The T-33 T-Bird aircraft is loaded onto a truck at the Cold Lake Museums on September 6th to make its journey to Calgary – Photo by Janae Wandler / The Courier News 

The Cold Lake Museums wrapped up a successful 2022 season by saying goodbye to a piece of history destined for Calgary. The Museums closed their doors to guests for another season on August 26th.

On September 6th, crews were hard at work at the museum grounds loading a T-33 T-Bird aircraft onto a truck where it will make the 600 km journey south to the Air Force Museum of Alberta in Calgary. The aircraft, with tail number 133413, will be put on exhibit with an F-5, F-86 Sabre, a CF-104 Starfighter, and an F-18 Hornet for their Cold War exhibit.

“Our season was great this year,” says Cold Lake Air Force Museum Curator Wanda Stacey.  “With most of the restrictions removed, a museum visit seemed to be the perfect thing for most people, particularly if they still felt uncomfortable in a large crowd setting. Our visitor numbers are steadily increasing, with a 12% increase from last season, even before our fall and winter shopping hours.  Group tour bookings were phenomenal, and we were so glad to have the cadets visit us again this season.”

“This was also the first season where we had set admission fees rather than a voluntary suggested donation, and it was also a success. For less than the average cost of a family to dine out or go see a movie, you can spend the day here instead!”

Several exhibits this year were new and exciting, says Stacey, including one that documented an interesting and controversial time around CFB Cold Lake in the 80s.

“We were especially happy to unveil our Cruise Missile Testing exhibit, designed and installed by Mr. Jim Belliveau. It took over a year to design, build and install, which is not unheard of for the caliber of work required. We also made many improvements to other exhibits throughout the museum and collaborated with the Cold Lake Museums Society to have a special exhibit in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. It was wonderful and timely to have that tribute.”

Now the staff at the Museums begin the off-season tasks, including updating storage and processing new pieces added to the collection. Stacey says the off-season is a busy one for her and the staff.

“Off-season activities for us are many. For this fall/winter, we will focus on beginning renovations for our archives and installing modular storage so we can continue to improve our capability to keep our artifact collections stored safely and responsibly according to museum standards of excellence. We receive donations of items over our open season, and then we need to process them, enter them in our database and ensure they are stored properly. We are hoping to get a new database this fall/winter, which we trained on for several days, and all our items will need to be catalogued in it. The heart of a museum, of course, is its artifacts, so that has to be a priority for care. Other things we take care of in the off-season include a good clean, developing/planning new exhibits and improving existing exhibits, applying for funding for staff and larger projects, research, and also training.”

When the fall winds turn to winter snow, museum diehards are sure to be thinking bout their next visit and what may await them. Stacey says she can’t give too many hints away but the public can expect some new displays, including one celebrating the Royal Canadian Air Force Centennial Anniversary.

“Much of the vital work of the museum takes place behind the scenes, but we strive to always have some new things each year, so we encourage the public to visit us more than once, as you will always see something new. We are planning on many improvements for the 100th Anniversary of the RCAF in 2024, both inside and on the grounds, so I expect the public will see some changes occur in 2023 as these initiatives take place.”



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