everything so I thought I would retire and maybe volunteer to do the fun stuff, part of the job that I like.”

Anderson has been on the job for nearly 19 years. She enjoyed many aspects of her tenure, but her best memories are the people she worked with.

“The volunteers and city staff and everybody has always worked as such team,” she explained. “I’ve just really enjoyed being able to give back to the community with all of those other people.”

With such a long career, Anderson has had many highlights. One example was the 2022 opening of the Indigenous Peoples and Archaeology building.

“It was a big thing that we strive for,” she said. “The museum has really adopted diversity, equity and inclusion and we’re partnered with the reconciliation group in Melfort and Marguerite Riel Centre and are really striving to be part of the reconciliation journey.”

The physical buildings and displays added in her years at the Museum include the Doctor’s Office in honour of Dr. Shadd, which was constructed by volunteers, and the Chinese Cafe and Laundry. The Museum also added a 1912 Caboose after two years of work in 2019. The Museum also moved in the Fairy Glen Co-op building. They have also moved in a Dentist’s Office, which will have a grand opening this summer.

Tarynn Freed Photography Gailmarie Anderson, who retires on April 30, accepts the Community Involvement-Non-Profit Award at the Mel-Bex Awards on March 23, 2024.

“The volunteers built most of the building inside the all season shop last winter and then we moved it on to the grounds and finished it up, so that was kind of neat way to do it,” Anderson said.

She also highlighted the work that the Museum has done to honour Dr. A.S. Shadd, one of Saskatchewan’s earliest African-Canadian residents, who played an important role in Melfort’s history.

“We’re very proud of that work,” Anderson said.

The Museum also began celebrating Christmas with their highly popular and successful annual Christmas Village.

“We have had three now and they’ve been wonderfully successful and a super way to highlight the museum in the winter time,” she said.

This year the Melfort and District Museum also won the Community Involvement-Non-Profit Award at the Mel-Bex Awards in late March.

The museum also has community barbecues each Wednesday from June to September.

“We have entertainment with them and we have we average 100 people,” Anderson said.

She said that all of the highlights she could think of were tied to the role of stewardship of the museum. She said the goal wasn’t just to preserve history, but also tell the community’s story.

“We collect all of these artefacts and archives from people who’ve made Melfort what it is, but if we don’t tell their story, then we’re missing the crux of what we’re here for,” she explained. “We need to be storytellers of our history and, pass it on to present and future generations so that so that we can learn from it and so that we can respect that history and the development.”

She added that she takes pride in the culture that has developed at the museum.

“It’s very oriented to people and to community,” she explained. “We take the museum out into the community. We’ve in the community, into the museum, and that’s been, I think, really wonderful. I’ve really enjoyed that part.”

The Museum also introduced Coffee and Conversation, which served this role by bringing the people to the Museum and at times the Museum to the people by hosting the events at places like the Melfort Curling Club in 2019. The idea has now been picked up by the Prince Albert Historical Society.

“We have done displays all around the city at City Hall and at the Kerry Vickar Centre and in the mall, and then for particular events like Curling Day in Canada, for example, most recently. We’ve developed so many good partnerships with different groups in town,” Anderson said.

The Museum is part of the Non-Profit group with the Melfort Trade Alliance Chamber of Commerce (MTACC), help with the Canada Day program each year, organize Culture Days in Melfort.

“It’s nice to be able to achieve things with doing it with other people and other organization,” Anderson said.

On Thursday, April 25 the Melfort and District Museum is hosting an Afternoon Tea to honour Anderson’s retirement from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

“It’s embarrassing for me to talk about it,” Anderson said. “(It’s) come and go. We’re hoping that people will come and go because we don’t have a lot of space.”

Her future plans after the end of the month include still being involved in the community through her work with the Rotary Club of Melfort and still volunteering at the Museum.

“I do want to take a bit of space and I have family close by,” Anderson said. “I’ll have more time for family and grandkids, that’s really important and some travelling. I hope to do a bit more travelling. I won’t be constrained by having to be there from 9 to 5 every day plus lots of other times, “Anderson said.

Anderson thanked the community for being a part of her role as curator.

“I’m very proud of our museum,” she said. “I think that everybody in the city can be really proud of it. It’s come a long way and progress will continue.

“We have got lots of volunteer who will still be there for a long time and there’s a wonderful new curator taking over for me.”

The Melfort Museum recently named Brenda Mellon as Anderson’s replacement and she starts the job on May 13.

“Brenda Mellon will do a great job for us, I think,” Anderson said.