Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre
The Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre, rests on the site of important Peace River history, overlooking the Peace and Heart rivers. It emerged through the combined efforts of the Peace River Women’s Institute, the Sir Alexander Mackenzie Historical Society and the Town of Peace River as a Canada centennial project in 1967. Its regional collections’ mandate encompasses the Town of Peace River and area.
In recent years, the Museum has focused more on the history of the evolution of the Town of Peace River and the people who have been central to its evolution. The Town of Peace River, for instance, takes its name from the mighty river running through it. This same river was a main transportation route connecting northern territories for thousands of years earlier than the days of explorer Sir Alexander Mackenzie. Its importance as a commercial necessity increasingly lessened with the arrival of the railway, air travel and the establishment of roadways throughout the Peace Country and beyond. But, the importance of the people who plied the river route has not diminished, nor has the importance of their successors.
TThe museum has thousands of artifacts and archival items to support its historical pride. The artifact collection comprises the diversity of the human and natural heritage of the Peace River Country. Among some of the most significant objects in the collection are the reassembled stones from one of the chimneys (fireplaces) and a pierced tin lantern found at Fort Fork; where Mackenzie over-wintered 1792-1793.
The wheelshaft of the S. S. D. A. Thomas (1916-1930), sitting on the grounds of the Museum, and other hardware from the grand old lady of the Peace, represent the era of sternwheelers and the various boatworks established in the town. Photographs and blueprints of the D. A. Thomas are in the Museum’s Archival Collection.
Beside the Museum is a log cabin, a representation of the Royal North West Mounted Police (RNWMP) and RCMP cabins of the early years in the Peace Country in which is housed RNWMP and RCMP memorabilia.
St. Augustine Mission (Shaftesbury Trail), established in 1888, is represented by tools, household objects, office equipment and documents.
The Museum has a diverse collection of textiles, from everyday work clothes of the 1930s and 1940s to nursing, Northwest Mounted Police, RCMP and military uniforms.
The archives is one among many notable archives in Alberta. It is an integral part of the Museum's ability to tell the stories of the community. Its existence is a testament to the early work of former curator Murray Cook and volunteers who introduced a cataloguing system. The work continues today. There are approximately 10,000 photographs and negatives – some dating as far back as the late 1800s. On microfilm, there are copies of the Peace River Pilot, from 1910 to 1912; Peace River Record, Peace River Gazette, and Peace River Record-Gazette to 1983. The collection also includes reference books, slides, video and audio tapes of oral histories, and railway songs.
Since its beginnings in 1967 as a small concrete block building, the friendly little museum has grown to be a much larger friendly Museum, better able to house and display the precious heritage of the area. Expansion over the past few years has been, in large part, due to the fund-raising efforts of the Sir Alexander Mackenzie Historical Society.
The Museum’s fort facade emphasizes the area’s involvement in fur trade commerce. The Museum boasts three distinct galleries: The Main gallery showcases aboriginal items, including a teepee, various items of clothing and implements. The Mackenzie Gallery highlights, not only the fur trade, but also the travels and exploration of its namesake Sir Alexander Mackenzie and his modern-day followers. In this gallery there are two canoes – one 26-foot canoe du nord (fiberglass – paddled by university students during the explorer’s bicentennial year in 1993) – the other 21-foot Voyageur (birchbark – built, with help of an experienced Quebec builder, and paddled by a British author and two cronies over the Mackenzie route to the Pacific – taking three years to complete the journey – 2002 -2004). An authentic 1880s, majestic fur press commands attention in this gallery. The third gallery is devoted to the settlers of the northern Alberta part of the Peace Country in which a visitor will find all manner of appliances, clothing, and paraphernalia used by the pioneers, early inhabitants and businesses.
The staff of the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre is excited to share the history of its area. To do so, the staff encourages tours by groups or individuals (children and adults alike enjoy their time here). Working on a school project or family history? Museum staff is available to assist with research requests for information and photographic reproduction. Looking for a special gift? Check out the Museum gift shop. It offers a unique selection of locally produced and created items and historical publications.
Off site, the Northern Alberta Railways (NAR) station, a mile or so north of the Museum, houses many railway-related items. The station, built in 1916, is a provincially designated historic site – the oldest station of its kind (Class ‘C’) remaining in northern Alberta.
Whatever your requirement, visit the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre, 10302 - 99 Street, Peace River, AB, or the Museum's Web site: www.peaceriver.ca