Learning can become a costly affair if you’re into local history and wish to visit museums to increase your knowledge. Luckily, there’s plenty of museums in Edmonton which are free admission. Here is a compilation of free museums in Edmonton. If any are missing, please comment below.
University of Alberta Museums Collections
You can call this the Smithsonian Institute of Edmonton. The University of Alberta Museums is a group of roughly 30 different museums and collections, depending on how you count them. Some collections are only open for viewing to the public upon request, so if you want to see this reptile, you’ll have to call to see the Amphibian and Reptile collection as part of the Zoology Museum.
There’s also a music, textiles, herbarium, classics, Ukrainian folklore collections as part of the University of Alberta Museums. Since the Museums cover such a diverse spectrum, we’ve highlighted two other museums which have gallery spaces open to the public.
Neon Sign Museum
On February 21, 2014, the switch was turned on for first museum of its kind in #Canada. The Neon Sign Museum is an outdoor display for pedestrians to enjoy in the evening in the Warehouse District of 4th Street Promenade (also overlaps with Ice District). There are descriptions on the sidewalk to each #NeonLight that has played a role in Edmonton history.
Since opening, additions have been made across the street at Mercer Tavern as new neon signs were donated. It has been the only museum in Edmonton to remain open during all of 2020.
To get here, take exit A1 at MacEwan Station, turn east at 104 av towards 104 st.
St John Ambulance Museum
Did you know there is a museum in the city dedicated to first-aid? The collection at St John Ambulance Museum has memorabilia and artifacts to do with the first-aid organization in Alberta.
There are pictures with Queen Elizabeth II, swords used for parade, medical equipment used on the field, and some historical documents as a few items on display.
Visiting this one may just save a life one day, as visitors may purchase a first-aid kit or book training on the way out. Location is 12304 118 av. Take route 12 from Kingsway/Royal Alex LRT Station (exit 1A) and alight at bus stop 1821 (122 st), and walk a block west.
John Walter Museum
John Walter was a wealthy man who helped build Edmonton from York boats to the amalgamated city. Then the 1915 flood wiped out his fortune. His house was one of the first houses built outside Fort Edmonton. At the John Walter Museum, you can visit 3 of the houses he lived in on site. Make candles and take a stroll by the river while you’re there.
The hours for the museum changes from season to season. Although there are interpretive signs outside, if you’d like to inside the houses, do check the hours here. To get there, take route 9 and alight at Walterdale Hill. If you’re on the 9 heading southbound, you will need to walk down the hill or take the 9 going back towards downtown.
Edmonton City Hall
City Hall is a place where one least expects to have a museum, but the building houses more than enough to be listed as a hidden museum. There is a Sports Hall Of Fame, Community Services Hall of Fame, more than half a million dollars worth of art, fossils on walls, a walk of past mayors of Edmonton, and valuable civic artifacts including a mayor’s chair from the Edmonton, England (now a suburb of London).
One item to note is the painting on the mezzanine which is actually not painted by cross-stitched.
To get here, take exit B at Churchill LRT station.
Sisters of Providence Museum
At Providence Centre, there is a museum reserved for the work of the Sisters of Providence in Alberta and across Canada. Founded in Montreal om 1843, they established in Western Canada in 1912 and are now have their headquarter at Providence Centre. The museum has artifacts from their contributions in health care, education, and social welfare. There is also a wall of relics of saints.
When you’re done visiting, take a stroll through the garden of the Providence Renewal Centre and meditate in one of the few outdoor labyrinths in Edmonton.
Access to the Sisters of Providence Museum is through the library. The address is 3005 119 st. To get there by transit, take route 40 or 43 from Century Park (exit A) and alight at stop 4558 (after 28 av).
Edmonton Radial Railway Museum
The Edmonton Radial Railway has a museum at the Old Strathcona terminus to the rear of Strathcona Farmers’ Market. Because it’s volunteer run, it’s only open on weekends the streetcar operates. There’s a history of Edmonton’s streetcar system before being replaced with trolley bus, which also became history. Today, two streetcar lines are primarily for tourists.
Although it is a perfect way to connect downtown with Old Strathcona, the High Level Streetcar line does not operate evenings or in winter. Yegventures has proposed a revamp of the Edmonton Streetcar Reimagined to compliment both existing and future transit lines. In the mean time, you can reminisce on the glorious system Edmonton used to have at the museum.
McKay Avenue School
McKay Avenue School is the oldest brick school in Alberta and has Edmonton’s first public school house on premise. What makes McKay Avenue School important is that the first session of the Alberta Legislative Assembly met here after the province was formed. It is open while the roof is being renovated.
After visiting, enter the courtyard which has datestone of the demolished City of Edmonton Market Building, relax at the Wagner School constructed gazebo in Dick Mather Memorial Park before leaving via the Heritage Promenade or 104 Street Promenade.
To get here, take exit D2 at Bay/Enterprise Square Station and walk 2 blocks south.
Agora Interpretive Centre
The Agora Interpretive Centre and 4D Pehonan Theatre are the newest additions to the capital region. They may call it an interpretive centre, but the rest of the world will call this a museum. Browse through interactive headlines in history, cast a vote during the prohibition, dress in period attire, witness virtual scenes around the province, see some artifacts from the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, all within the fresh new Visitors’ Centre at the Federal Building.
To get here, take exit A at Grandin Station, follow the indoor connections or take the elevator up to the Federal Building plaza entrance.
City of Edmonton Archives
The City of Edmonton archives is the largest municipal resource of the city. It houses documents, photographs, newspapers, and other printed mediums of historic significance in the city. The majority of the data collected is open for public viewing, with the exception of time release archives and other documents of security concern like blueprints of buildings.
To get here, take exit B2 at Kingsway/Royal Alex Station
Stay tuned for a rare video tour of the archive storage facilities, which is not open to the public.
Loyal Edmonton Regiment Museum
The Loyal Edmonton Regiment Museum is the city’s military museum. There’s plenty of paraphernalia on display such as rations, military Bibles, historic uniforms, instruments, weapons, and more.
It’s also another museum located at the Prince of Wales Armoury, so you can make this a triple bang for you free buck along with the Telephone Historical Centre and the City of Edmonton Archives. If that’s not enough, note the large indoor mural, walk in gun sculpture, and rotating gallery space in the 2nd floor catwalk.
To get here, take exit B2 at Kingsway/Royal Alex Station
University of Alberta Galleries at Enterprise Square
The University of Alberta Galleries at Enterprise Square hosts several gallery spaces for art and University of Alberta Museum exhibits. The space was the temporary location for the Art Gallery of Alberta while the current Randall Stout building was under construction. They have hosted pop-up museum shows like When The Sky Falls meteorite exhibit (video above) which only lasted several days, so you never know what you might come across during your visit. The hours of the space are unique, but offers a great lunch break for downtown dwellers and workers.
To get here, take exit A at Bay/Enterprise Square Station.
Provincial Archives of Alberta
The Provincial Archives of Alberta is probably the most well-known public building residents of Mill Woods see every day have not visited. Located beside Millgate Transit Centre, it is a free resource for Albertans to visit to browse and research through Alberta archives.
The atrium also serves as a gallery space for various feature exhibits displaying archive material and artifacts. The Provincial Archives of Alberta just finished their one year display marking the centennial of the beginning of World War I with the Alberta & The Great War exhibit.
To get here, take any route to Millgate Transit Centre and the archives is the building to the immediate north.
The University of Alberta Museums actually has quite a large dinosaur fossil collection. It’s so big they’ve had two special exhibitions of DinoStars (Yegventures video) and more recently Discovering Dinosaurs (above video) a boost to Philip Currie’s influence before the Philip J Currie Dinosaur Museum opened up in Grande Prairie this year. The fossil collection is displayed at the Paleontology Museum located in the Earth Sciences Building on campus. While you’re there, be sure to check out the minerology collection and the meteorite collection.
To get to the Paleontology Museum, take exit B3 at University Station, head to the north end of HUB Mall, follow Saskatchewan Drive west and it will be two buildings over.
C & E Railway Museum (Permanently closed)
This museum is permanently closed and is now the office for the Ice On Whyte Festival Society. This information exists as a record.
The C & E Railway Museum is one of the lesser known museums in the city. The C&E (Calgary and Edmonton) Railway Company was a rail connection between the two thriving cities of Alberta with 11 stations. The current building is a replica of the Innisfail station, alongside the old CPR line, now being used by the Edmonton Radial Railway for the High Level Streetcar line. The museum no longer has opening hours due to lack of volunteer staffing. To book an appointment, call 780-433-9739 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Telephone Historical Centre (Permanently closed)
This museum is permanently closed. This information exists as a record.
The Telephone Historical Centre has changed locations a few times in its history, with prior locations at the AGT Tower, Old Strathcona, McKay Avenue School, and its current location at the Prince of Wales Armoury.
What’s unique about this museum is it is hands-on. Visitors can act as the switchboard, watch a film in the theatre, look at historic phone books using white gloves, and purchase unique souvenirs.
To get here, take exit B2 at Kingsway/Royal Alex Station. It’s open to limited hours, so do give them a ring before you head over.