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Bonnyville, Cold Lake museums getting ready to welcome the public

BONNYVILLE – Local museums are almost ready to open their doors and share local history with visitors.

The Bonnyville Museum is aiming for a July 1 opening, while the Cold Lake Museums is planning to welcome people starting June 23.

Morris Mickalyk, board chair for the Bonnyville Museum, said their summer crew is hard at work making sure everything’s in place for residents and tourists who want to take a step back into time to learn about Bonnyville's past.

“It’s important that they keep in touch with their heritage and our history,” he detailed. “It’s basically a free go-to place for people to go and enjoy the grounds.”

There are 13 different buildings located on the museum grounds, including three original structures: the Ardmore Community Church, Aime Segin cabin, and Croteau house. Attendees can also get up close to see the Bonnyville water tower and the J.N. Vallee General Store.

The Bonnyville museum will be operating on a shortened week from Thursday to Saturday. Mickalyk noted that could change depending on the number of people showing up.

“If there’s a demand from the public and tourists every day, we’re going to open up more if required,” he continued.

Their typical season is from May until the end of August but was cut short due to the coronavirus restrictions.

“Since the (lock down) that’s been in place with this COVID-19, we had to watch and see how things were going to progress,” Mickalyk said. “Now, we want to get the public in there and enjoy what we have.”

Safety protocols will be in place once they open, including hand sanitizer being available and the flow of traffic being suggested inside the buildings.

The Cold Lake Museums will also have “COVID-19 best practices” in place once they start to welcome the public back at their location from Tuesday to Saturday.

“We’ve got our signage up, we’ll have hand sanitizing stations at all entrances to all of the galleries, and staff will be briefed and give a talk to people as they enter,” explained Chris Holoboff, chairperson for the Cold Lake Museums. “We’re encouraging, like every business is, people to wear masks when they visit and depending on the number of visitors at any time, we will be asking some people to wait until they enter some galleries until we can clear the area just to make sure that we don’t crowd the space.”

Although they have the protocol in place, Holoboff doesn’t believe overcrowding will be a major issue.

“We don’t anticipate that because we average about 4,000 visitors per year, and if you spread that out over the number of days we’re traditionally open, it doesn’t amount to a huge number. We’re not booking tour groups this year, so that should eliminate any large groups attending.”

Another change this year is interactive displays won’t be available.

“At any museum, you’re encouraged not to touch the artifacts and the areas where we did allow kids and people to touch, we’re asking them not to,” Holoboff detailed.

The Cold Lake Museum houses four galleries: the air force museum, aboriginal gallery, heritage gallery, and an oil and gas gallery. One of the new additions is the radar dome, and the society has plans of adding an observation tower in the coming years.

“It gives people in the community a really good look at the history of the region,” Holoboff noted.

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle

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