Feb 252016
Minneapolis Tractor

Something close to forty or forty five years separate the two images used in this then and now. Our subject is the Homestead Museum, well their sign anyway, located deep in the Badlands of Alberta in the town of Drumheller. The old image comes via a reader of this website and is a scan of an old promotional postcard. Returning to the location seen we’ve come to shoot something similar.

The town of Drumheller, one hundred and thirty clicks northeast of Calgary is located in the scenic Red Deer River Valley. Founded about a hundred years ago, it’s home to around eight thousand people today. Numerous coal mines once provided employment. Today tourism is big.

Drumheller then and now – Homestead Museum. Written & photographed by Chris Doering & Connie Biggart.

One popular attraction is the famous Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology just down the road from our shooting position. Also bringing in the visitors, but perhaps on a lesser scale, is the museum we’ll be looking at here, the Homestead, which opened in the mid-1960s. It’s small and homey and instead of being dedicated to dinos and fossilized old bones and the like, which the area is famous for, it instead reflects on farm life and life in general as it was in the area way back when. The venue is not open in the winter.

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Inside their large display building, behind us, is a large and diverse collection of artifacts (we’re told), stuff you’d find in a house or on a farm in the old days. Several old tractors are on display on the grounds. One, a 1920s era Minneapolis, is the featured image for this article.

We’ve never been inside the place but will be sure consider it when we’re next in the area (in the summer)

Notice that not much has changed between the then and now photos. The hills are the same (albeit looking further away in our shot) and the sign is the same, in form at least. Only the buildings in back are new. A then and now where time has altered little.

The old image was sent in by a collector of old postcards, Bill of Edmonton (thanks!). He mentions it’s from the 1950s, which I’m afraid is in error. We know it has to be post 1965, recall that’s when the Homestead opened – however looking closely we can see a Canadian Maple Leaf Flag (to the right of the smoke stack), meaning it had to be post 1967. Before then the flag was different. Let’s just say is from the late 60s or early 70s and leave it at that.

No other info accompanied the image. Presumably this was a promotional postcard handed out by the museum itself. Back then this was a common and effective way to advertise a tourist or travel oriented business – motels, for example, made great use of them.

Seen in the postcard is an old Case Steam Tractor. I believe the museum still owns it – what appears to be the same machine, partially obscured, shows up in a recent article about the venue. This appears to be an early 1900s model (Case made similar ones up until the 1920s) and even though it’s a monster of a machine, it was one of the firm’s smaller offerings. Yikes, these things were massive! Burning coal, it looks like and in many ways functions like a small steam locomotive.

Of the two automobiles seen in the then photo, the closest appears to have lines of a mid-1950s Ford. The one furthest away is too hard to see for us to make a guess but the roof-line suggests it’s a mid-1960s, or thereabout, model.

Have an old photo, or postcard, showing a vintage street scene or some old building, that you’d like us to include in a BIGDoer.com then and now? You know what to do, send it our way. We’ll revisit the location, shoot something like it in composition and then talk about it all here on this website.

With nothing else changed, we’ve included two comparison views of our subject. Note how when side by side, the two look almost identical but when compared one atop the other, the sign in the today shots seems almost out of line when compared to the other. It’s mostly an optical illusion which I have yet to find an explanation for. Still, it shows how a different view can effect the outcome of an image. One it looks good, the other almost spot on!

Some of our favourite then and nows…
Crowsnest Pass then and now – Greenhill Hotel.
Calgary then and now – those 70s condos.
Calgary then and now – waiting for the Queen.

If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date: January, 2016.
Location: Drumheller, AB.
Article references: Alberta Museums Association, Book: Hills of Home – Drumheller Valley.

Homestead Drumheller

The Homestead Museum, well their sign, Drumheller AB, many decades ago and today.

Homestead Museum Drumheller

A side by side comparison.


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4 Comments on "Drumheller then and now – Homestead Museum"

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Matthew Hicks
Matthew Hicks

That 50+ year old sign is as much a museum piece as anything there!

Connie Biggart
Connie Biggart

You are a pro!