The History of The Military Museums
The Museum of the Regiments
Most units, regiments and branches of the Canadian Armed Forces have museums dedicated to their specific history; some are large and well-funded, others are small and struggle to survive. Whatever their size, they are almost always housed separately, even when located within the same base or geographic area.
In the mid to late 1980s, a combination of environmental conditions and lack of public access to the existing regimental museums in Calgary created the catalyst for change. A group of dedicated citizens came together to find ways to preserve the valuable artifacts and archives belonging to the local regiments. When the Department of National Defence (DND) made Sir Sam Steele Junior High School surplus, Calgarians raised $6.5 million to convert the school and create The Museum of the Regiments (MOR).
With the support of DND, the collections of two regular force regiments and two reserve regiments became housed under one roof, each regiment being provided with its own gallery in which to display artifacts, memorabilia and equipment. This greatly enhanced the connection between Canada’s military heritage and the Canadian public, particularly its youth. It also enhanced the pride of veterans and serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces by showcasing their regimental history in a world class facility.
In l990, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the MOR to the public as the upgraded home of four regimental museums: Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), The King’s Own Calgary Regiment (Royal Canadian Armoured Corps), and The Calgary Highlanders.
Later, a fifth museum was added, the Alberta Gallery (later renamed the Army Museum of Alberta), which tells the proud story of the province’s army heritage, especially the branches and corps not represented in the regimental galleries. With the closure of the base and the move of 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group to Edmonton in 1995, the MOR came to be viewed by Calgarians as the public face of the Canadian Armed Forces in Calgary.
The Military Museums (TMM)
In the early 2000’s, the Calgary Military Museums Society (CMMS) joined forces with the Naval Museum of Alberta, Canadian Air Force veterans, three levels of government, corporations, charitable foundations, and the Canadian public to raise $26 million to expand the scope and size of the MOR and to complete extensive interior renovations to the existing structure.
The aim was to convert the MOR into Western Canada’s only tri-service museum and military history education centre. Construction began in 2006 and the MOR changed its name to The Military Museums (TMM). Attendance at TMM increased by 50% within two years.
On 6 June 2009, on the 65th anniversary of D-Day, Her Royal Highness Sophie, The Countess of Wessex, officially opened the new and expanded TMM, which included the addition of the Naval Museum of Alberta and the Air Force Museum of Alberta. A new Library & Archives and space dedicated to temporary art and heritage exhibits called The Founders’ Gallery were also opened as a joint venture with the University of Calgary’s Library and Cultural Resources.
Today The Military Museums host over 50,000 visitors a year from all over the world. Over 10,000 school children participate in a variety of educational programmes and numerous cultural, historic and community events take place throughout the year as well.