It started simply enough. Last year my friend Frank Lloyd made a comment about how it would be fun to get a group of like-minded individuals together and spend a weekend visiting a number of small museums.
Frank is a member of the Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village & Museum near Moose Jaw, SK and knows the challenges that museums face. An aging volunteer base, a lack of funding, and a public that seems to be losing touch with the past. Many of our small town museums struggle to make ends meet and simply don’t get the attention they deserve.
“Can you imagine if we got a group together and visited these places and each dropped $5 in their donation bins? It’s a small contribution for each person but could mean a lot to some of these places.”
His idea sat in the back of my mind for several months until one day in May when Emily and I were talking about all the museums we have seen on our travels but didn’t get a chance to actually stop and visit. We finally decided we should take one of my long weekends and head out on the road and do a tour and finally check a number of these places off our “Must Visit” list.
We checked the calendar and picked the dates — July 14 and 15. That’s when I decided to act on Frank’s idea. I created a simple Facebook event, outlined the plan, and then invited a small number of friends to join us on the journey. I didn’t know if anyone would be interested or if anyone would be able to make it, but I figured even if it ended up just being me and Emily we would still have a lot of fun.
Over the weeks, the route started to take shape. More planning took place as I spent lots of time with Google Maps planning out how long we would need to drive between museums and how much time we would want to spend at each place. Having never visited any of the places on my list, I didn’t have a great frame of reference but went with the “best guess” scenario. Hey, a career working in IT management means I’m used to making decisions with incomplete information, right?
With a tentative schedule and timeline in place, I began to reach out to the various museums along the route. “Hey, this is who I am and what I am planning. Here is when we think we’ll be there. Are your posted hours accurate and are you likely going to be open?” Again, we know many of these places are counting on a small number of people so it couldn’t hurt to check, right?
As the replies came back to me, my spreadsheet continued to expand. Hours of operation, contact names, phone numbers, email addresses, our expected arrival and departure times. (I am a firm believer that Excel spreadsheets can be used to solve any problem in the world.)
Now, my original plan was to do one big blog post about the whole Central Alberta Museum Tour (CAMT) experience. I soon realized that CAMT 2017 was going to need multiple posts. I have close to 300 photos and about 30 minutes of video that need to be reviewed, processed, logged, and then edited. Trying to fit in two days, 800km, and multiple museum visits into a single posting wasn’t a) going to be practical if I ever want to get anything posted, and b) not doing justice to these places and the people who make them run.
So, that’s it for now. I wanted to provide you with some background on how the whole thing came to be and to provide some context for the posts which will be upcoming over the next few days (weeks?). I really hope to hear from some of the museum employees in the comments.