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Canmore’s History on Display

June 9, 2016
By Afton Aikens

The Canmore Museum & Geoscience Centre’s new permanent exhibit From Coal to Community showcases 125 years of Canmore’s history, from its railroad and coal mining roots to the 1988 Winter Olympics and tourism of today.

First Canmore school, 1896; photo courtesy of the Canmore Museum

First Canmore school, 1896; photo courtesy of the Canmore Museum

“Check out handwritten notes in the 1935 Canmore Hotel registry and the canary cage used in the mines,” suggests museum director Lachlan Mackintosh. Many of the exhibits and works of art are heirlooms donated by town residents.

“When there was a possibility of poisonous gas or low oxygen levels, as the didactic says, the canary would go in this little cage. There’s a mini oxygen canister at the top, so if the canary did keel over, which would indicate that the miners were in danger, they would open a valve and the canary would get a blast of pure oxygen that would resuscitate it.”

Canmore Briquettes display at the Calgary Stampede, 1950s; photo courtesy the Canmore Museum

Canmore Briquettes display at the Calgary Stampede, 1950s; photo courtesy the Canmore Museum

There are also elements, like this 140-million-year-old cypress, that go back into geological time and tell the story of how the mountains were created. We look at the creation of coal, and some fossils that we had from when we were at the edge of a giant ocean,” Mackintosh adds.

His favourite part of the exhibit is the representation of the Lamphouse (an old stone building where miners met each day).

The Lamphouse

The Lamphouse

“It’s amazing how in a couple of weeks they created this and aged and weathered it. I like the fact that we have the mini theatre. It’s great for kids. There are 90-second videos that tell different parts of the town’s story. One video shows what Quarry Lake looked like in the 1970s, before it was reclaimed—it’s hard to imagine it’s the same place.”

Mackintosh says he wants people to gain a greater sense of Canmore from the exhibit—of who we are as people living in Canmore and the Bow Valley, and our authentic stories.

See more Canmore arts and entertainment options.

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