Beakerhead 2014 Day 5 – The Canadian Museum of Making Tour Part 1

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A few weeks prior to Beakerhead, I saw on the Facebook page a posting for one of the events happening on the very last day of the festival. It was an exclusive tour for 25 people to the Canadian Museum of Making in Cochrane. I immediately signed-up but got word that I was wait-listed. I had known about this private museum for over 7 years now, having been told about it by the railway crew at Heritage Park, but did not know how to secure a tour. I was a little saddened that I was wait-listed, but it’s interesting how things work out. Fast forward to day 2 of Beakerhead and I had received an email saying that I had made it off the waitlist and had two tickets! The other ticket was meant for my father, (who is a certified steam locomotive mechanic – maybe the only one in western Canada) but unfortunately he could not make it out from Vancouver Island in time so I brought along an ex co-worker friend.

Located on the Wild Buffalo Ranch west of Cochrane, it’s proprietor Ian MacGregor began construction in 2001. The entire museum is located underground. This was done to keep a constant temperature with minimal energy requirements and to minimize the visual impact to the surrounding environment.

I lucked out; we were split into two groups, but my group’s tour was led by Ian himself. The tour begins in the old Jamieson house. The house was relocated to the property and became the entrance to the museum, with some modifications and eccentricities installed. For instance, a fireplace made from an old steam traction engine with the smokebox placed on the outside wall and the boiler and engine on the inside forming the fireplace. Visually pleasing, yet functional. The tour descends down the stairs and into a narrow darkened corridor lined with illuminated recesses for displaying various artifacts. It sets the ambiance nicely and it feels as if you are descending into the great pyramid of Giza in Egypt; that you knew you were approaching something extraordinary and jaw-dropping.

The first gallery presents artifacts from Africa. Jewelry, weapons, masks, metalwork, and other objects are meticulously displayed. A great attention to detail; even the ceiling was built to represent structures found in Africa. The tour continues down another set of stairs and another inclined narrow corridor just like the first one with more artifacts on display in illuminated recesses. This corridor comes out in the upper floor library and to what I like to call the two-storey “grand hall” featuring manufacturing and machinery equipment from the 19th century, the Victorian era. The highlight here is “Mary”, a tandem-cylinder, horizontal steam engine that was used to power a weaving mill in England. Below the library are additional display rooms attached to the open “grand hall”.

This concludes Part 1 of the tour. Click on the thumbnails to access the photo galleries. There is a total of 20 photos per thumbnail. Stay tuned for part 2.

Gallery 1

Gallery 2


The Canadian Museum of Making

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