Thursday, 21 September 2017

A Welcome from The Alberta Legislature

The Alberta Legislature is not a conventional museum. At first glance, its only artifacts seem to be a building and portraiture of long-forgotten lawmakers who maintain an air of solemnity (despite visiting schoolchildren making fun of Speaker Wilson’s prodigious mustache).

It is much more than that, however.

Our mandate is broad: to educate the public about the functions of government, to share the province’s political and social history, and to let Albertans know that the handsome Beaux-Arts building in the river valley isn’t just a landmark or an office for politicians. It belongs to the people of Alberta.

The Legislature lacks a “Friends of the Museum” society. Our Board of Directors is made up of 87 highly-motivated people selected specifically for their capacity to command attention, argue their points, and Get Things Done. Each is answerable to about 40,000 others throughout the province and nearly all of them tend to disagree with each other. Said Board tends to change every 4 years, often subtly, sometimes dramatically. Furthermore, they do not consider themselves a museum board.
The actual museum activities of the Alberta Legislature are conducted by the Visitor Services branch of the Legislative Assembly Office, headed by the Sergeant-at-Arms and answerable to the Speaker of the House. The Legislative Assembly Office itself is the oft-overlooked non-partisan body that provides services to Members of the Legislative Assembly. We keep the gears of the provincial bureaucracy turning smoothly so that our elected legislators can focus on what they’re here for: legislating!

That non-partisan part above is important. They make us swear an oath! We take it very seriously (our boss has a small force of armed men and carries a sword; we’re not crossing him!)
Visitor Services hosts exhibits, develops activities, and delivers programming to the public 362 days per year. Visitation and programming  occur across the entire 53 acres of Treaty 6 Land that make up the Legislature Grounds (where you can try our new Augmented Reality game: Agents of Discovery), as well as the magnificent Legislature Building itself, a dedicated subterranean Education Centre (more pleasant than it sounds!), and a Visitor Centre nestled into the ground floor of the Edmonton Federal Building (the name’s a long story – ask us!). We welcome approximately 224,000 people annually, most of whom are greeted by our ace team of highly skilled Heritage Interpreters (identified by their charm, fetching splashes of Alberta Tartan, and the fact that they’ve probably already approached you. We’re not subtle. Or shy.).  

Just less than 30,000 of those visitors are booked school tours and programs. Our site school, School At The Legislature, offers up to 35 schools a full week of on-site learning every year for students to really dig into the ins and outs of Westminster Parliamentary Democracy. Nearly 100,000 of our visitors come to the Legislature for special events. For instance, we have the second biggest Canada Day celebration in the world (yes, in the world. Ex-pats have Canada Day parties too, you know!). Our summer Fridays @ The Legislature concert series are a hit, and the Building’s superb acoustics delight visitors during our Celebrate the Season festivities (several hundred thousand lights, site-wide holiday music, and a skating rink don’t hurt either).

Within the Visitor Centre, travelling and curated exhibits are hosted in our Borealis Gallery. The Dream We Form By Being Together, draws on Indigenous practices and understandings and is focused on the theme of reconciliation. Next door is our Pehonan Theatre which shows an immersive film called “Our People Our Province.” This space can be transformed for concerts, film screenings, or talks and panels. The Visitor Centre also houses the Agora Interpretive Centre, an interactive museum space that explores themes of tradition, participation and citizenship. Our retail space, Alberta Branded, is also housed in the Visitor Centre and showcases crafts and artwork by Albertan artisans.
Sometimes art, sometimes history (usually a bit of both), the Borealis Gallery is our world-class space that brings quality exhibits to the people of Alberta. From Magna Carta to works from the Group of Seven, there’s always something interesting on display. Our current exhibition,

We here with Visitor Services at the Alberta Legislature sincerely hope that the delegates from the Alberta Museums Association and the Western Museums Association find their conference time to be engaging, thought-provoking, and professionally useful. We hope that it will also provide ample opportunity to experience the many excellent museums and other amazing sites that Edmonton has to offer. And we hope you get the chance to swing by and see what the Alberta Legislature has to offer!

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