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History museums you should visit in Edmonton, Canada

Edmonton, Canada, boasts a captivating array of history museums that provide a journey through time and offer valuable insights into the region’s rich past.

From the expansive Royal Alberta Museum to the meticulously curated Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum, these institutions invite visitors to explore the historical tapestry of this vibrant city.

For those seeking an immersive experience of Edmonton’s heritage, the open-air time capsule of Fort Edmonton Park and the elegant ambiance of Rutherford House offer unique perspectives.

Meanwhile, aviation enthusiasts can take to the skies of history at the Alberta Aviation Museum, and railway aficionados can embark on a locomotive adventure at the Alberta Railway Museum. Finally, the Loyal Edmonton Regiment Military Museum delves into the city’s military history, providing a comprehensive look at the role this institution played in shaping the region’s identity.

Join us on a historical journey through these fascinating museums. If you want to learn more about the history and the heritage buildings of Edmonton, we have another article for you.

The Royal Alberta Museum

The Royal Alberta Museum (RAM), located in the heart of Downtown Edmonton, stands as a monumental tribute to the intertwined histories of humanity and the natural world. As the largest museum in Western Canada, the RAM boasts a staggering 7,600 square meters of exhibition space within its expansive 38,900-square-meter complex.

Mammoth skeleton at Royal Alberta Museum

The roots of this remarkable institution can be traced back to its establishment by the Government of Alberta in December 1967, initially known as the Provincial Museum of Alberta. In 2005, the museum received the prestigious honor of royal patronage from Queen Elizabeth II and was renamed the Royal Alberta Museum.

In 2011, plans for a new building were unveiled, signaling a significant leap forward in the museum’s evolution. The transition to this modern facility was completed in 2018, offering visitors a cutting-edge platform to explore Alberta’s natural and cultural heritage.

The museum is a treasure trove of galleries, featuring immersive displays that delve into the province’s rich history, from Ice Age Alberta to Alberta’s rocky mountain formations.

Furthermore, visitors can explore the fascinating connections between indigenous and European cultures, experience the resilience of Alberta’s communities, and delve into the captivating world of invertebrates in the Bug Gallery. The RAM also hosts limited-time feature galleries that provide diverse and thought-provoking experiences.

Whether you’re interested in fossils, cultural history, or Alberta’s unique ecosystems, the Royal Alberta Museum has something for everyone. It’s an enlightening journey through time and nature, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking to unravel the tapestry of Alberta’s past and present.

The official website of the museum:

McKay Avenue School with the Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum

McKay Avenue School, nestled in the heart of Edmonton, Alberta, is not just a historic site but a testament to the evolution of education in the region. Dating back to its humble beginnings in 1881, this schoolhouse has seen numerous transformations throughout its history.

The original one-room school, constructed on land generously donated by the Hudson’s Bay Company, bore witness to the early efforts of visionaries like Matthew McCauley, Malcolm Groat, and William Rowland.

The transition to a grander, three-storey, eight-room school in 1905, designed by the accomplished architect Henry Denny Johnson, showcased the opulence of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture.

Remarkably, the McKay Avenue School had a pivotal role in the political and educational development of Alberta, serving as the temporary meeting place for the Legislative Assembly of Alberta in its early years.

The legislature passed significant bills during this period, cementing Edmonton as the provincial capital and laying the foundations for institutions like the University of Alberta and provincial courts.

In 1983, with dwindling enrollment, the school closed its doors to students. However, its rich history and architectural significance persisted, leading to its designation as a Provincial and Municipal Historic Resource.

Today, the McKay Avenue School houses the Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum, a treasure trove of records and artifacts related to the city’s educational heritage.

Visitors can explore a 1950s-era schoolroom and the meticulously restored 1906 legislative assembly room. The museum’s holdings span over a century, shedding light on the evolution of education in Edmonton, making it a compelling destination for history enthusiasts and students alike.

The Fort Edmonton Park

Fort Edmonton Park, also known as “Fort Edmonton,” stands as a captivating living history museum and a prominent attraction in Edmonton. Named after the area’s original enduring European post, the park holds the distinction of being the largest living history museum in Canada, sprawling over 158 acres along the picturesque south bank of the North Saskatchewan River.

This historical gem is divided into five distinct sections, each meticulously designed to transport visitors through different eras in Edmonton’s rich history. The journey begins with the Indigenous Peoples Experience, immersing visitors in the vibrant cultures, stories, and histories of local Indigenous Peoples.

From there, you can step back to the fur trade era of 1846 with a visit to a full-scale replica of Hudson’s Bay Company Fort Edmonton. As you stroll through the fort’s palisade, you’ll get a glimpse of the significant role that Indigenous First Nations played in the fort’s operation.

The adventure continues along 1885 Street, where the Settlement Era comes to life. This era witnessed the establishment of a burgeoning town, the arrival of the telegraph, and the printing press, along with significant historical events like the North-West Rebellion of 1885.

1905 Street captures the Municipal Era when Edmonton became a city, and the University of Alberta opened its doors. You can even experience a tent city, a testament to the economic boom of that time.

Lastly, 1920 Street showcases the Metropolitan Era, reflecting the influence of larger business chains, modern technology like airplanes, and a growing city. This section even boasts the stunning Al-Rashid Mosque, the first purpose-built mosque in Canada, and the oldest standing mosque in North America.

The park offers visitors a truly immersive experience, complete with costumed historical interpreters who bring each era to life. Whether you’re exploring by foot, boarding a functional steam train, riding in a horse-drawn carriage, streetcar, or vintage automobiles, Fort Edmonton Park is a captivating journey through time, offering a profound understanding of Edmonton’s diverse history.

The Rutherford House

Rutherford House, nestled in the Strathcona area of Edmonton, is a magnificent historic building that tells a compelling story of the province’s political, social, and architectural history.

This distinguished structure served as the residence of Alexander Cameron Rutherford, Alberta’s first Premier, from 1911 to 1941. Its significant historical importance led to its designation as an Alberta provincial historic site.

Rutherford House in Edmonton, Canada – colored drawing

Built in 1911 by Rutherford himself, the house is a splendid example of early 20th-century architecture. The two-storey structure is adorned with Elizabethan and Jacobean motifs, featuring a red brick exterior with sandstone trim, stately chimneys, grand columned porches, and striking two-storey bay windows.

The interior is equally captivating, with 11-foot-high ceilings, exquisite oak paneling, and a stunning stained glass skylight gracing the grand central hall staircase.

Rutherford House is a testament to modernity for its time, boasting conveniences like hot running water, electric lighting, flush toilets, and telephones when it was built. The Rutherford family resided in this elegant abode, which they initially called Achnacarry, named after their ancestral castle in Scotland.

Today, Rutherford House Provincial Historic Site is operated by Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Sites and Museums Branch, with support from the Friends of Rutherford House, a dedicated non-profit, charitable society. The house stands not only as a physical representation of the early 20th century but as a living testament to the collaborative efforts of the community in preserving and celebrating Alberta’s rich history.

The Alberta Aviation Museum

The Alberta Aviation Museum

The Alberta Aviation Museum, stands as a testament to the rich aviation history of Canada. Nestled on the former Edmonton City Centre (Blatchford Field) Airport site, this museum offers a captivating journey through the country’s aviation past.

At the heart of the museum stands Hangar 14, a historic gem that is one of the last remaining examples of a ‘double-double’ Second World War British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) hangar.

These iconic structures were constructed across Canada during the BCATP, crafted from pre-cut wooden timbers of British Columbia fir. Hangar 14, with its remarkable clear span of 34 meters and distinct architecture, has a rich history dating back to its completion in 1943.

The museum’s collection showcases an impressive array of aircraft, from Avro Anson II to Lockheed F-104 Starfighters, highlighting the evolution of aviation technology. It also serves as a hub for various aviation and military groups, fostering a deep sense of community among aviation enthusiasts.

Despite its historical significance, Hangar 14 has faced structural challenges, which has spurred community efforts to preserve this iconic structure and secure the museum’s future. The ongoing collaboration between the Alberta Aviation Museum and the city reflects a shared commitment to safeguarding this vital piece of Alberta’s history.

Visitors to the Alberta Aviation Museum can explore the remarkable aircraft and artifacts while gaining a deep appreciation for Canada’s aviation heritage.

The Alberta Railway Museum

The Alberta Railway Museum, situated in the northern part of Edmonton, is a treasure trove of railway history. Established in 1976 along the historic Canadian Northern Railway Coronado Subdivision, this museum is a testament to the dedication of volunteers and enthusiasts who keep it alive.

The museum’s collection is a journey through time, featuring a range of railway equipment and buildings, including locomotives from Canadian National Railways (CNR) and Northern Alberta Railways (NAR). What sets this museum apart is its commitment to the restoration of these railway artifacts, preserving the legacy of Canada’s railways.

The CNR passenger train collection, with its meticulously restored cars like the 10648 Express Refrigerator and 7815 Mail Express, allows visitors to step back in time and experience the golden age of rail travel.

Meanwhile, the CNR prairie mixed freight train, comprising cars like the 477871 Box Car and 6570 Tank Car, offers insight into the essential role rail played in the country’s development.

A unique gem in the museum’s collection is the NAR passenger train, a complete representation of a Northern Alberta Railways passenger train, the only one in existence. The NAR work train showcases the vital role rail played in industrial development, featuring the only surviving complete set of its kind.

In addition to these collections, the museum houses significant locomotives and cars like the CN 9000 EMD F3A locomotive and the CN 4618 GE C40-8CM locomotive.

The Alberta Railway Museum is not just a collection of trains; it’s a living testament to Canada’s rich railway history, lovingly preserved for future generations to appreciate.

The official website of the railway museum:

The Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre and the Loyal Edmonton Regiment Military Museum

The Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre stands as a testament to Edmonton’s rich military history. Constructed in 1915 as the Edmonton Drill Hall, this architectural gem served as a hub for military training.

In 1921, it adopted the name Prince of Wales Armouries and continued its role in defense until 1977. Today, this magnificent brick building has been repurposed to house the City of Edmonton Archives, preserving the city’s history and its documents.

Moreover, it serves as a public space for engaging exhibits on the city’s past, allowing visitors to delve into Edmonton’s rich heritage. The center offers free admission and is available for a wide range of private events, making it a vibrant and accessible hub for history enthusiasts.

Within the Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre, you’ll find the Loyal Edmonton Regiment Military Museum. Located in the same historic building that housed the regiment from 1920 to 1965, the museum is a treasure trove of military history.

With two galleries and various smaller exhibits, it showcases a vast array of historic artifacts, including firearms, uniforms, memorabilia, military equipment, and photographs. The Griesbach gallery, named after Major General William Griesbach, the first commanding officer of the 49th Battalion, CEF, offers visitors an immersive journey through the regiment’s history.

Meanwhile, the Stone gallery, named after Colonel James Stone, features rotating exhibits that introduce new themes and artifacts. The display cases outside the galleries showcase a diverse array of military uniforms from different service branches.

Together, the Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre and the Loyal Edmonton Regiment Military Museum provide a rich and engaging experience for those interested in Edmonton’s military heritage.

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History museums you should visit in Edmonton, Canada


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