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Canmore Museum launches digital initiatives

CANMORE – Residents and tourists will have a new way of exploring Canmore’s past.
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Ron Ulrich executive director of the Canmore Museum on Tuesday (Feb. 2). EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO

CANMORE – Residents and tourists will have a new way of exploring Canmore’s past.

The Canmore Museum launched a series of digital initiatives on July 13 – the 42nd anniversary of the Canmore mines being closed – to help increase the accessibility of services to the community and beyond.

Canmore Museum@Home, Canmore Museum@School and Stories That Matter will help tell the stories of Canmore and continue to foster the historical appreciation of the community.

“We had been talking internally as part of our strategic planning and looking at digital innovation and digital strategies and how we could make the museum more accessible to the public,” said Ron Ulrich, the executive director of the Canmore Museum. “Digital strategies allow that programming to be available 24/7 365 days a year.”

The programs are part of the Canmore Museum’s Re-Imagined Strategy that was announced in April. Ulrich said the strategy focuses on the social museum model, which continues the in-person model but builds on transforming the museum into a place of social connection and engagement.

Ulrich said they’ve already seen success in their ability to reach new people and increase access to their services.

“That’s the value of going virtual. … It provides different ways to access our programming," he said. "This platform becomes a place for all that type of digital or live streaming to happen. We can produce high quality educational content.”

The Canmore Museum@Home will be a members-only digital streaming service that allows people to remotely access the museum. The museum is partnering with the Google Arts and Culture platform and its launch will have two series on Gerry Stephenson, a longtime Canmore resident who had extensive knowledge on the mines.

The Stories of my Life will celebrate Stephenson’s work in the community, while a second video will allow people to experience his well renowned mine tours. The videos were done by Glen Crawford before Stephenson passed away in 2019.

“How great of a tribute would that be? Gerry was very big about learning and a big supporter of the museum,” Ulrich said.

Ulrich said the work had been underway since December and they were approached by Stephenson’s family, friends of the Stephenson’s Gary and Kay Anderson and Crawford.

"We had been searching for a meaningful way to honour our dear friend and Canmore jewel, Gerry Stephenson, and this project at the museum is it,” Kay Anderson said in a release on behalf of the Stephenson estate. “We are thrilled to help make this initiative a reality. Gerry was a spectacular storyteller, and this series on his life is a way we can all remember and relive some of Gerry's best stories of his incredible life."

The Canmore Museum@School will see Grade 3 to 7 students benefit from sessions with local community knowledge keepers – including Stoney Nakoda elders – in specific lessons on the museum’s education collection and digital resource library.

The program was developed with funding from the Calgary Foundation, the Paterson Foundation and Lafarge Exshaw, which cost about $250,000.

“We're proud to be a part of the heritage and story of the Canmore region, and to be a part of telling our story,” said Jill Truscott, the manager of communications in western Canada for Lafarge Canada, in a release. “Working with students and educators is a key part of our role as a member of the community and we're so excited to contribute to the new digital direction for Canmore Museum.”

The Stories That Matter will be a digital storytelling platform that can highlight the traditions, cultures and lives of residents in the community both past and present. The stories will focus on the ones that shaped Canmore from its long history as a mining town to now one of the premier tourism locations in Canada.

The museum also received funding for new digital walking tours from the Calgary Foundation. Ulrich said it won’t be available until spring, but it will allow people to see the historical change Canmore has undergone.

People will be able to walk the community and explore different heritages of Canmore, he said. Once it’s developed, people will be able to visit specific areas in Town and hold their phone to see what it may have looked like decades before when the mountain community was reliant on coal.

“One of the ways we can build community, build understanding and build bridges in different parts of the community is by sharing stories and sharing those lived experiences and perspectives of our community, whether it’s historical or contemporary," Ulrich said.