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Prospective museum to display over 10,000 tools

The Big Valley Historical Society hopes to open a new museum to display an extensive collection of historical tools
Rod Miller of Big Valley shows off one of his favourite pieces in his massive tool collection.

The Big Valley Historical Society hopes to open a new museum to display an extensive collection of historical tools donated by resident Rod Miller.

“It’s something that you need to put out so the world can see,” said Dan Welter, fundraising chair for the historical society. “Rod has done an amazing job of putting this collection together, but now it needs to be showcased.”

The historical society estimates that there are over 10,000 tools in the collection, though Welter said it’s probably closer to 30,000.

“There are a lot of tools,” he said.

That there are. About 3,500 of the tools are currently displayed in a rail car, from animal clippers to sledgehammers to wrenches to a primitive nail gun. There’s a grizzly trap, a doughnut roller, a hay cutter, and vacuum tube testers – anything you could ever want to do, Miller has a tool for it. The rest of his collection resides in his shop, where there is box after box of spark plugs and jar after jar of old keys.

The oldest tool he has is from 1858, but Miller doesn’t know what it’s for.

A lot of the tools are from the late 19th century up to the ‘20s and ‘30s.

“We need to show this to the world,” Welter said. “To this town, it’s worth a lot. To Alberta Prairie (Railway Excursions), to a lot of the Stettler businesses that kind of benefit from the train, it’s worth a lot. Motels and hotels in Stettler benefit a lot from the train, and this would just up that.”

Miller started collecting tools 30 years ago when he picked up two items at an auction without knowing what they were, so he decided to find out. And from then on, the collection grew.

“I just kept buying and buying and collecting and collecting,” he said.

None of the pieces have been donated to him, and he doesn’t know how much he has spent on the collection.

“Just lots,” he said.

He has a lot of favourite pieces in the collection. One of those is a large black knife, which he wields with relish while showing it off.

“I usually tease women about this one that Henry VIII probably used this on one of his wives,” he said. “I think it’s a butchering tool, and they would split an animal in half.”

Now that the historical society has the collection, it’s raising funds to build a museum to house the entire thing. The society owns a lot next to the Big Valley Creation Science Museum, which is where the proposed museum will go.

As a fundraiser, the historical society is putting on a Vegas Theme Night on June 7. Tickets are $100 and the event includes cocktails, dinner, dance, and live auction.

Items up for bid include signed hockey cards from the year Canada won the Summit Series against Russia and a guitar signed  by Nickelback, among others.

“It’s going to be a major event,” Welter said. “We’re hoping to attract 1,000 people for the dinner and dance.”

The historical society hopes that the fundraiser will provide the last of the money needed to begin construction on the tool museum. The society wants to open displays to the public in 2014/2015, and have the entire project done in three to four years.

“It’s world class,” Welter said. “You won’t find another collection this size in North America for sure.”