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.
H.H. Mitchell was hired in 1913 as the Museum’s first full-time employee. He was an avid preparator and naturalist. In just one year, Mitchell prepared an amazing 350 display specimens of wildlife, fossils and historical artifacts! These artifacts helped to rebuild the Museum’s collection which had been damaged by the tornado in 1912. Many of these specimens are still in the Museum’s collection today.
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.
A fire devastated the Museum on the night of February 16, 1990. The fire began in the First Nations Gallery which was under construction. While only a small area was destroyed by the flames, the greatest damage was inflicted by the dense smoke which permeated the entire building. Everything in the Museum was coated in a thick layer of black soot. As a result, the Museum was closed to the public for over four months to allow for clean up and restoration. While the fire was disastrous, it may have actually been a blessing in disguise. The Museum was allotted additional time for the development of the First Nations Gallery and for the re-development of the Life Sciences Gallery. This greatly enhanced the galleries’ final presentation.
T.rex Discovery Centre
The idea for a world-class facility to house the fossil record of the Eastend area started many years before the discovery of "Scotty" the T. rex in 1991. In 1988 the Town of Eastend, Saskatchewan created the Eastend Tourism Board. This 10-member volunteer committee worked with the Town Council, members of the community, rural residents and business people. Through a series of public meetings the most important item the local people identified was the need for a palaeontological center to showcase the rich fossil record of the Frenchman River Valley and the Cypress Hills. On February 14, 2013 the T.rex Discovery Centre became a part of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum.
“The Royal Saskatchewan Museum has had a long involvement with the T.rex Discovery Centre and is well-positioned to operate the facility because of its expertise, not only in palaeontology, but also in exhibits, programming and visitor experience,” Culture and Sport Minister Kevin Doherty said. “The RSM will operate the facility in alignment with its mandate for palaeontology, heritage and cultural stewardship.”