Nothing beats a good small town museum. Team BIGDoer is huge fan and think you should be too. They’re hidden gems, wonderful places to learn about local history, the people who came before, those tough and resilent folks from times past, on display at these venues the things connecting them to you. At every turn it’s something new and interesting. A dream for the budget minded, it’s a cheap way to spend a fine afternoon.
The museum in this here post is found in Viking Alberta. The town, southeast of Edmonton by some hundred and twenty clicks, was founded just over a century ago by settlers coming in from Scandinavia. Today the place is home to about a thousand people…and a bit of change, oil and gas related industries providing employment for most. Love hockey? Then it’s mecca for you. Heard of the Sutters? All, what, seven dozen of them or so (exaggeration alert)…the Viking area is where they came from. They’re a dynasty.
The museum sits at the far north side of town smack dab at the end of 50th, the main street there. Lots of signs so can’t miss it. Heck, email us if unsure. It’s a good size place, the main building looking very institutional. And that’s for good reason, it was the town’s hospital, a two story structure built on this very site in the early 1920s. Expanded upon a bit later it remaining in use as such until the latter half of 1960s when the museum moved in. While there are other buildings here at the Viking Museum this one contains most of the displays. This a good place to start the tour.
Admission is by donation and there’s always someone helpful on hand to answer questions. We know you have some, so ask away. The place is open most days in the summer – perhaps call ahead if unsure (contact info below) – and will open on request at other times of the year. On certain days, weekends in particular, expect it to be busy. We shared the grounds with several groups.
Here’s the contact info. Address: 5108- 61 Avenue, Viking, AB, T0B 4N0. Call: (780) 336-3066. They have a Facebook Group: Viking Historical Society- Viking Museum. Now you know!
Scroll down for more of the story…
Once inside the main building come to a long hallway flanked on either side by rooms, each one done up in a specific theme. There’s one showcasing medical equipment, another done as recovery room, both reflecting the building’s original heritage. In other places there’s hints that this was a hospital, things like tiles and light fixtures, for example, that cleary remind us of what was once here.
Hospital? Wait, then it crosses your mind…is the place haunted? It’s often said these places are. Seed planted.
One room’s done up like a vintage office, a roll top desk, typewriter and adding machine at the ready. Another holds sports and recreation equipment. Those curling rocks…back in the day that game was huge on the prairies…everyone played it…every town had a rink. While still enjoyed by throngs of enthusiastic players, it’s not as popular as it once was.
There’s a barber shop. Just a little of the top please. And a shave. Whoa, a straight razor…on second thought.
A room holds random electronic type devices, another old camera gear and office equipment. There’s so much at times it seems they’re running out of room. Look closely, ’cause you’ll miss something. Take the time.
There’s a newspaper archive. See what was happening in Viking on the day of your birth. We did it. Of course…everyone does. Price of wheat seems stable. Good to know. Scan the ads and see what things cost back then. Reminisce about long forgotten businesses. I could do this all day.
Many more rooms here on the main floor, lots to keep one busy and entertained. Come see for yourself. But wait, there’s additional stuff upstairs. The displays are endless and always interesting. Rather than rambling on, as we’re apt to do, check out the photos to see just a sampling of what’s here. Then make plans to visit. We missed showing you a lot!
There’s a row of interesting buildings on the museum grounds all open for viewing with tons of things on display. The circa 1938 Mount Carmel Catholic Church is good starting point. I didn’t burst into flames on entering, which is a good thing.
Next door is an early 1900s store/post office that used to stand at some remote crossroads outside of town. It’s very rustic, having been made from logs. Like all “general stores” or “general mercantiles”of the era, they sold a little bit of everything. Food, farm supplies, this and that. And of course there’s a small post office in back. Most rural stores also acted in this capacity.
A one room school is next, this one from the the first decade of the twentieth century. Used to be thousands of these scattered across rural Alberta (no exaggerating warning here, it’s fact), the students coming in from nearby farms. Now they’re bused to central locations. Like all the buildings, it’s well stocked with interesting displays. Again, take the time to look close…there’s so much it’d be easy to miss some small detail. Those hidden treasures are the special ones – the Lornedale Orchestra…you know they rocked the joint! There’s their drum! Try to find it on your visit.
A circa 1910s farm house, brought in from a rural area, is next. It’s well appointed with furniture and such of the era. A vintage phone…you know we have to take a pic. Got a thing for them. And you thought we only obsessed about Bolers. Check out the simple kitchen, the cramped bedrooms (like most farm families they probably raised huge number of kids here), the simplicity of it all. How the heck did they function without electricity, plumbing, internet, all the modern things we take for granted. As we often say, people back then where hardcore.
This house is done up with a Gambrel roof, so barn style. It’s aligned ninety degrees to the front entrance, which strikes us as a bit odd.
There’s more below the next batch of pics…
Farm equipment area! Of course, this what they do around here. Love these old machines. What guy doesn’t? Tractors are a highlight and there’s a good collection of 1940s/1950s era beasties, coming from many major manufacturers. Remark at how small and simple they were when compared to the huge behemoths of today. Of course back then you farmed a quarter section…now it’s several sections…sometimes many more. The scale of things keeps growing. And no AC, no stereo, no GPS to guide. And if rained you got wet…if the sun burned down, you cooked alive…if it was windy you ate dust. Just another day at the farm back then.
Lots more machinery to see and other outdoor displays. There’s no way we can capture it all, no way we ever could. Instead, come see what we mean.
Visit the displays in an orderly fashion, or as we did randomly. We often play the giddy little kid, jumping from here to there and back, experiencing it all, soaking it up, in a chaotic manner. Choose your path.
Sadly, the word-tour has to come to an end. But there’s more pics to see…just scroll down. We just scratched the surface here and know a second or third visit would be in order to capture it all. If we ever could. It’s a good sized museum for such a small town and they’ve done a fine job. It’s clear, there’s passion at work here. Easy to see. Throw in an extra ten when donating. Help keep the lights on. They’ll appreciate it.
A big shout out to Mike Lawes of the Viking Museum and Viking Historical Society (wait till you see his car collection)…and others from his group. The best hosts ever. And more thanks to Sylvia Hoffman who planted the seed. This visit was a blast! We burned through like four or five hours here. If you’ve got a museum you think we should see, you know what to do. We’ll come visit your place and give it the BIGDoer treatment. It’s what we do.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: June, 2017.
Location: Viking, AB.