The offices for the Historical Society are located in the Historical Museum. Some weeks the building is busier than others, especially in the summer. But what we refer to as the “Winter Season”, the time between when we close after the Labour Day weekend and re-open following the Victoria Day weekend, often can have much busier weeks than those in the summer. Partially this is because we do not really close over the winter. We simply close the front doors of the building and require people to enter through the east door.
Museum visits and tours are available and occur all year round, not only at the Historical Museum, but also at the three other museums which the Society operates (the John and Olive Diefenbaker Museum, the Rotary Museum of Police and Corrections, and the Evolution of Education Museum). We also continue to provide programming throughout the “winter” months, including during Culture Days, on Remembrance Day, during the Winter Festival, and during Archives Week. There are also administrative activities which are conducted during this time, such as budget preparations and presentations.
The week of Nov. 21-25 brought to mind just how busy the Society and the museums can be.
Before the Monday morning meeting of the Programme and Exhibits committee meeting, our Manager/Curator, Michelle Taylor, had met with our Financial Manager and the Outreach and Education Coordinator. She had also met with me, the president of the Society. During the Programme and Exhibits committee meeting, attended by a half dozen people, I took a telephone message from a woman in British Columbia who was researching family history for a friend.
I had booked an appointment on Monday afternoon for some archival research by another person. When the researcher arrived at the Museum, he followed a group of more than thirty students and teachers into the building. The students had come from Riverside School to view the exhibit which had been prepared for our Remembrance Day opening. They were still asking questions when the researcher left, taking with him the information which he had required.
On Tuesday morning, preparations swung into full swing for the unveiling of the plaque which Parks Canada had prepared honouring the significant contribution to Canadian history which had been made by James Isbister. Although the Historical Society was not responsible for this project, we were asked to provide the venue for the event. Visitors who attended in the afternoon included representatives from Parks Canada, the Metis Nation – Saskatchewan, the City of Prince Albert, and noted historian Bill Waiser. Participants in the ceremony included Metis Elder Effie Kuziar, Metis musician Donny Parenteau, and musician Barry Mihiliewicz.
Another tour of the Museum occurred later on in the afternoon, with five people in attendance.
Wednesday, thankfully, was a quieter day. The Manager/Curator met with individuals to discuss the relocation of some of our stored artefacts from the Gateway Mall to storage at the SHARE facility. Then, she spent the majority of her day ensuring the appropriate artefacts were in place for the grand opening of our new Indigenous exhibit. While she was doing that, our Outreach and Education coordinator, along with one of our Board members, attended the Municipal Culture Action Plan meeting.
When I had free time each of the first three days of the week, I was preparing for a meeting Thursday morning with a student who is researching the Nisbet party arrival in Prince Albert, as well as details for a talk I was giving on Thursday afternoon about George Carr, who was a member of the Peary expedition to the Arctic Circle in 1893/94.
It was during my research on George Carr that I found a photograph of the Carr family which we did not have in our photo archives. The photo, supplied by members of Mabel Carr’s family, fortunately included the identification of each person in the photo. This discovery allowed me to resolve a conundrum. Some of the information which we have in our archives indicated that George and Mabel Carr had three daughters and two sons, while other information suggested that they had two daughters and three sons. As only George, Mabel, and one son are interred in the family plot at St. Mary’s cemetery, I could not determine which information was correct. The photo provided the answer: there were two daughters and three sons.
Also, during my research on the Nisbet party, I found some information which I wished I had had earlier in the autumn. A researcher from Muskoday had been in the Historical Museum and had asked about the possibility of a young girl accompanying the Nisbet party as a servant. I had never heard that story before. Unfortunately, the researcher received a telephone call at that point in our conversation and was called away without being able to provide further information. On Wednesday, while sorting through documents which discussed the matter of how the Nisbet’s arrived in Prince Albert (whether by river or across country), I came across a letter written by Canon Waite to Richmond Mayson, a stalwart of the Historical Society in the 1930s and 1940s. In his letter, Canon Waite writes of a woman he had met on Muskoday Reserve who claimed that she had come s a servant of the Nisbet family. The woman, whose maiden name suggests that she was of French background, later married a Philip Bear from Muskoday. This letter does not prove the story the researcher provided me, but it could provide clues which can provide proof.
As noted, I had a busy day Thursday, with the student researcher in the morning and early afternoon, and the talk on George Carr in mid-afternoon. Michelle also had a busy day, meeting with the Building committee members regarding renovations which would start on the following Monday, and over-seeing four individuals who were installing information panels for the new exhibit.
Friday, all day, would bring more hustle and bustle, as excitement mounted with respect to the opening. Michelle and I met to discuss our respective speeches, last minute preparations were undertaken, and yet another tour group arrived at the Historical Museum.
When Friday evening arrived, nearly sixty people also arrived. They were treated to an event which I believe was without precedent in the history of the Historical Society, and certainly the most significant since the grand opening of the Historical Museum in what had once been Prince Albert’s Fire Hall. For such divergent groups to have managed to agree on an exhibit which reflects disparate cultures in such a meaningful manner shows just how well reconciliation can occur when the members of these communities choose to work together.
The week ended with the Historical Museum opening for the Santa Claus parade. Another sixty people, over half of them children, visited the museum over the four hours during which we were open. For the majority of them, it was an opportunity to warm up, see the exhibits, and allow the children to do a Christmas craft. Hot chocolate, courtesy of the accounting firm Grant Thornton was also available.
Check out our Facebook page for future activities at the Historical Society, including our Christmas High Tea on December 18th, and the next Coffee and Conversation on December 29th. Drop by the Historical Museum Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to check out some novel Christmas gift ideas in our shop, or give us a call at 306-764-2992 if you wish to book a tour of any of our four museums.