Western Development Museum tour

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A photo of the Western Development Museum that was taken during better days – sunny and snowless. SriMesh via Wikimedia

Spot the differences between Boom Town and Red Dead Redemption 2

Museums are a great place to learn more about the history of the place you are at. The use of models and historical items enable museums to bring history to life. I recently had the opportunity to go to the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon with friends and check out the exhibits and attractions.

One of the main attractions of the Western Development Museum is Boom Town, a life-size model of what the main street in a Saskatchewan town would have looked like in 1910. You can walk down the street, enter buildings, and see what it would have been like to walk down the street.

Starting on the left side is a simple house with a car parked out front. In the front yard of the house was a bike, one with a giant front wheel and very small back wheel; I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything less comfortable looking in my life. Next was a harness shop with a horse and buggy parked out front. The vehicles on the street create an interesting perspective of wealth in this time. Very few people could afford cars and some only had horse-pulled wagons. There were many more cars than horses on the street, showing a change in the times.

There was also a blacksmith’s shop and a general merchant’s store, which makes you feel like you’re playing Red Dead Redemption 2. It’s fascinating to see the prices of things in 1910, especially with current discussions of inflation and cost. Above the general merchant was the dentist’s office leading to the upper balcony. The dentist’s office wasn’t incredibly exciting, but that might be because I left quickly due to the fact that dentists scare me.

Next was the drug store and the doctor’s office above it. The fun part of the doctor’s office was trying to name all the different medical tools on display in the room, even though I was quite bad at it. It was interesting to look at the drug store and observe the different types of medicines that were used then, and what’s still used now. Some of them showed ingredients lists – many had a significant amount of alcohol in them. Following this was the police station, which had audio clips of what it was like to view crime as an officer in 1910. Inside the station was a jail cell that is open during non-COVID times, but we were unable to go inside the cell due to restrictions.

Then there was the church, prepped and ready for a funeral, showcasing mourning clothing and coffins for both adults and babies. Next to the church was a school with a Union Jack flag flying outside. While it feels like the Canadian flag has been around forever, the maple leaf wasn’t instituted as Canada’s flag until the 1960s. The school’s chalkboard was written on, showing what kids would have learned in the 1910s.

I don’t want to spoil everything in Boom Town, so I’ll finish things off with my favourite spots. As someone who writes for a newspaper, I loved the Daily Phoenix newspaper office and seeing the equipment they used to create the paper. The clock repair store was surprisingly interesting, being able to see all the different ways people used to tell time. I spent the longest time in the bank, comparing what they have to the bank robbing mission in Red Dead Redemption 2 with my friend, and I found it to be one of the most interesting buildings in Boom Town.

There is a scavenger hunt around for kids with an accompanying sheet of paper as a guide; as adults, it was still fun to do the scavenger hunt. We didn’t get the sheet guide, but we didn’t need it. Around Boom Town were little signs featuring a bike and a letter of the alphabet. It makes you feel incredibly accomplished to find one of these letters.

During this museum visit, a group of children were doing the scavenger hunt while my friends and I were looking at the things in the drug store. One of my friends works in the medical field and was explaining what some of the medicines do when a gaggle of children walked into the room, pointed at my friend and yelled “You!” because directly behind my friend was the letter U for the scavenger hunt. My friend turned around with the most confused and panicked look on his face as these children approached him with pointed hands before realizing they were going for the sign behind him. It was incredibly funny, and one of my favourite moments from the museum trip.

Part of the museum is the Boom Town Café, a little restaurant. The menu is small but has enough for a sit-down lunch. A cinnamon bun cost $2.50 and a slice of pie was $3. I highly recommend the Boom Town Café if you’re looking for a good, cheap lunch while at the museum.

In the middle of this museum with historical items and exhibits was a fun house, which felt super out of place. Inside the fun house was a hall of mirrors and a couple of clowns. Sure, it was fun for kids, but I found it strange and off-putting. The strangest part of the museum was the bathrooms. The women’s bathrooms have four open toilets and two private stalls. You can just use the toilet out in the open if you truly want to while at the Saskatoon Western Development Museum. I don’t understand the reasoning behind this. There is no logic behind open toilets. Is anyone actually using them? Why?

I barely scratched the surface of what’s available at the Saskatoon Western Development Museum, and I highly recommend you check it out for yourself at 2610 Lorne Avenue in Saskatoon if you have a chance. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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