The Melfort and District Museum is now home to a special collection of a well-known amateur archaeologist from the Pathlow area.
Victor Vigrass was a lifelong resident of Pathlow and an avid amateur archaeologist. His collection of 4,000 artifacts resides with the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina and they have graciously allowed a sampling to be housed at the museum in the Indigenous Peoples and Archaeology Exhibit building.
On Aug. 1, the museum launched the special collection with a program. Curator Gailmarie Anderson said it’s a significant addition for the museum.
“With the other collections that we had, we kind of make a whole (journey) through the Northeast here—from the Yellow Creek area over to the Bjorkdale area—and so it was really important to represent Mr. Vigrass’ collection in some way because he lived here and he collected so many of the items in this area,” she explained.
Anderson said that other noted amateur archeologists from the area—Tom Smith and Archie Campbell—used to meet with Vigrass and go collecting together. Representatives from the Smith and Campbell families were also in attendance for the unveiling, along with representatives from the Saskatchewan Archaeology Society, and Gabe Lamarche, who demonstrated flintknapping.
Eight members of the Vigrass family were also in attendance.
“It was really kind of neat to see the interaction there,” Anderson said.
The program included remarks from The Royal Saskatchewan Museum, the City of Melfort and the Melfort & District Museum Board. Anderson said they felt it was important to publicly recognize the collection, even though they only have a small sample.
“He had he collected over 4,000 items in his lifetime and most of it is housed at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, but we have a small collection of some particular unique pieces,” Anderson explained. “They were collected at the Vigrass site, which is right on the 368 past Pathlow at the Klein site.
“He collected at over 40 sites but we have the specimens from these two sites.”
In a letter to the Museum, Cindy Scheer, Curatorial Archaeology Assistant at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, noted the significance of the collection.
The letter stated “The Victor Vigrass collection is certainly a special one and this display is but a sample of his overall collection which consists of nearly 4,000 pieces from approximately forty sites.
Clearly Mr. Vigrass spent great care in recording his collection and thus it was possible to assign it all to specific site locations. In reading through the Collector file, I came across a letter to Mr. Vigrass from Gil Watson who was the Curator of Collections at the then Saskatchewan Museum of Natural History. The letter is regarding the collection coming to the museum. Gil stated, ‘I perhaps more than anyone else here, realize the vast amount of care and ‘Labours of Love’ that have been expended by you in building this very fine collection.
It will be a very valuable addition to the Museums’ display and study collections, and you may be assured it will be housed and retained, after documentation in a manner befitting one of Saskatchewan’s major archaeological collections.’”
The letter continued “For us at the RSM 45 years later, preparing the material to come for display at the Melfort Museum has provided the opportunity to visit the entire Vigrass collection once again. We have undertaken an additional project to take the material from the inventory site by site and we are adding more detailed information to the museum database. This project has revealed many special pieces and has given our summer student the opportunity to handle some very fine archaeological specimens and gain more knowledge about Saskatchewan Archaeology.”
Anderson thanked everyone for attending the special event.
“I was grateful to the public for coming out and to those representatives who came and were able to give a lot more information to the family, like the people from the Saskatchewan Archeological Society. It was kind of cool that when we had a great time and we are very grateful for the donation,” she said.