Good museums are like time machines, transporting you back to long-gone eras and prompting you to sense how life was once lived. Housed in a century-old former door and sash factory, Carberry Plains Museum is an excellent example of museum-as-time-machine.
The museum building was constructed around 1900 by Carberry entrepreneur James White who was also a local contractor. Besides the sash and door factory, White ran a hardware store, flour mill, planing mill, foundry, blacksmith shop, paint shop and carriage works, all of which were located in his buildings on the same block.
The large space housing Carberry Plains Museum is divided into “rooms” loaded with artifacts richly conveying various aspects of past life on the Canadian prairies. Included is a fully-stocked kitchen, rural school, general store, chapel, living room, farm workshop and more areas devoted to yesterday.
Unique to the museum is the world’s largest collection of Stanley Knowles memorabilia, militaria from when the town was an RAF training base, original paintings by early entomologist Norman Criddle and a display from the local baseball dynasty. There’s even a teacup Queen Elizabeth sipped from. The museum also honours local residents Tommy Douglas, Ernest Thompson Seton and Wop May.
The display of Criddle Vane memorabilia is quite wonderful and appropriate since the homestead is nearby. Family pictures, drawings by various family members and an exemplary pinned moth display round out the Criddle area.
The museum has a Barbie doll display, a great collection of women’s hats from the 1940s to 1960s, and the inevitable hair wreath, this one especially elaborate and eerie.
Next to and part of the museum is the two-storey gingerbread house built by James White in 1900. Though some of its original detailing is gone, the house remains a magnificent example of the style and the era inside and out. Only two others like it exist in Canada.
The museum is located in Carberry at 520 4th Avenue, also known as
James White Way. Informative and fascinating tours of the museum and gingerbread
house are offered daily in the summer and admission is $5. Off-season tours can be arranged. Expect to spend one to two hours. The museum is wheelchair accessible but the gingerbread house is not. Just three minutes south of the Trans Canada Highway, Carberry Plains Museum is worth the trip and the cash.