Claresholm town council updated on 2023 activity at museum

By Rob Vogt
The Claresholm and District Museum has been busy over the past year.
Barry Gibbs, chair of the museum board, and Bill Kells, the museum’s executive director, appeared as a delegation at the Nov. 14 meeting of Claresholm town council to discuss what has been happening at the museum.
After Gibbs discussed planning for the museum, Kells provided an update on the 2023 year at the museum.
He observed people’s confidence in getting out after the pandemic is returning, as the number of visits has rebounded.
Kells noted the museum is focused on a number of key areas/
One key area is exhibits, where the museum downsized its Louise McKinney and the Famous 5 exhibit to focus on McKinney.
He noted the exhibit was originally as a shared project with the United Farmers of Alberta Historical society, which was intended to focus on all members of the Famous 5.
The museum also opened an exhibit on transportation called, “Trains, rails and roads”, and is currently finalizing an exhibit of more than 350 dolls, set to open on Dec. 1.
They are also enhancing the farming and firefighting exhibits to open in 2024, with improved lighting.
A second key area is community engagement.
Kells said the museum has hosted a number of events including a Father’s Day car show, which attracted a large number of visitors especially local people. It also involved other community groups such as the Porcupine Hills Classic Cruisers vehicle club and the Claresholm Social Centre.
The activities on the Friday night of Fair Days the second week of August were also at the museum, as was a visiting vintage car show passing through town.
Their next event is Old Fashioned Christmas on Dec. 1.
Kells said the museum’s social media exposure has improved, going from 297 followers in 2020 to 1,229 now.
The museum has put entries in the Fair Days parade, where they captured first place with their float commemorating Bill’s Koffee Shoppe, and the Fort Macleod Santa Claus Parade.
The museum also participated in offsite events such as Canada Day and Winterfest, and attracted a new audience when the Farmers’ Market moved to the museum grounds this past summer.
A third key area is tourism, where Kells noted the museum is back to pre-pandemic levels.
The museum had 19 tours visit from three tour companies.
There was a 27 percent increase in travelling visitors, with American visitors starting to return.
Visits by local also increased, with a lot of positive comments too.
A fourth key area is collections, which Kells said is the most important area to focus on.
The museum received provincial accreditation from the Alberta Museums Association, and has become a registered member of the Archives Society of Alberta.
The museum received a $7,500 grant from the Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta, where the funds were used to purchase equipment and software for a digital archive project.
The museum also continues to receive donations of artifacts, and is archiving documents.
For 2021, 2022 and part of 2023, the museum had a part-time collections technician.
The collections technician also received training to help manage the collection; accessioned all incoming donations and catalogued them; caught up on a back log of artifacts dating back to 2016; conducted a complete box level inventory of archived holdings; installed and used new archival software in the collections management program; monitored storage areas and addressed concerns; responded to research requests by the public; assisted with development of exhibits; managed summer students and the operation of the visitor information centre from May to September; and assisted with delivery of school programs.
A fifth area is marketing, where the museum ran ads in the Claresholm Local Press; participated in trade shows in Claresholm and Pincher Creek; posted regularly on social media; was featured twice on television; and formed a marketing committee in 2022.
Volunteer contributions is another key area.
Kells said volunteers contribute so much including serving on the board; being part of the friends of the museum society; serving coffee and cookies for visiting bus tours; taking care of the grounds; helping open the museum in May; baking cookies; helping with events; making parade floats, and much more.
Another area is grants and financial donations where the museum gift shop, with increased quality, saw a 220 percent increase yielding $1,547 in revenue.
They received more than $5,000 in donations, largely from the public, and have been successful in securing government grants to pay for summer students.
Finally, Kells discussed some future planning in addition to the recent strategic planning session in October.
That includes increasing storage and creating outdoor seating; planting trees; refurbishing and re-locating signs on Highway 2; adding outdoor interpretive panels; and improving the appearance of the caboose and speeder car.
It was noted providing an annual report should have been done every year, and will be done from now on.