MILLET & DISTRICT MUSEUM & ARCHIVES
The Millet & District Historical Society (MDHS) was incorporated as a non-profit organization under the Societies Act in 1977. The initial project - to gather the knowledge of pioneers from Millet and the thirteen surrounding school districts - produced a two-volume history book called the “Tales and Trails of Millet”
The history of the local community was physically disappearing so in 1985 the Society by contributing a significant amount of money was able to have a Museum and Exhibit Room included in the new Town Administrative Building being erected that year. That same year the Society was registered as a charitable organization. Its purpose was to ”maintain, preserve, further develop and expand Millet’s cultural resources and to ensure them for future generations”.
In 1983 the Society addressed the need for local seniors accommodation by sponsoring the construction of a twelve-unit seniors apartment complex in Millet. Following the re-organization in 1994 of the administration of Alberta Senior residences the Society now has one representative for the John A. Smith Manor on the Seniors’ Homes and Community Housing Agency.
Since 1987, the Museum has operated the Millet Tourist Information Centre in the front reception area. In 1997 TIC won the “William T. Fowler Award” for the “Best Tourist Information Centre in the Battle River Tourist Zone”.
The Society continues to operate the Museum through revenues from Bingo events that are deposited in a separate Bingo account. The General account holds revenue derived from Memorial donations, public donations, exhibit opening teas, door revenue, memberships, raffles and profits from the Museum gift shop. The Society received $6000 in 2001 from the Town of Millet to supplement the summer staff’s wages.
A Society Board of ten directors, which meets monthly to plan and direct museum operations now governs the Museum. Two Board Development workshops were hosted by our Society - one in 1994 and one in 1997. With the use of information gained from these workshops the Objects/Bylaws of the Society were revised and various new policies are being developed.
The Museum is operated with the following staff. Tracey Leavitt works full time directly with the Board to co-ordinate all aspects of the Museum. Jean Scott, volunteers time to manage the Museum Archives. Leona Madison is a certified management accountant on contract to perform the monthly financial accounting. During the summer secondary students are hired through the Federal Summer Career Placement Program, and the Provincial Summer Temporary Employment Program. These employees act as museum assistant/interpreters and Tourist Information Counsellors. During the winter and for special events volunteers hostess in the Museum and answer questions about the area.
In 1990 after five years of museum operation it became evident that the collection storage area was inadequate to safely preserve the artifacts. Plans were made to build an extension. In 1995 through $35, 000 in Community Facility Enhancement Program funding and through extensive fund-raising an extension of 40”x 42” was built and paid for. The total area is now 2878 sq. ft. per floor.
On the main level the Exhibit Room features the new long term exhibit entitled, “From a Sign Post in a Slough” and funded by a Millennium Bureau of Canada grant opened on April 1st., 2001.
In the Museum area fabrications of the “Hillside School”, “Kenny Kerr’s Implement Business Office”, “The Tool Shed” and a beginning-of-the- Century kitchen, bedroom, and parlour may be seen. This village display was built with the salvaged materials of a local house built in the 1890’s.
The main floor of the new extension houses an office, a computer registrar office, the Museum Archives, and a workroom/ kitchen/ conference room. In 1996, the collection storage was assessed and redesigned by Dagmar Rais. The storage area on the main floor has been renovated to contain the textile collection. Downstairs is an open mobile storage area for the metal and wood collections, a vault storage and a workroom for basic artifact cleaning and restoration. A volunteer has sewn dust curtains for the storage shelving.
The Museum artifacts collection represents pioneer living, agriculture and businesses of the past. The collection registration is computerized and accessible on “Virtual Collections” software made by GCI Inc.
The Museum and Archives is located at the north end of Millet on Highway 2A. The front entrance is wheel chair accessible. A stair chair ensures that those unable to negotiate the stairs down to the museum area are accommodated. A wheel chair is kept in the museum area for the use of those who require it. In the downstairs extension a washroom accessible to the disabled has been installed. In the fall of 1996, Michael Ross, Access Consultant evaluated the Museum for access deficiencies for visitors with physical, hearing and visual impairments. In order to provide practical recommendations he used advisors from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (C.N.I.B.) and the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (C.H.H.A.). Since that time the Society has been gradually implementing recommendations from this audit. e.g. increased size of brochure print; training of staff to be aware of visitor museum orientation; consideration of correct eye level height placement for case labels and for name plaques for the approximately 230 photographs of local Veterans of World Wars I and II which are displayed on the Veterans’ Wall.
The Museum and Exhibit Room serves the 2005 residents of the Town of Millet and the people of its surrounding area through interpretative tours. During the summer of 2001 64% of museum visitors were from within a 100 km radius of Millet. Of these 47% were from the Town of Millet.
School programs have been produced by Patricia Shields, a curriculum consultant to accommodate the two local schools. The Millet School Grades 1 to 4 and the Griffiths - Scott School Grades 5 to 9 have attended. During this season 27 school tours brought 630 students, 117 teachers and adult supervisors to participate in the evaluation of the museum school program. Now that this program is revised the programs will accommodate as well the students in the other schools of the Wetaskiwin Region Division No. 11.
The re-creation of the Burns Creamery Garden was produced in 1998 across from the Museum. Our historians researched the design. The garden was a highlight of Millet’s Second place standing in the National Communities in Bloom 1999 competition and of Millet’s First place standing in Landscaping. A permanent plaque was researched and produced for the garden by our Society and erected. To date the campaign for the town residents to donate flowers and bulbs has been successfully advertised.
In the summer of 2000 we completed a joint project “Historic Millet Plaques” with the Millet Communities in Bloom Group to recreate the original award winning Railway Station Gardens. A plaque that describes its history was erected there. As well plaques erected in 2000 that describe the history of the oldest remaining buildings in the town of Millet were i.e. the Millet United Church, St. Norbert’s Catholic Church, St. John’s Anglican Church and the Mercantile Store. All plaques are standing within a landscaped area at each site. Also in 2000, in conjunction with the Communities in Bloom group we completed research for a naturalization project that was completed with the assistance of funds received from our successful application to the Community Animation Program to plant twenty-three trees in Millet’s Pipestone Creek Park and at the site of the new outdoor skating rink. The historic upgrades received honourable mention in the “International Communities in Bloom” 2000 competition.
In cooperation with the Millet Lions Club, the mounting of the first Millet School bell has been completed in a cupola on the roof of a kiosk located in the park north of the Museum. The research and design of a mural representing a 1920’s Millet School room and historic plaques about the bell, the school and a photograph of the school in 1929 have been completed. The opening of the kiosk housing the bell was a success on September 16, 2000 with many of the students from the old school in attendance. Members of a late schoolteacher’s family were present to ring the bell. The bell kiosk was featured in the Alberta Motor Association magazine Westworld June 2001 issue as part of an article about Communities in Bloom.
The Museum was honoured to be chosen as a pilot site for the Collection Unit for the National Pilot Project of the Museum Achievement Program. The collection of evidence for the project provided us with a sense of accomplishment with regard to our upgrading of collection policies and procedures.