Museum summer student Thomas Chenard poses with what remains of the former Donnelly Church bell after the fire.

If it is true that every museum has it secrets, the Girouxville Museum has thousands to tell!

Founded in 1969 by the priest of the village, Father Clement Desrocher, the museum is situated in the village west of Falher on Highway 744. It is a true tribute to Desrocher to showcase the efforts of the first pioneers but credit must also be given to successive generations to preserve his dream and mission.

Walking into the museum is like walking into a treasure trove of artifacts. Summer student Thomas Chenard estimates there are 4,000 to 5,000 artifacts – no one has actually counted. What makes the museum special is that there are dozens of displays, each depicting a theme. It is like walking into dozens of museums where each display can take the visitor back in time.

Included are Indigenous artifacts and pioneers’ skilled craftsmanship, rare fossils to the famous five-legged squirrel – a bit hit with visitors, especially children – and the depiction of the early pioneer and their tools of the trade.

Religion also plays a big role at the museum. Several displays of many of the early churches in the region are included. Check out the replica of the first church at Girouxville, the remnants of the church bell saved at Donnelly after the fire, and Bishop Emile Grouard’s display. Many more displays must be seen including clothing and religious artifacts.

Chenard, a 2022 Grade 12 graduate of G.P. Vanier School at Donnelly, is studying for his Bachelor of Arts, majoring in History, at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton. He is the perfect fit to guide the visitor throughout the museum. His passion for history oozes from him.

“It is what I love to do.”

His love of history grew from – if you can believe this – video games! He says video games “opened the door” for the younger generation to history and fueled his desire to know more. His French-Albertan background helped as he sought to learn more about his heritage. Museum displays certainly helped him do that!

In Chenard’s words, you have to “see it to believe it” when it comes to the museum’s many displays. He is quick to point out over the years that the museum’s volunteer board has added to the collection and adds the museum is truly a tribute to the efforts of all communities in the region interested in preserving the history.

The museum has filled its current building to the rafters, so much that they are not accepting new artifacts. It is difficult to refuse artifacts when the mission is to preserve history, but the fact is the museum is full and space is very precious.

“We are focusing on preserving what we have rather than focusing on new things,” says Chenard.

The Girouxville Musuem is open for the summer from May to August from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Tours and/or appointments can be made during weekends by calling (780) 323-4252. School tours are offered during the year by appointment.

The museum is administered by the Village of Girouxville and operated by a volunteer board. The Village took over the museum in 1984.

A charming replica of Girouxville’s first church!
This ice cream maker was used at Grouard in the early 1900s at St. Bernard Mission.
The mill stones of St. Augustine Mission greet visitors and is one of the most popular displays. The mission was founded in 1886 by Father Husson. The first flour mill was built in 1895 and the mill stones and steam engine brought in by wagon. The flour mill closed in the 1950s and the mill stones brought to Girouxville.
The museum’s famous five-legged squirrel, trapped east of Peace River.
Drawings/paintings of the Canadian Oblate Bishops dominates the northwest wall of the museum. Time is taking its toll on the display but it is still spectacular.

by Chris Clegg

This item copyrighted by / South Peace News   High Prairie, Alberta

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