Retired rancher donates $10,000 to back new Big Valley museum

The Big Valley Historical Society’s plans for a new museum got a healthy shot in the arm last weekend when Herb Knowles donated $10,000

The Big Valley Historical Society’s plans for a new museum got a healthy shot in the arm last weekend when Herb Knowles donated $10,000 to the society.

Knowles, a retired rancher from the Byemoor area, now lives in Stettler. His previous work as a volunteer worker with the museum got him interested in the project.

“For a small organization like us, Herb’s donation is outstanding,” said Allan Johnston, president of the Big Valley Historical Society. “It is the largest donation to date by an individual.”

The Knowles donation brings the fundraising effort to the halfway mark. The proposed new museum building, 40-x-100 feet, is projected to cost $200,000. That doesn’t include all the finishing work inside.

The new structure will house, among other things, the Rod Miller tool collection, comprised of more than 10,000 pieces that Miller has donated to the museum.

“I wanted to see the museum for Rod’s tools become a reality, so Rod could see his tools on permanent display,” Knowles said.

According to the museum’s curator, Lois Miller, the donation by Rod Miller is much more than his tool collection. It also includes two parlour heaters, one of which is nickel-plated with an estimated value of more than $30,000, a truck that has a cab of mainly wood components, the parade-famous tubmobile, and his wife Ione’s porcelain doll collection with display cabinets.

The two Millers aren’t related.

“We have no more room here to display things,” said Lois Miller, stressing the need for an additional building. “We still have many boxes of artifacts in storage and Rod (Miller) has more things to come yet from his home.”

Everything, except all the funding, is in place for the new museum. A lot has been purchased and cleaned up, surveying has been done, an architect’s drawing is complete and a contractor has been secured.

“The location couldn’t be better,” Rod Miller said.

The new museum will have a prominent location on Railway Avenue, just north of the Big Valley Creation Science Museum, in close proximity of the railway station, where Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions brings thousands of visitors each year to Big Valley.

Lois Miller has been working on grant applications in hopes of landing government grants, but so far the organization hasn’t been successful.

“We are ready to go — it’s just a question of financing now,” Johnston said.

“Perhaps with more awareness of our project, some more funds will shake loose from other sources.”

Besides the new museum project, the Big Valley Historical Society is also in charge of the McAlister Garage museum, the Blue Church, the grain elevator and the railcar display.

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