Kalyna Country

Canada's Largest EcoMuseum

WHAT IS AN ECOMUSEUM?

The Kalyna Country Ecomuseum (KCE) was established in 1991-1992 on the initiative of the Alberta Historic Sites and Archives Service, and the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta.

Questions often asked are what is an “ecomuseum,” and how should the word be pronounced? To begin with, you can say “eeko-museum,” “echo-museum,” or use the French form, “ecomuseé”?all are equally acceptable. And just as there are various ways of pronouncing the word, there are different types of ecomuseums in operation around the world. They may be as small as a few city blocks, or encompass entire regions, like Kalyna Country, which is the largest ecomuseum in Canada.

Similarly, some ecomuseums are created and managed entirely with government funds; others are organized, financed and operated at the community level; while still others are dependent upon a combination of public, volunteer and private sector resources. Kalyna Country falls into the latter category, since the ecomuseum obtains occasional research and development grants from foundations and government programs; generates some of its own income through fundraising projects, as well as the sale of memberships, partnerships, and souvenirs; and solicits private sector patronage and support for specific endeavours. Kalyna Country’s policies and programs are determined by a democratically-constituted body (the Kalyna Country Ecomuseum Trust Society) formed of area residents and stakeholders who are dedicated to promoting the development of rural east central Alberta as an ecomuseum.

So what is an ecomuseum?

Well, to start with, it is probably easiest to think of an ecomuseum as a broadly-defined “heritage” district that invites exploration by visitors from near and far. It helps to know that the original meaning of the Greek word, “eco” is “home,” so an ecomuseum can be literally defined as “a place where people live which is interpreted (or represented) in the manner of a museum.” But instead of going to one building or site to see exhibits and artifacts, visitors are instead encouraged to travel around a designated territory to learn about the past, the geography, and the living cultures of the communities that are organized under the umbrella concept of ecomuseum. In the case of Kalyna Country, the region is approximately 20,000 sq. km. in area, or about four times the size of Prince Edward Island. Of course, traditional museums, natural areas, and historic sites are an integral part of most ecomuseums, but these are only some of the “exhibits” illuminating a region’s heritage and lifestyle. Community events like festivals, fairs and rodeos, along with the local inhabitants and the landscape itself, are all important elements in any ecomuseum experience, which is meant to be as enjoyable as it is educational. That is why visitors are also urged to participate in traditional recreational activities offered by ecomuseum communities?such as golfing, swimming, shopping, dining out, fishing, snowmobiling, trail riding, etc.?while staying overnight at a local bed and breakfast, hotel, motel or campground. This way you get to know an ecomuseum inside and out.

Besides meaning “home”, eco is at the root of two familiar words that are central to understanding an ecomuseum. The first of these is “ecology,” which the dictionary defines as “a branch of biology dealing with organisms’ relations to one another and their surroundings.” For most people the word is associated with the ecological movement, which is concerned about preserving the natural environment from pollution and despoliation. While Kalyna Country is strongly committed to protecting natural areas and wildlife habitats so that they may be appreciated by future generations, it is equally concerned about maintaining the human ecology that gives community life in rural east central Alberta its unique flavour.

The eco in “economy” is likewise a crucial component of ecomuseum philosophy, which links the promotion of historic and natural conservation with economic development. Essentially, by advertising a heritage district like Kalyna Country as a tourist destination, ecomuseum activists directly and indirectly contribute to the economic well-being of their towns and villages. For in addition to becoming customers of local businesses (especially restaurants, gas stations, gifts shops and those offering accommodations), tourists pay admissions to events and make donations to various non-profit groups whose activities complement those of the ecomuseum. The Kalyna Country Trust Society at the same time spends a large part of its modest budget on local goods and services, further benefitting rural enterprises.

In this way, the ecomuseum provides a tangible incentive for residents to pursue preservation and restoration projects that enhance the attractiveness of the Kalyna region to outsiders while at the same time improving the quality of life for its inhabitants. To achieve these goals the Kalyna Country Trust both undertakes initiatives of its own, or collaborates on joint endeavours with other non-profit groups, municipal bodies, government agencies, visitor attractions and local industries. Ultimately, the Kalyna Society is dedicated to increasing public awareness and appreciation of the following key assets:

• East central Alberta’s unique history and historic landmarks
• The natural areas and the flora and fauna of the North Saskatchewan basin
• And the rich multicultural heritage of a distinct and vibrant part of rural Alberta

And to help realize these objectives the ecomuseum is committed to playing an active and creative role in promoting responsible and sustainable tourism to east central Alberta in partnership with other regional stakeholders.

Becoming Part of Team Kalyna

Anyone can contribute to the further development of Kalyna Country in the following ways:

• By taking out an individual membership or purchasing a partnership in the Kalyna Country Ecomuseum Trust Society
• By becoming involved with our organization as a volunteer on one of its projects
• By learning more about the Kalyna Ecomuseum and acting as an ambassador extolling the region and its many attractions
• And by supporting the local businesses and communities that make rural east central Alberta a great place to live and a wonderful place to visit

For more information about Kalyna Country contact Sheila Neil at 1-888-452-5962, email admin@kalynacountry.com or visit our web site www.kalynaacountry.com

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