The Museum's Beginnings
A large boulder with a carved face was found on December 25, 1905 by Charles Noddings from the Beaver Hills area. The boulder was unlike any other he had ever seen. Believing the stone was ancient, Noddings donated the Beaver Hills Petroglyph to the Province of Saskatchewan. This was the stimulus for the creation of a provincial museum.
The Museum was formed in 1906 to "secure and preserve natural history specimens and objects of historical and ethnological interest." It was the first museum in Saskatchewan, and the first provincial museum in the three Prairie Provinces. That same year, $557.70 (approximately $10,000 today) was set aside for the purchase of "Natural History Specimens."
Several mounted birds were purchased and incorporated in a provincial exhibit at the Dominion Fair, Halifax, during 1906. Following the Fair, the birds were returned to the Department of Agriculture to form the nucleus of the Provincial Museum.
In the beginning, the new museum lacked a clear collections policy and acquired an interesting variety of objects, including: a collection of postage stamps of the world, an old horseshoe, Hindu embroidery, Zulu necklaces, a girdle and shield, Mesopotamia greeting cards, Mexican feather work, a Jamaican hat, a U.S. 3 cent bill, A History of Scotland (vol. 1), one polar bear foot and a boot worn by Captain Scott on the South Pole expedition.
Initially, the Museum was under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture. The Museum's one staff member was T.N. Willing, who was also the Chief of Weeds and Game. In 1911 Fred Bradshaw, who was the Chief Game Guardian, inherited responsibility for the Museum. Bradshaw became the Museum's first full-time director in 1928.
The Museum's Homes
The Museum's collections moved to various locations within Regina from 1906 to 1945, including the Regina Trading Company Building, the Provincial Legislative Building and the Normal School. The collections were always on public display except during World War II. The Museum was put into storage and moved to the General Motors Building during this time because the Normal School was required for the Commonwealth Air Training Plan. However, one year later, the GM building was needed for wartime production and the Museum was again relocated, this time to the Pilkington's Glass Company Building. After being exposed to freezing temperatures, basement floods, and the threat of insect infestation, the Museum was moved out of storage and back into the Normal School in 1944. The Museum was reopened to the public one year later.
The need for "a new building specially planned for museum purposes" had been identified as early as 1913. Forty years later, with the aid of the lobbying efforts of the Regina Natural History Society and the Saskatchewan Archaeological Society, the Government of Saskatchewan decided to construct a new museum building.
The new building was a Golden Jubilee project, created to mark Saskatchewan's 50th anniversary in confederation. In 1953, the construction of the museum building began. After years of relocating, this would be the Museum's first permanent home. The original cost of the building was expected to be $500,000; however, the end cost totaled $1.5 million (approximately $11.2 million today).
Governor-General Vincent Massey opened the Museum's new home on May 16, 1955. With 20,000 square feet (1858 square metres) of gallery space, plus laboratories, work areas, office and storage space, the Museum no longer had to worry about overcrowding and the threat of being forced to relocate. The new extensive amount of gallery space provided room for large scale dioramas to depict many areas of the province.