A National Pride: Alberta’s Gift to the Nation

On September 27th, 2016, Heritage Park Historical Village, with the Province of Alberta, City of Calgary and Bank of Montreal announced its 2017 project in conjunction with Canada’s 150th anniversary year. 

A National Pride: Alberta’s Gift to the Nation involves the complete restoration of one of Canada’s national treasures: a 1905 wooden Colonist Rail Car, one of only two left in the country, and a cross-Canada tour of a separate exhibit and performance about the Colonist Car. 

Colonist Car #1202

Heritage Park has been in possession of Colonist Car #1202 since 1964. It was originally donated to the Park by Canadian Pacific Rail for preservation and educational purposes for its role in the greatest single wave of immigration in Canadian history and the settlement of Western Canada.   At 111 years old and made of wood, the car was in dire need of repair.  Restoration work has begun on site, and will continue over the next couple of years. Visitors to Heritage Park Historical Village will be able to watch the restoration process unfold. Once work is complete, the car will re-open on permanent display in the Park’s Railway Car Shop and will be used as the centre piece to the Park’s daily programming and in a key role in the education programs. This project was made possible in thanks to the City of Calgary for their grant of up to $750,000.00 towards the restoration of the Colonist Car.

Journey of a Lifetime - travelling exhibit and performance

The story behind Colonist car #1202 is of national significance. Heritage Park, with lead sponsorship from BMO Financial Group with a one million dollar donation, support from the Province of Alberta of $750,000.00 and a generous donation from individual donor, Joan Snyder, has created a travelling exhibit and performance that will provide a tangible connection to the legacy of this national treasure.  The interactive and immersive exhibit is accompanied by a performance that brings to life the experience of thousands of settlers who travelled across Canada on a Colonist Car. The exhibit and performance launched at Heritage Park on July 1, 2017, the Park’s 53rd anniversary, and remained on site until the end of August. The exhibit then began a cross-Canada journey in September 2017, with a two week run at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax and with five additional stops across the country, over a 12 week period. The exhibit and performance are being designed to appeal to all Canadians, school aged to adult and will be tweaked slightly to aid in integrating historical elements and landscapes to the different regions of Canada.

“This is a Canadian story of embracing immigration, then and now,” says Alida Visbach, Heritage Park President and CEO.  “Canada is a cultural mosaic and this car, exhibit and performance will represent the stories of Canada’s early immigrants, while allowing today’s Canadians to share their own stories.”    The tour coincides with Canada’s 150th anniversary and the Bank of Montreal’s 200th anniversary.  “We are thrilled that BMO Financial Group has taken a lead sponsorship role on this timely gift to the nation,” says Visbach.  “Their contribution to the cross-Canada railway and settlement of western Canada was paramount, and their legacy will be shared with all Canadians through this exhibit and performance.”

“Much like BMO, this colonist car has a rich history dating back to Canadian settlement, and we are thrilled to contribute to its restoration and the telling of its story to a national audience,” said Susan Brown, Senior Vice President, Alberta and North West Territories Division, BMO Bank of Montreal. “We are eager to see the finished product, and for it to become a part of the Calgary community where visitors of Heritage Park, one of our longstanding partners, can enjoy it for years to come.”

Watch here for updates on the restoration project and cross-Canada tour.

Journey of a Lifetime National Tour Dates:

City Date Location
Halifax, NS Sept. 14 - 25, 2017 Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
Gatineau, QC Sept. 30 - Oct. 5, 2017 Canadian Museum of History (performance only - no exhibit)
Kitchener, ON Oct. 15 - 20, 2017 Waterloo Region Museum
Winnipeg, MB Oct. 28 - Nov. 5, 2017 The Manitoba Museum
Edmonton, AB Nov. 13 - 18, 2017 Legislative Assembly Visitor Centre (travelling exhibit)
Fort Edmonton Capitol Theatre (live performance)
Vancouver, BC Nov. 25 - Dec. 3, 2017 Museum of Vancouver



More information

Blog Post #1 - A Canadian Story, Embracing Immigration

Blog Post #2 - Colonist Car Reveals Its True Identity

Blog Post #3 - Uniquely Canadian

Blog Post #4 - 3D Printing

Journey of a Lifetime, Presented by BMO Financial Group

"Drawn by the dream..." article and interactive infographic




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