Herald file photo. red Payton tells the story of Lawrence Clarke during a tour of St. Mary's Cemetery in June 2018.

“What can you tell me,” asked the visitor to the Historical Museum, “about a zoo west of Christopher Lake?”

After two years of COVID-19 restrictions, the start of this year’s summer season has been much busier and more interesting than the last couple of years. More people are visiting our museums, and as a result, we are being challenged to provide answers to interesting questions about Prince Albert and area’s past.

Throughout the pandemic, the Bill Smiley Archives has been receiving and answering all kinds of questions, but mostly these have been submitted electronically. This year we have seen more researchers in person, looking for various information including about the soldiers’ land settlement, early women missionaries, and family information. This past week alone, we had someone who had driven to Prince Albert from the Halifax-Dartmouth area, as well as someone from Vancouver Island. Basically, from sea to sea.

Our summer interpreters enjoy displaying artefacts in each of our four museums, and providing the background information on some of the more interesting items. At the Historical Museum, they are often asked about the chicken plucker; at the John and Olive Diefenbaker Museum questions might surround the other two Prime Ministers elected locally. This year in particular, visitors to the Rotary Museum of Police and Corrections have been asking about the October 1970 incident at MacDowall; and more and more each year at the Evolution of Education Museum, people have difficulty imagining how anyone ever learned anything in a one room school house.

We also have special visitors this week. Homestead Aerial Farm Photos will be displaying their archival library on Thursday in the Historical Museum’s Serjeant Room. Their archive includes pictures dating from 1953.

We don’t just provide snapshots of our past in our museums. Terra Lennox-Zepp and I have done one downtown walking tour, food stops included, and look forward to leading another one on July 23rd when the Downtown merchants will be holding another Sidewalk Sale.
Terra enjoys introducing participants to the owners of some of our food establishments, and I get an opportunity to pass on some interesting stories about Prince Albert’s past while we get a coffee from The Bison or nibble on a home-made chocolate from Funky Fresh. People get fed and learn which building was Samuel McLeod’s last project, or where CKBI radio was located in 1938.

I have plans to lead another talk and tour at St. Mary’s cemetery the evening of July 20th. If you don’t know, you will learn who was the last family to live in the warden’s house at Saskatchewan Penitentiary, which Prince Albert mayor was a member of Canada’s national basketball championship team in 1913 and 1924, or who rode Willie Bird’s horse in his funeral cortege from St. Alban’s Cathedral to the cemetery in 1938.

A new programme this summer is our Museum Camp. This is being conducted in conjunction with the Mann Art Gallery’s summer camp and will be a great way for youngsters to spend a week of their vacation while learning a little of our history. The first programme will run in the afternoons of the week of July 18th to 22nd. The second programme will be held the week of August 2nd to 5th.

Each afternoon of the camp will include a theme, with a tour and related activity. Mondays will focus on the Pumper Room; Tuesdays will include river boats and the La Colle Falls dam; Wednesdays will highlight our indigenous display (pre-settlement); Thursdays will focus on home and kitchen (furnishings from the early days); and Fridays will include a walking tour.

If you have children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, give the Historical Museum a call (306-764-2992) for more information.
Given all the activities ongoing with our museums, there should be no chance of anyone being bored this summer.

Oh yes, the Park Gate Zoo. Our visitor had a vague memory of the zoo, as did I. But so far my research efforts have failed to turn up any significant information. So, if you have any information, or know where such information might be located, I would love to hear from you. Call (306-764-2992) or email the Historical Museum (, or email me at Any information would be appreciated.

Enjoy your summer!