Lund Wildlife Museum

As the summer season comes to a close, it reminds me about the closure of another museum which once graced the banks of the North Saskatchewan River.
Frank Lund was born in Sackville, Nova Scotia, and began his trek west in 1904. It was not until 1910 that he arrived in Prince Albert, determining that it would be his final destination. He established himself as a blacksmith, first at 1121 – 2nd Avenue West, and then at his residence at 839 – 4th Street East. Lund also brought with him his love of, and skills in, taxidermy. By 1914, according to the entries in the Henderson’s Directory, his blacksmith business appears to have taken a back seat to that of taxidermy.
Lund’s interest in taxidermy resulted not from a desire to make money, but apparently from parental influence. Like them, he was proud of Canada’s great natural treasure, the country’s wild life, and he felt that the best way to promote it was through a display of properly conserved animals exhibited in carefully crafted facsimiles of the habitat in which they could be found.
Lund travelled across the Prairie provinces in order to find the best examples of the animals he wished to exhibit. He travelled to Wainwright, Alberta, in order to find what he considered to be the best example of a bison, viewing the herd for five days before he found the one he considered to be perfect.
He also travelled extensively, including to Omaha, Nebraska, to take further training in taxidermy, and to upgrade his skills. This led to the use of a secret formula, which Frank developed, to help moth-proof and preserve hides from cracking and drying. Often Frank and members of his family would go to work on the hide in the field immediately after the animal had died. In order to make the specimens as life-like as possible, the bodies were sometimes frozen to keep them fresh.
The art of taxidermy which Frank Lund had learned was much different than the manner in which taxidermists work today. Unlike today, when taxidermists are apt to use fibre-glass forms and papier mache, Lund utilised a cast of sculptured plaster of the body and face, using the animal’s skeleton after the bones were thoroughly cleaned. When plaster was not utilised, parts of the hide would be filled with excelsior, a very time-consuming process.
For many years, the Lund exhibit had no official home. During the mid-1920s, Lund showed his artefacts at the Prince Albert and Saskatoon summer fairs, as well as at the Regina exhibition. In 1933, at the World’s Grain Exhibition in the Queen City, the exhibit won international acclaim. As a result, many offers from fair boards, circuses and museums were received, including from Cleveland, Ohio, and New York city, but Lund refused to sell his exhibits into ownership outside of Canada.
From 1936 to 1938, Lund’s exhibit was on display at Waskesiu in the Prince Albert National Park. When the Parks Department determined that the exhibit would no longer be accepted as a display in the park, there was a tremendous outcry from the local tourism industry.
Frank Lund’s exhibit was placed in storage, where it remained during World War II. Unfortunately, it was in storage when its creator, Frank Lund, died in August, 1941.
It was not until the newly elected CCF government was looking for ways in which to improve the province’s tourism industry that the Lund family received any further encouragement from any level of government.
Frank’s son Gordon, who had been trained in taxidermy by his father, was able to convince Lachie McIntosh, Prince Albert’s member of the Legislative Assembly, of the viability of having the wild life exhibit on display. In the summer of 1946, McIntosh announced the willingness of the provincial government to assist the Lund family to find a facility capable of displaying it. A month later, the Honourable John Sturdy, Minister of Reconstruction and Rehabilitation, announced that the province would move an “H” hut from the air port to River Street onto a site donated by the city to house the wild life museum. Arrangements had been made for the city to supply the light and water to the building. The city had also agreed for the building and property to exist tax-free.
In order to overcome the concern that the museum would be an eyesore, the building was to be painted white and green, ensure an attractive entrance be built, and be professionally landscaped by the City.
Moving the “H” hut from the air port was part of a larger project undertaken by the city in March 1947. Parts of the buildings were to be used at the city yards, while others were to be used at the new Memorial swimming pool. Still others were to be utilised at the Exhibition Grounds in conjunction with other Agricultural Society buildings. A structure 24 feet wide and 240 feet long was to be placed on the river bank, on the north side of River Street at 1st Avenue West for use by the Lunds.
It was reported in the March 13th, 1947 edition of the Daily Herald that twenty-two city workers, two bulldozers, one tractor trailer, and five men from Saskatoon’s McKee Cartage, together with telephone and electric company employees were employed in the project.
The official opening of the museum occurred in May 1947, with Prince Albert’s mayor, John Cuelenaere, and the Honourable John Sturdy from the provincial government in attendance.
Through the years, the Lund Wild Life Exhibit was visited by thousands of people. Not only was it considered to be a good tourist draw, but it provided an educational experience for many Prince Albert and area students.
Unfortunately, the tremendous draw which such exhibits had been in the 1920s through the 1950s became less of a draw in the 1980s and 1990s. The maintenance of the building became progressively more expensive, and the 1930s structure began to deteriorate. By 1993, it became apparent that a new building would be required if the exhibit was to remain viable. But the estimated cost of a replacement was in the neighbourhood of $280,00, a sum the city could not sustain; nor was there a Lachie McIntosh or a John Sturdy available to provide the necessary impetuous to move such a project forward.
As a result, in 1996, the Lund family chose to close the local museum. The rotting floors and leaking roof meant that the exhibits were in danger of deteriorating. A move to Nanaimo, British Columbia was made, but the arrangements there proved unsuitable. The exhibits were moved into storage and, aside from being exhibited for a short period of time in 2016 when Mayor Greg Dionne showed an interest similar to McIntosh and Sturdy, they have remained in storage ever since.
Reminiscing about the Lund’s museum makes me realise just how fortunate the Historical Society is to be able to continue operating throughout the winter season. With the aid of grants and funding from various agencies and levels of government, a couple of dedicated staff members, and a tremendously energetic group of volunteers, the Prince Albert Historical Society remains available to local citizens and tourists alike throughout the entire year . If you wish to make use of our services, to tour one of our museums, to take a walking tour, or to access the Bill Smiley Archives, give us a call at 306-764-2992 or email us at You can also follow us on Facebook or on our website.