Museum of the Highwood

The Museum of the Highwood is a place to learn about and be inspired by the Highwood area’s rich heritage and culture. We strive to preserve and share this unique history; enlightening visitors and encouraging citizens to build a better future with a connection to the past. Here’s an example:

An envelope from Holland arrived at the museum. Inside was a notecard and a vintage postcard. On the front of the postcard is a black and white street view photograph (circa 1900) of three businesses and handwritten, “High River Alta., N.W.T., Jan. 14th ’06. Best wishes and Love to all from yours truly Willie”

The notecard read, “Dear museum: I picked up this card at a market in Amsterdam. Perhaps you can use this for your collection and identify the place of the buildings. With many greetings,  Jan Kryff, Heemstede, Netherlands.” Identifying the place of the buildings was relatively easy (north side of 4th Ave SW), but the mystery of the travels of this postcard became the project of passion for curator, Irene Kerr. The postcard was addressed to E. Short of Yorkshire, England. One of the first pioneer families to settle in the High River area was the Short family and the fifth oldest child was William (born 1877).  Although this branch of the Short family was born in Canada, their roots go back to Northern England. We cannot confirm that William was the sender, nor the receiver a distant relative, and have no idea how the card ended up in a market in Amsterdam in 2018, but are sure grateful for Jan’s desire to purchase it and send it ‘home’ to High River.

The story of the postcard was reported in the High River Times newspaper and read by a local couple who would be traveling ‘home’ to the Netherlands for a visit in the summer. They came to the museum and picked up a thank you package including a copy of the newspaper featuring ‘Jan’s’ postcard. But the sleuthing was not over yet, this time it was the Branders who had the task ahead of them, as they learned once they arrived in the Netherlands that the return address on the envelope was incomplete! Fortunately, Trynette is just as determined a detective as Irene, and an excited face-to-face meeting of High River with Heemstede took place. New friends were made thanks to an old postcard and the desire of people to connect!Annually, the Museum of the Highwood delivers curriculum-based programs to about 800 local students, particularly supporting their study of First Nations, pioneers and settlers, Christmas past, the history of High River. These lively programs help elementary and middle-school children discover what it was like to grow up in pioneer times in the Highwood region and include activities such as making butter, an old fashioned barn dance, examining artifact and archival photographs, and experiencing First Nations traditions and story-telling. There is a special emphasis on local landmarks, such as the Medicine Tree, Old Woman Buffalo Jump, and the Okotoks Erratic. Our specially-designed Imagination Station features a replica historic house/dress-up area, general store, and one-room school. In the New Country New Life program they learn the similarities of immigrating in the early 1900s and immigrating today. Additionally, the museum offers outreach programs to classes that find travel to the museum difficult.

Seniors bus tours are one-hour escorted tours that cater to the connections seniors hold with former Prime Minister Joe Clark, writer W.O. Mitchell, and Calgary Stampede founders George Lane, Guy Weadick and Flores LeDue.

The theme of the annual cemetery tour changes every year — Highwood Memorial, Stampede, Military, Missus, Ranchers & Rodeo, Common Ground, Lasting Legacies, and Quirky Characters

The biennial Historic Homes Tour is a very special self-guided tour where some residents volunteer to open their historic homes and gardens to ticket-bearing guests. Participants travel from all over Alberta to join in the fun of comparing archival pictures to the current house and hearing the stories of the people who have lived there over the past century or more.Financial support – The museum is looking to raise $86,000 (about 23% of the annual operating budget) in 2020 through donations, special events, and special project/employment grants. We have allocated $4,000 for fundraising expenses, only 4.5%. Please see the donations link below or visit our website at

Volunteer – The biennial Historic Homes Tour is a perfect volunteer opportunity to become familiar with the museum and the town, make new acquaintances and reap the rewards of your efforts immediately. This town-wide event requires many hands to help the museum and homeowners prepare for the big day, as well as help the nearly 2000 participants on ‘tour’ day. Planning starts early in the new year (February 2020) and culminates in the final event early in September. Please contact Irene Kerr at the museum for more details if interested. Phone 403-652-7156 or email [email protected]

Board members – Board members usually reside in the Highwood/Foothills area or have an ancestral connection to the region; all meetings are held at the museum in High River. There will be three positions to be filled at the Annual General Meeting in March 2020, including the role of Secretary. An understanding of the governance and workings of a small charity are essential. Please contact Irene Kerr at the museum if interested. Phone 403-652-7156 or email [email protected]

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