As we enter off Stephen Avenue Mall and walk past the 210-seat theatre to the wide central staircase, the conversation that erupted from the minute we got into the car slows. With four floors of art, culture and history and close to 7,500 sq m (81,000 sq ft) of exhibit space – Calgary’s Glenbow Museum was ours for the day.
My girlfriend is an artist. In fact, her work can be found in the museum’s main floor gift shop. A word to the wise: save this discovery for last or you might be permanently distracted by the collection of perfect mementos.
My friend’s passions are art and shopping; I’m all about being outdoors and packing as little as possible. At first glance, we’re worlds apart but when we have a girl’s day together in the city, it’s always memorable. Today we’re sharing our love of history.
A Passionate Collector
Eric Harvie was a Calgary lawyer who struck it rich with an oil discovery in the late 1940s. Soon thereafter, he began collecting art, artifacts and documents that interested him – in particular, those that related to the history of western Canada and southern Alberta. To these he added artifacts and art from Asia, West Africa and South America. In 1966, he donated his extensive collection – over 14,000 pieces – to establish the Glenbow Museum.
The second floor houses much of his collection of historical western art as well as featured exhibitions. You will also find the Art of Asia here – a permanent exhibit showcasing one of North America’s finest collections of Hindu and Buddhist sculptures, sacred objects and art.
On the third floor, western Canadian history takes the spotlight in permanent exhibits that illustrate the culture of the Plains Indians through to the frontier exploration and development that laid the groundwork for the province we see today.
On the fourth floor, international displays include Where Symbols Meet: A Celebration of West African Achievement, Warriors: A Global Journey Through Five Centuries, as well as Treasures of the Mineral World.
The museum rotates pieces from the collection and hosts travelling exhibits from other museums – so there is always a compelling reason for a return visit.
Their Story, My Story
The Glenbow’s collection also tells the stories of people. The third floor focuses on those who made the region what it is today. The dynamic, interactive Mavericks display captures my attention. I’m mesmerized by these 48 adventurous, hard-working men and women – from the no-nonsense gaze of Mother Mary Greene, to the transformation of Mary Schaffer from Philadelphia socialite to mountain matron, to the beauty of the narratives lying within Gushul’s black-and-white portraits.
I pull up short at the life-sized barbed-wire statue of a bucking bronco inspired by the Calgary Stampede’s infamous horse, Cyclone, waiting for the hooves to come crashing down. I can imagine the thrill of seeing him in action. Art comes to life.
I’ve never been a collector of material things, but I am a collector of experiences – thanks for this one, Mr. Harvie.