GCHCC Museum celebrates 90 anniversary

·4 min read

The Grand Coteau Heritage and Cultural Centre Museum is celebrating 90 years later this week.

On October 21 there will be a come-and-go 90th anniversary celebration held at the GCHCC from 2-4 p.m. with Interactive Artifact Stations featuring items such as treadle a sewing machine, typewriter and fountain pen.

New museum exhibits will also be on display in the basement museum, including framed artwork from the museum’s permanent collection. The first pieces on display will include the works of local artists such as June Busse, Gloria Audette and Frances Hanson.

Video presentations taken in the 1960s by legendary local resident Hymie Hanft will also be showing in the gallery. The videos include footage from the rodeo, parade and ice carnival during that era. Donated to the museum, the videos were originally shot on 8mm film although the GCHCC was able to have them digitized thanks to funding help through the Institutional Grant Program administered by the Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivists.

There will also be vault tours of the museum’s artifact storage spaces led by collections manager Kelly Attrell.

Snacks and drinks will be available during the event.

Participants will need to show proof of vaccination to attend. Despite the ongoing health concerns connected to COVID - and the accompanying restrictions - local officials were still happy to be able to arrange an event to mark the occasion.

“It's a pretty significant achievement and definitely something worth acknowledging and celebrating,” said Joanne Gregoire, the Director of the Grand Coteau Centre. "There has been a lot of people along the way who contributed a great deal to keeping the museum alive - from 1931 up to today - and we want to celebrate that."

The museum originally opened in 1931 after members of the Canadian Club in Shaunavon met and decided to open a museum. Museum artifacts were then collected by trustees and included donations from area residents.

“When the museum started there was great interest and a lot of support from the community," stated Gregoire. "It's interesting to see how those first people created the museum - they actually went out and collected the artifacts and did the taxidermy."

"A lot of the items that we have today are from those early days so it is quite interesting to hear those stories and learn about the people who got that initial collection going and started the museum."

Initially, the founding volunteer group arranged with the school board to use an old school house to display the historical items that had been collected.

That tiny building was the museum's first home for over 25 years. (That building was incorporated into the present day Grand Coteau Centre and is still used to house part of the museum.)

However, enthusiasm for the museum had dwindled less than a decade later and it took the concerted effort of a small handful of people - including original trustee Frank Bransted - to keep the museum from closing.

"There were people along the way who kept things going when interest waned and you have to give them a lot of credit for just staying dedicated to the cause, keeping the museum alive and keeping the collection together so that it could remain in place today," said Gregoire.

In 1957, plans were made to move and renovate the old school house. The building was moved to a small park on Centre Street, the same location where the Grand Coteau Centre sits today.

Restoration of the building was not completed for several years. The museum was officially opened again in 1963, the same year Shaunavon celebrated its 50th anniversary.

In 1977, Shaunavon's town council called a meeting to hear a presentation on the government's announced Neighbourhood Improvement Program. In the end, the town approved plans to enlarge the museum. Plans were also made to house an art gallery and the branch of the regional library in the facility.

Gregoire says the museum has become much more than just than just a storage centre.

"We're continuing that tradition that was started back in 1931," said Gregoire. "But it's interesting to see how the entire museum community has shifted and how the presence of museums in communities is now more than just a collection of artifacts. We're collecting stories and heritage. And it's not just about gathering things from decades ago - we're interested in what is happening today because it's important to preserve those things for the future."

Gregoire credited Kelly Attrell, the Collections Manager at the Grand Coteau Centre, for doing a great job of both keeping the museum's collection organized and updated, but also making it more accessible to the public.

The Grand Coteau Centre also gets numerous requests throughout the year from people looking for information about local families, businesses and landmarks. Much of those research requests are handled by volunteer Kathleen East, who is probably the mostly knowledgeable person in Shaunavon when it comes to the town's history.

Gregoire noted how museums, including the Grand Coteau Centre, have developed their outreach programming over the years.

Jacob Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shaunavon Standard

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