Surprises abound during our visit to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina. Surprise #1 is easy free parking. Surprise #2 is the FREE admission, is that great or not? There is a suggested per person donation which we willingly give. After seeing the quality and depth of the galleries we drop in an additional amount in support of the museum. A staff member offers a warm welcome and brief orientation.
Near the beginning of the Life Sciences Gallery is a large table-top map of Saskatchewan with eco-zones outlined. Buttons corresponding with outlines on the map activate an audio description of each zone from early formation to native lifeforms.
When planning our visit I found it difficult to find more than rudimentary information on the province. Surprise #4 – This was exactly what I had wanted for better understanding of what we would find in our travels. Surprise #5 – The geography of Saskatchewan is much more diverse than appears on road maps or in travel literature.
As we proceed through the gallery exhibits, dioramas, audio, video and informative signs display significant flora, fauna and landforms of each eco-zone – all extremely well done. We come eye to eye with moose found in the Taiga Shield, Barren-ground caribou wintering in the Boreal Shield, and a porcupine clinging to a tree trunk as found in the Aspen Parklands. As much as I would love to see these in their natural habitat I would never want to be this close and certainly wouldn’t be able to study them so closely.
Interactive learning centers includes topics such as Avoiding Being Eaten, outlining defensive weapons various species possess, and Songs of Love where we can hear the sounds used to attract mates from cougars to Northern Leopard Frogs. I like the informative exhibit about the differences between El Nino, La Nina and a normal year. Is there ever a “normal” year?
Surprise #6 – The more than 350 species of birds and waterfowls found in Saskatchewan. I’m fascinated with the migration patterns of those who come north to breed. The route down the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains into Central and South America is familiar. However, I never realized another route beginning in northernmost Saskatchewan that takes flight to the Maritime Provinces in Eastern Canada then thousands of miles south above the Atlantic Ocean and down the Brazilian coast. What a journey these amazing creatures undertake twice a year.
Surprise #7 – A large diorama depicting a wildlife refuge in Costa Rica. The scene shows the upper canopy of a rainforest in February with a “mixed flock” of tropical birds and songbirds that will fly north to spend a few summer months in the Saskatchewan forests.
Surprise #8 – We’ve spent nearly two hours and could spend more in this Life Sciences Gallery; there are still two others plus a temporary exhibit to survey. After a brief break we go to the lower level to the Earth Sciences and First Nation Galleries.
When it comes to the age of the dinosaurs I admit to having a shorter attention span than a typical four-year-old. The Earth Sciences Gallery tells the formation of Saskatchewan, ancient history and creatures that roamed this area more than a billion years ago. There’s much I could learn of extinct giant reptiles, mosasaurs, and dinosaurs but we make a fairly quick walk-through although this area deserves more attention.
First Nations Gallery traces the history of Aboriginal societies that lived in Saskatchewan. Artwork and artifacts recall cultural traditions. Again, we don’t give this area as much attention as we should. On a future visit we might opt to start here to fully experience the history of Saskatchewan’s First Nations.
The Museum also features a theatre and the popular Megamunch, a ½-scale robotic T-rex named by the province’s schoolchildren.
Surprise #9 (and, only disappointment) – The gift shop has a very small book selection about Saskatchewan and nothing similar to the information in the Life Sciences Gallery.
Surprise #10 is the hard maple, leaf-shaped candy Bob finds. At three for $1.00 Bob adds three to my purchases. The volunteer clerk comments, “That won’t be enough.” Bob goes back for six more. When we get to the car we’re ready for a treat. Later in the afternoon we’re back at the museum making a $10 purchase of maple candy.