Western Development Museum aging gracefully

Austin M.
Austin M. Davis
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Nine-year-old Ryan Stokal of Melville and his parents toured the Moose Jaw Western Development Museum for the first time on Saturday

The Western Development Museum has been preserving Saskatchewan innvoations for 65 years.

“It shows that we do value and honour our heritage and traditions,” said Joan Champ, executive director of the Western Development Museum (WDM), over the phone from Saskatoon.

“When the museum was founded, the main reason it was founded was because there was a concern after (the Second World War) that a lot of our abandoned farm machinery was being scavenged for scrap metal for recycling as part of the war and also some of the things were being collected by American collectors.”

On April 2, 1949, the Saskatchewan Legislature gave royal assent to a bill to create a Western Development Museum, though it would be almost another 30 years until there was a location in Moose Jaw.

“Sixty-five years later we’ve grown and evolved in to being not only a tractor museum — as it started out — but so much more than that,” Champ said.

There are four locations in the province: Saskatoon, North Battleford, Yorkton and Moose Jaw. Champ said the WDMs incorporate every aspect of life and history in Saskatchewan.

“I often wonder if the museum was being founded today, what would it look like? And what will look like in the future?” Champ said.

She said the most important consideration for the future of the museum is the collection.

“While we’re going to continue to honour our pioneer roots and continue to preserve, exhibit and interpret our pioneer artifacts that we have at the WDM, we’re going to emphasize in our collecting more recent decades,” Champ said.

She said the museums have collected “pretty much every pioneer story and artifact” represented in their collections. They’ll continue to accept pioneer artifacts with fascinating stories, but the WDM will be focusing more on the 1950s and beyond.

Modern Saskatchewan inventions like the remote-controlled Draganflyer X6, an unmanned aerial vehicle, and the Gofer-EV, an electric vehicle used in underground mining operations, are already included in the museum’s collection.

“That’s showing the direction we’re heading in terms of our collection,” Champ said.

Online at wdm.ca, there are photos and stories on artifacts the museum has collected each year, starting in 1949. Currently the list only goes up to 1959, but it will continue to be updated.

The WDM will be celebrating its 65th anniversary at all locations. Those celebrating their 65th birthday in 2014 will receive free admission and a present on their birthday. Anyone who visits on April 6, 2014 will be admitted for only 65 cents.

Organizations: Western Development Museum, Saskatchewan Legislature, Gofer-EV

Geographic location: Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, North Battleford Yorkton Saskatchewan

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