Synopsis & Main Exhibits
The Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre rests on a site of importance to Peace River history, overlooking the Peace and Heart rivers. The Museum emerged through the combined efforts of the Peace River Women’s Institute, the Sir Alexander Mackenzie Historical Society and the Town of Peace River as a Canada centennial project in 1967. Its collection encompasses the Town of Peace River and Shaftesbury Trail.
The Town of Peace River takes its name from the mighty river running through it. This same river was a main transportation route connecting northern territories and people for thousands of years. In the 1770s a peace pact was forged between the battling Beaver and Cree Nations. It was at this time that the river’s name changed from the River of Beavers to Rivière du la Paix (Peace River). Stories of these events and the people who plied the river are featured in the Museum.
The artifact and archival collection comprises the diversity of the human and natural heritage of the Peace River Country. Among some of the most significant objects in the collection are the reassembled stones from one of the chimneys (fireplaces) and a tin-pierced lantern found at Fort Fork; where Mackenzie over-wintered 1792-1793. The era of the sternwheelers and river travel is represented through the wheelshaft of our largest sternwheeler, the S.S. D.A. Thomas along with other pieces from the boats of the Peace.
The Archives is accredited with the Archives Society of Alberta and is an integral part of the Museum’s ability to tell the stories of the community. This signature collection comprises approximately 10,000 photographs and negatives – some dating as far back as the 1890s.
The Museum’s fort façade emphasizes the area’s historical role in Canada’s fur trade commerce. One gallery is dedicated to this period, exhibiting two canoes paddled by modern-day followers of Alex Mackenzie and David Thompson, original artifacts excavated from the Northwest Company Fort Fork and a 1880s fur press. Two more galleries with rotating exhibits and a research library offer visitors enticement to stay and explore the history of the Peace Country. Museum staff is available to assist with research requests for information and photographic reproduction.
The Museum Gift Shop offers a unique selection of locally produced and created items and historical publications.
Off site, the Northern Alberta Railways (NAR) station, a mile or so north of the Museum, houses many railway- related items. The station is a provincially designated historic site – the oldest station (1916) of its kind remaining in Alberta and serves as the Visitor Information Centre.