The Lacombe & District Historical Society has a very exciting project in the works. The Michener House Museum will be undergoing a ‘ReImagining’ bringing forth three new display spaces and upgrades to the historical home.
The organization has received funding from the Ministry of Culture in Alberta and the Department of Canadian Heritage with Government of Canada to a combined total of $67,000. This will mean an expansion of the Michener House Museum and changes in the museum’s programs and interpretation.
Since taking over the space at the Flatiron Building the Michener House has new space opened up that the Historical Society does not want to see go to waste. The Michener House Museum is divided into two parts. One of the parts of the building was previously used for offices before the organization took over the Flatiron Building. The Historical Society has moved the administrative portion of the building as well as most of the museum’s collection into the Flatiron Building Museum freeing up 25-30 percent more space at the Michener House Museum.
“The worst case would be if we neglected our other two buildings that we actually own and operate. We wanted to make it very clear like that that is not what we are planning to do. So investing this money into the Michener House is a clear indication that this building is still a big priority for us. I don't want to get too ahead of myself, but we do also have plans in the next few years to for a similar project over at the Blacksmith Shop. They're not forgotten. We want to make certain that they still retain their individual assets that they've had over the last 100 years to the community while obtaining maybe new assets and bringing new visitors to the community and educational experiences for those who live here already and enjoy them,” said Blunden.
The expansion will mean a wall on the building’s upper floor will be taken down connecting two different halves of the house. The 1894 side is the one that most people have come to know while the 1918 side was previously used for administration. Blunden stresses that the historical integrity of the home will not be altered by the change.
“There was actually pass-through originally in the space. The original building is from 1894 and the addition is from 1918. It's not like the addition is a new modern addition, it is a historic building in its own right, and they're all connected. The electrical and HVAC is all on the same system, so we're just going to open up a doorway upstairs. That will allow visitors to have a to flow from space to space without using the old staircase,” she explained.
The Historical Society is hoping to find a way to utilize some of the collection’s larger historical pieces with the new space.
“At the end of this there will be five gallery spaces inside the Michener House. For one, we’re hoping to have the lux theatre. Another, we’re hoping to do maybe a Lacombe Globe display since we are now the archival storage for the Lacombe Globe we have all of their records back to 1907. There’s a few issues missing from our records but we have the largest collection of them,” said Blunden.
The Michener House Museum will also continue to display items relating to Roland Michener and sharing his legacy and story.
The added space will also mean the removal of the infamous bathtub that was found hidden within the ceiling in 2021. The bathtub caused a bit of a stir on social media.
“It's not a historic bathtub. It is just a simple bathtub that was thrown in there in the early 70’s. I'm sure now it might have some financial value because it everyone loves vintage and the 70’s is a great era. But it is not a clawfoot bathtub that Roland Michener was bathing in,” said Blunden.
Blunden says it not likely the Historical Society will be keeping the bathtub but will likely be donating it or auctioning it off.
Taking public feedback into account, the Historical Society created a new interpretation policy and plan for the Michener House Museum but continues to look for more feedback for the new spaces. They hope the new exhibition plan will preoccupy the building for at least ten years.
“We want to ensure that we're doing something that the community is actually needing and wanting to see and experience first-hand. There's no point in putting those on display if that is not something people are going to come and view,” added Blunden.
You can provide your input in one of the Historical Society’s open houses that will be happening in the coming months or you can fill out a survey on their website by clicking here.
Unfortunately, the changes may mean the opening date for the Michener House Museum will likely be pushed back from Victoria Day but Blunden hopes visitors will at least be able to get a small peak of what’s inside.