Though always referred to as the Hanna Museum, it should be renamed Hanna Pioneer Village. From one building in 1966, the complex has grown to include 16 historical buildings, some modern structures house artifacts including the pioneer farm machinery display and several lesser structures.
The idea of a museum began with the late Ferguson James, indeed it was his dream and he made it happen. With his long residence here, his knowledge and love of the prairie and its people and his genial personality, success was practically assured. He gathered him a group of old-timers who put in thousands of hours of volunteer labor in those beginning years.
Beginning in 1964 at a meeting supported by many individuals and organizations, The Hanna and District Historical Society was formed, with the sole purpose of establishing a museum in Hanna. During 1966 and 1967, the main building, formerly a two-roomed school, was in place and renovated. A large number of items were on display.
Remarkable progress was made through the years. People from the whole area and the town came forward with artifacts, common to every aspect of prairie life.
Historical buildings acquired and placed on the museum grounds include a ranch house (1912), general store (1913), cottage hospital (1918), railroad station (1920), caboose and hand cars, power house (1924), rural school (1920s), church (pre 1920s), band stand (1920s), telephone office (1929), barn, bell tower, windmill and jail cell. Board sidewalks provide a touch of earlier days. And to include the time before white men came, a buffalo rubbing stone was brought in from the Dowling area. It weighed in at six tons and can be seen in front of the main building.
In 1980, a new department, the archives, was launched. Its purpose is to collect all the written and pictorial history of the area. It now contains hundreds of photos, official documents, records of organizations, war memorials local histories, local accounts and works of writers, and micro-film of all issues of The Hanna Herald from 1912 to the present.
The museum is open full time during the summer months, with staff to guide tours and by appointment at any other time. An attendant is always on hand.
Each year the Historical Society holds Pioneer Days on the May long weekend, two days of activities for young and old, including church service, royalty competition, breakfast, museum tours, bingo and sports.
The work of the historical society is an ongoing process. Through the years new materials have been constantly added, improvements to buildings and displays made.
Improvements to the rural school have been so extensive that it was used as a model for the rural school which is part of a travelling display which the Alberta Museums Association prepared and shows in various centres in Alberta.
Currently a machinery shed has been re-roofed and ready for a cement floor.
Use of the archives for research increases yearly.
The first antique automobile, a 1928 Pontiac will soon be on display.
The grounds are well kept; every attempt is made to maintain the area as a show place of which Hanna can be proud.
Text courtesy of The Hanna Herald