Archives Moment: The legacy of the St. Albert Historical Society lives on

The St. Albert Historical Society (SAHS) disbanded in 2020, after 52 years of existence. Over those years, this society has done tremendous work to preserve St. Albert’s history. Their legacy will live on in many different ways.

The SAHS started off in 1968 as a group of volunteers organized by Father Colin Levangie, OMI to look after displays in the former Musée Lacombe Museum (now known as the Father Lacombe Chapel). The group would be formally incorporated in 1972, and would go on to accomplish many different things to preserve St. Albert’s history. They were responsible for looking after the chapel and its artifacts and prevented the demolition of the Bishop’s Palace on Mission Hill during the 1970s and 1980s. They initiated the process to have both buildings designated as provincial historic sites and provided tours of the buildings.

The SAHS also conducted the first historic buildings inventory in St. Albert in 1978. In 1980 they undertook a project to repair the parish bells on Mission Hill that were out of tune. The SAHS was also heavily involved in the planning of St. Albert Place, the city’s civic, cultural and administrative building, which was completed in December 1983. Within St. Albert Place, they were instrumental in the creation of the Musée Héritage Museum. After the museum opened, the SAHS would donate their artifacts and archives to the museum over the years, and the care for these items would become the museum’s responsibility.The SAHS undertook many community initiatives over the years in St. Albert. They were the first to undertake the Founders’ Walk project to remember community members. This project would morph over the years to the present Founders’ Walk that has resulted in historical panels, landscaping and a walkway to honour St. Albert’s history: http://museeheritage.ca/heritage-sites/founders-walk/.

They have also created many more historic panels on their own on Mission Hill by the Parish Church and Youville home. In 2011, the SAHS undertook a Bison Hunt project to honour the bison hunt that was crucial to the first settlers of St. Albert. The Bison Hunt project resulted in a statue erected on south-east corner of Sir Winston Churchill Ave. and Perron Street.The SAHS is also responsible for creating publications that have become the basis for learning St. Albert’s history. Their publications include, St. Albert: A Pictorial History (1978), Black Robe’s Vision: A History of St. Albert and District (1985), A Week in the Life of St. Albert (1990), and A Bridge Over Time: The Continuing Story of St. Albert (2017). They also helped sponsor a book, The Sun Traveller: The Story of the Callihoos in Alberta, produced by the Musée Héritage Museum. All of these publications are available now with the Musée Héritage Museum: http://museeheritage.ca/about-us/gift-shop/shop-publications/.

All of the society’s accomplishments mentioned above and many more are all very much a part of our community today. These contributions will be felt by many generations to come in St. Albert.

The Musée Héritage Museum is proud to house and care for their records, specifically the SAHS photographic collection, that we have recently made available online on our database: https://archives.museeheritage.ca/sahs-photograph-collection.On the website above, you will be able to look through the hundreds of photographs about St. Albert that the SAHS gathered over the course of their history. You will notice a “quick search” tab on this page. This is where you will press to enter terms you want to search in this particular photographic collection. Once you search your term, you can then click on the “Browse all descriptions” link to get a listing of all the photographs related to your search term. (Please look at the video at the top of this blog to see a walk-through of this process).

So far, we have uploaded almost 1,000 photographs to this collection. We want to thank the countless volunteers and staff who made this possible, who worked many years on this. We still have hundreds of more photographs to process from the SAHS collection, which we will upload to our database as we process them. We are really excited to be able to share these photos on our website for the first time and looking forward to sharing more of the SAHS photos that most people have never seen before.

The SAHS photographic collection is part of the larger SAHS fonds, which is the total body of records from the society.

We are actively processing the rest of these records so that they can be viewed by the public. We hope that as we process all these records and make them available to the public, people will continue to recognize the SAHS and the important contributions they have made to our community.

We are honoured that the SAHS has entrusted the Musée Héritage Museum, part of the Arts and Heritage Foundation of St. Albert, with their collections and will continue on with the important work that the society has been doing over the years.

The Archives department at the museum continues the work of preserving, scanning, digitizing and sharing our archival materials with the community. For more information about the Musée Héritage Museum Archives go to: Musee Heritage Museum Archives.