Glenbow - Alberta Institute (Glenbow Museum)

We are Western Canada’s largest museum, with over one million objects in our collection including works of art, cultural artifacts from around the world, and photographs and documents relating to the history of Western Canada. Our vision is for more people to experience art and culture more often. We are passionate about sharing culture and our role is to bring it to life – to make it vivid, meaningful and relevant. Our exhibitions, programs and events are designed to create memorable experiences for all Calgarians.

Visitors at a Glenbow Launch PartyOur Story Why We Exist

Glenbow is Calgary’s cultural cornerstone. Established as a museum in 1966, Glenbow’s mandate is to celebrate and share the history, creativity and beauty of Western Canada. Our purpose is to make art and history accessible and meaningful to our community.

Our collection represents objects and ideas that have shaped the history and culture of the place we live. Glenbow exists to build bridges between history and present; to spark conversations and inspire people to care about art and culture.

Through our exhibitions and programs, we have a unique ability to illuminate and entertain as we introduce our visitors to innovative ideas and important stories from western Canada and around the world. Our goal is to challenge assumptions and spark creativity.

Glenbow is always evolving to provide new ways for Calgarians and visitors to engage with our collection and to share stories about ideas, events, objects and people that fascinate and inspire. Glenbow is a place where people of all ages can learn or get fresh ideas while they explore the galleries or take part in a program. Our hope is that every visitor to the museum has an opportunity to stumble across something unexpected and wonderful.

In 2014, Glenbow was pleased to present the exhibition Where are the Children? organized by the Legacy of Hope Foundation. The exhibition of photographs and archival documents examined the experiences, consequences and ongoing impact of Canada’s residential school system on Aboriginal peoples. During the run of the exhibition, Glenbow offered school program tours of Where are the Children led by one of our Aboriginal educators, Sheldon First Rider, himself a survivor of residential schools. Feedback from a teacher who brought their class to Glenbow for this tour illustrates the impact that thoughtful programming and exhibition interpretation can have on an audience: 

“I knew that (the Where are the Children? exhibition) was a great opportunity to expose my students to real life learning experiences, but I have realized how lucky we were to have had Sheldon tell us his story. It was so much more that what we expected … The children are moved by the stories and want to learn more and make change.”

-          Grade 9 Teacher Feedback on the Where are the Children exhibition and programming

A Glenbow visitor contemplating a sculpture by Katie OheOur Impact What We Do

Glenbow is a member-based, not-for-profit, non-governmental arts and culture organization that is more than an art gallery or museum. For nearly 50 years, a considerable part of Glenbow's mandate has been to support and promote regional artists. In addition to developing new exhibitions that focus on western Canadian creativity, we also bring Calgary exciting travelling exhibitions from around the world.

Each exhibition season includes a show that explores our art and cultural history collections, to connect our collection with the feature exhibitions and share stories that are meaningful to our diverse community. 

Each year, approximately 120,000 guests pass through Glenbow's doors, including more than 60,000 school children who participate in Glenbow’s school programs and educational outreach opportunities. Glenbow hosts an ever-changing array of traveling exhibitions focusing on art and culture from around the world. We tell the story of Southern Alberta and the West to thousands of visitors to our city, and we are a major research centre for historians, writers, students, genealogists, filmmakers and media.

Glenbow creates experiences that can inspire a lifetime of creative curiosity. In addition to our school programs for students from Kindergarten to grade 12, we also program unique events for adults and for families, to offer our visitors unexpected ways to connect with our exhibitions.

Glenbow’s Collection began with the remarkable vision of petroleum entrepreneur and lawyer Eric Lafferty Harvie. He began collecting material relating to the history of Western Canada in the 1950s, developing an extensive collection of artifacts from North America that tell the fascinating story of Aboriginal peoples, frontier exploration, and the development of western Life. He built on these North American collections with extraordinary artifacts and art from Asia, West Africa, South America, and islands in the Pacific, eventually amassing a huge museum collection. Establishing the Glenbow Foundation in 1954, Mr. Harvie's collection became an eclectic blend of western history and international art and artifacts.

When Eric Harvie gifted his collection of art and artifacts to the Province of Alberta in 1966, it formed the basis of the Glenbow Museum collection. Through time, the collection has grown – not just in numbers of artifacts – but in strength, focus and importance. Glenbow’s collection represents the changing history and culture of our city, province and region, and the collection is used daily by students, researchers and visitors to learn, understand and inspire.

Glenbow's Library and Archives is a major research centre for historians, writers, students, genealogists, filmmakers and media. Glenbow's Library holds over 100,000 books, pamphlets, and journals relating to the history of Western Canada, from the time the buffalo roamed the plains to the coming of the railroad, the settlement of the West, and to political, economic, and social events in Alberta today.

Glenbow’s Archives are Canada's largest non-governmental archival repository. It houses a wide-ranging collection of unpublished archival records (such as diaries, letters, minute books, photographs, scrapbooks, speeches, membership lists, films, and sound recordings). The records, which take up five kilometres of shelf space, date from the 1860s to the 1990s, and document not only the people who created them, but also the broader social, political, and economic history of this region. Areas of specialty include First Nations (especially Blackfoot), Mounted Police, pioneer life, ranching and agriculture, the petroleum industry, politics (especially the farmers' movement), labour and unions, women, the arts (especially theatre), and businesses.

Children at Museum SchoolOur Programs How We Do It

Education Programs: Glenbow's school programs and educational outreach opportunities enrich the lives and learning of over 63,000 Alberta students every year, ranging from Kindergarten to Grade 12. Glenbow's educational programs support learning about the history of Alberta while also broadening student knowledge by integrating content from Glenbow's art and cultural exhibitions.

  • Glenbow's School Programs build upon the learning that occurs in the classrooms. Teachers can book half- or full-day workshops on a multitude of topics, and our educators work with teachers to make cross-curricular connections and impart critical thinking skills to students.
  • Glenbow Museum School classes spend a whole week at Glenbow studying and experiencing a wide range of exhibitions and information that are linked to the school curriculum. The week-long programs are collaboratively designed by the school teacher and the Museum School coordinator in order to achieve each teacher's unique goals and create a dynamic learning experience that is a perfect fit for students.
  • Museokits engage active young minds with a miniature museum-in-a-box. Glenbow's 19 different Museokits include objects for display and study, educator notes with student-centered activities and support materials that cover a broad range of curriculum related subjects and grade levels.
  • 21st Century Learning is an online resourse that lets teachers bring Glenbow to their classroom with modules and supplemental educational guides developed by our team of curators and educators. 21st Century Learning offers access to hundreds of images and stories from Glenbow's collection. This project was funded in part by the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation.

Family Programming: Glenbow's family programming is designed to inspire and entertain people of all ages. Everyday, the ARC Discovery Room is the place for visitors to enjoyon activities and explore the ideas featured in Glenbow exhibitions. Three times a year, Glenbowbased activities. Affordable and fun, Weekend at the Museum gets whole families involved in a celebration of creativity and culture.

Adult Programming: Glenbow's special events and programs are designed to encourage active experiences with art and culture. Whether it's an exhibition Launch Party where everyone is invited or an intimate peek behind the scenes, Glenbow's programs get people engaged and excited. Our goal is to make the exhibitions come to life in new ways and give people a shared museum experience that's different from what they get during regular daytime hours.

Our talks and tours connect audience with artists and curators and provide opportunities to explore the ideas and stories behind the exhibitions. We also seek out interesting community collaborations for our events, inviting local artists to lead art making workshops, partnering with restaurants to pair art with food and wine, and connecting with other cultural organizations to offer special theatrical performances and film screenings.

Putting yourself in the picture at GlenbowOur Requests What You Can Do

As a non-profit, member-based organization, only about 30% of Glenbow's funding is provided by government grants and support. The majority of our operating revenue is generated by admissions and memberships, sales in the museum shop, gallery rentals and fundraising. With the help of our partners and supporters, Glenbow provides thousands of visitors with engaging arts and culture experiences each year.

  1. Attend an exhibition or program: Get inspired at Glenbow! See art and culture from around the world and share the stories of Southern Alberta and its diverse and eclectic history. Expand your repertoire of artistic skills at a creative workshop or collect some intersting cultural knowledge from an artist talk or a behind-the-scenes tour. 
  2. Become a Member: Glenbow members represent a community of people inspired by art, history and creativity who make Calgary a cultural hub. When someone invests in a Glenbow Membership, they are taking an active role in supporting arts and culture in our community and supporting the museum at its most fundamental level. 
  3. Adopt an artifact: Symbolically adopting an artwork or historical object from Glenbow's collection is a unique way to support the museum and share a piece of Alberta's cultural history. 
  4. Partner with Glenbow: Sponsor an exhibition or event, an education program or a special access program. There are many creative ways for individuals and corporations to help Glenbow provide great experiences for our audiences while making a strong connection to community investment goals. 
  5. Volunteer at Glenbow: each year, dedicated individuals contribute thousands of hours and unlimited energy and expertise to Glenbow. Both new and veteran volunteers comment on the lasting connections they have made with staff and fellow volunteers, the memorable experiences they have at Glenbow and the opportunities they get for skill development. Most significantly, our volunteers share the pride and sense of belonging they feel working with Glenbow.