More Than Meets the Eye at Kronau Museum

Travelling exhibits, art classes for kids and a community library are just a few examples of the unique offerings available at the Kronau Museum.

A large sign beside Highway 33 directs visitors toward the museum, located inside a restored church and surrounded by groomed shrubs, potted flowers and manicured lawns. It’s clear Kronau values its museum.

For volunteer Rhonda Lamb, the most rewarding part of the museum is the opportunities for building the community.

“The community is really coming together around our programming,” Lamb said.

“It’s important for us to develop relationships with families in the community. We want the kids to feel like this is their museum, and that they have a lot of say with what we do.”

Lamb is the treasurer of the Bethlehem Heritage Society, which strives to preserve the history of Kronau. This volunteer group oversees all aspects of museum operations, including building renovations, program development, fundraising and exhibit curation.

“With our exhibits, we try to relate the past to the present,” Lamb said. “Our main mission is to tell stories and to bring a contemporary view to history. Every story we write, everything we do, it has to relate to today.”

During the pandemic quarantine, people spent unusual amounts of time at home, which inspired many to take up kitchen and home-based hobbies. The museum’s exhibit “Back to Basics” is dedicated to common hobbies of the past which have become trendy pandemic quarantine activities. This includes bread baking, gardening and canning home preserves.

People have relied heavily on online shopping during the pandemic, so the exhibit points out similarities between modern shopping practices and those of the past – primarily, the catalogue.

“We have a scanned copy of an Eaton’s catalogue from 1913,” Lamb said about the book, which sits on display outside of the protective glass so visitors can thumb through it.

“The original catalogue would be too delicate to touch, so this way it can be enjoyed.”

Inside the scanned 1913 Eaton’s catalogue. Photo by Deanna Patterson.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the museum’s operations. Volunteers were forced to find creative ways to stay connected to the community, with one solution to take the museum on the road.

Volunteers developed a program called “Museum in a Suitcase,” which are portable exhibits for classrooms and seniors’ centres to enjoy. Each suitcase presents a different topic – one is based on agriculture, another on rural schoolhouses, and a third focuses on military history of the Kronau area.

Enthusiastic volunteers are responsible for growing the museum’s programming and community outreach. The museum even hires two summer students each year, whose responsibilities include preparing summer camps, looking after artifacts, maintaining museum grounds and managing the website.

Tianna Chorney is studying theatre and English at the University of Regina. She was hired as a Kronau Museum summer student in 2021 and continued teaching art classes during the fall semester.

“I’ve always wanted to work in a museum,” said Chorney. “I like to go for jobs that aren’t just retail or service for summer jobs, and I try to find something a bit different that will add to my skills.”

Chorney’s main duties were designing two day camps for kids and delivering the Museum in a Suitcase program to seniors’ centres.

The day camps were filled all summer, and due to their popularity, the museum decided to offer kids’ art classes during the fall. Once art class sessions are finished, the students will host an event to present their artwork to the community.

“I really enjoyed working there,” Chorney said. “It was probably my favourite summer job I ever had. When they asked if I wanted to do an art class, I said, ‘Yes, please!’”

Artifacts, exhibits, and history lessons aren’t the only things guests can enjoy. Volunteers also organize community events to promote the museum, such as the Annual Family Festival in July.

“Typically, there are kids’ activities outside, like games and prizes,” Lamb said. “We bring in a band, we have a barbecue concession, there’s bingo, tours of the museum, all sorts of things running all day.”

The museum was unable to put on the Family Festival in 2020, but a smaller version was held in 2021. The main activity offered was a scavenger hunt bingo, which encouraged visitors to explore the museum a bit more closely.

The pandemic has also impacted regular monetary donations, causing stress on the museum’s projects.

“The biggest challenge we’ve had (from COVID) is funding,” Lamb said. “But funding is always an issue. We’ve done lots of hot dog sales, raffles, bottle drives, and we just did a fowl supper. That was the first fundraiser we were able to have in two years.”

Despite the challenges, the Kronau Museum has managed to find inventive ways to draw visitors, aside from artifacts and exhibits.

The Kronau Museum is open May to August, with tours available by appointment year-round. Admission is by donation.

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