If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve visited St. Albert’s downtown core on more than one occasion, but how well do you really know it?
For more than a decade, Musée Heritage Museum has offered guided walking tours exploring different facets of St. Albert. Beginning July 28, the outdoor adventures run every Thursday evening until Sept. 7.
St. Albert is still considered a small city, but as the oldest colonial settlement in the province, the city is a well-preserved vestige of history. It has been a central point of historical development highlighted through the Sturgeon River, First Nations crossings, the Catholic Church presence, river lot surveys, and different waves of immigration.
“Before COVID, we had 15 to 20 people on a tour. It was the perfect number to interact and answer the questions people asked. More than 20 and we would split the group. We’re very conscious of sharing information and aspects people are interested in,” said Shari Strachan, museum director.
A new addition, the Art Gallery of St. Albert, joins the roster with two walking tours in August providing background stories about downtown public art.
“The gallery as well as the museum are part of Arts and Heritage, and we’ve had lots of success with events,” art gallery director Leah Louden said. “People are entertained and engaged, and with the pandemic, we can take them outdoors and make it more accessible to people who may not feel comfortable coming to a gallery. This is something they can engage in and enjoy.”
Both the museum and gallery lost attendance during the pandemic, and are currently in a rebuilding stage.
“We’re adding public art because a lot of people still don’t know about it,” Strachan said. “And another thing, different people want different aspects of history. We all interact differently. We come from different places and different aspects of our lives connect in different ways. Every tour is based on the tour leader’s knowledge. It gives variety and different experts tell different stories.”
Each tour focuses on a slightly different aspect of art or St. Albert's history. On Aug. 4 at 6 p.m., Celina Loyer, the museum’s Indigenous programmer, will take visitors on a tour of Indigenous history and contributions, starting at the museum.
On Aug. 11 at 6:30 p.m., there is a public art tour with Louden. She will escort visitors from the gallery on a walking tour of murals, sculptures, and benches.
Following that, on Aug. 18 at 6 p.m. there is a downtown tour organized by the museum that will focus on pre-confederation life and architecture, and will relate events to the present.
On Aug. 25 at 6 p.m. there is a riverside tour that will meet at the museum and strolls along the Sturgeon River up to the Trestle Bridge. Tour leader and museum archivist Vino Vipulanantharaja will discus St. Albert Place's Indigenous influence, architect Douglas Cardinal, and the Steinhauer statues, as well as the Healing Garden, Mission Hill, and river lot settlement before Canada became a country.
For the final tour, on Sept. 7 at 6 p.m., Shari Strachan will lead a Father Lacombe Chapel tour at the top of Mission Hill and relate the history of the chapel, the oldest building in Alberta and once the focal point of the bishop's diocese.
Tour costs are $3 per person. Additional information can be found at www.artsandheritage.ca.