Royal Alberta Museum: Diving into Alberta History

Seeing as I like to try all the Edmonton things, I decided to visit the new Royal Alberta Museum. I have minimal memory of the original location because I only visited a couple times while in school. What I do remember: it wasn’t anything special.

That has definitely changed.

The museum is a place to explore and remember Alberta’s fascinating history. It boasts 2.4 million stories, unique to the province. Read more about that here. The original museum was renamed the Royal Alberta Museum when Queen Elizabeth II visited Edmonton in 2005.

While there are parts of the museum that were basically moved from the original, they definitely improved on one area in particular: the Human History exhibit.

But I’ll touch on that later.

Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Canada.

Feature Gallery

When you first enter the museum, there’s a giant space left for temporary exhibits. THE VIKINGS ARE COMING! …to the Feature Gallery April 18, 2019 and will remain on display until mid October. I’m already looking forward to the highly anticipated historic exhibition.

Posing on a cool spiral staircase wearing a striped blanket scarf with a blue felt hat and oversized sweater and OTK boots.

Space for the Littles

To the left is the Bug Gallery. If I remember correctly, it’s pretty similar to the original exhibit, but it is displayed a bit better. I hoped for a greater focus on local invertebrates, but seeing the different insects from around the world is cool too.

This room gears towards a younger crowd. Everything is lower height-wise and many of the displays are interactive. There’s even a Children’s Gallery next door (which I’m pretty sure is just an educational indoor playground, although I didn’t check it out).

Bug world map. " The Little things that run the world." - EO Wilson
The Bug Gallery at Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Canada.
The Bug Gallery.
Visiting the Bug Gallery at the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Canada.

Natural History at the Royal Alberta Museum

Upstairs is the Natural History Hall; it’s quite a large exhibit. To sum it up: rocks, fossils, and Alberta’s wildlife. If you’re at all into geological history, gem stones (oo sparkles!), dinosaurs, the Ice Age, or seeing the animal systems at play in the province today, you could spend a few hours in this exhibit.

Geology exhibit at the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Canada. Look at all those gem stones!
Gems and Minerals.
Dinosaur bones on display at the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Canada. I believe this is an  Edmontosaurus.
An Edmontosaurus in Ancient Alberta.
A display of Ice Age fossils, including this Wooly Mammoth.
Alberta’s Ice Age – the Wooly Mammoth.
Fossils from the Ice Age - this is a Mastodon, similar to the Wooly Mammoth.
Often mistaken for a Wooly Mammoth, this is a Mastodon.
Bison - such an important part of Alberta's history.
Wild Alberta today features the all important Bison.

Diving into Alberta’s Human History

Back downstairs and to the right is the Human History Hall which was by far my favourite exhibit. It’s been updated to reflect the immensely improved education of today, realizing the history of the province truly is rooted in its first peoples: the First Nations groups of Alberta.

While it does such an amazing job, the museum could have gone into more detail on certain areas. I do understand, though, that they have limited space available and want to cover everything at least a little bit.

What makes us strong exhibit at the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Canada. History of the First Nations.
The First Nations of Alberta have a lot in common.
The Metis and First Nations peoples had such an important role in the fur trade in Alberta. An exhibit of Human History at the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton.
A First Nations tipi and its significance.
The Tipi.
Metis canoes that were involved in the Fur Trade in Alberta. The start of the Hudsons Bay Company HBC. Important Canadian history.
Roots in the fur trade.

Aside from the First Nations history at the Royal Alberta Museum, there is also the history of Alberta’s settlers. The exhibit dives into our farming past, as well as the many different European nations that settled there to farm, acknowledging the hardships they faced to do so.

After the Buffalo. Bison history of Alberta at the RAM in Edmonton.
Persevering after the Bison become nearly extinct.

A few of the rooms are “temporary” exhibits as well, like the Textiles room featuring GWG (Great Western Garment Co.) and the Alberta Stories room which showcases the World War history. These rooms will be updated over time, but not for quite a while.

A wall full of WWII posters for the soldiers that fought from Canada.
Alberta’s involvement in WWII.
Remembering those who fought and died in WWII.
GWG - Great Western Garment Co in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
The essence of the Cowboy Culture.
Great Western Garment Co or GWG in Edmonton, Canada.
Denim for all.

For more recent history you can check out the Alberta Transforms area, which features events from 1945 to the present day. Discover things like the Edmonton Oilers’ rise to fame, the changing political climate, and the working world of Alberta here.

Alberta heading into the 20th century.
Civil rights, cowboy culture, and heading into a population boom.
Vintage Mercury truck on display.
Molly the Mercury – Alberta loves pickups.

Visiting the Royal Alberta Museum

I hope I didn’t spoil too much, but gave you an insight as to what to look forward to when you visit the Royal Alberta Museum yourself. Above all, it’s very well done. It’s one of the only places that dives into so many areas of Alberta’s past, while still looking ahead to the future.

If you’re planning on spending a day at the museum, check out their café and gift shop. I think the gift shop is one of the only places to find souvenirs in Edmonton.

For more information and to purchase tickets for the museum, visit their website here.

A beautiful and modern spiral staircase at the new Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Canada. Downtown has the coolest architecture.
Learn a little about railway history at the Roundhouse.
Visiting the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Canada.
Past, present, and future.

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