Curating your ultimate RAM visit
December 22, 2019
As the largest museum in Western Canada, we understand that it may feel a little daunting to visit RAM – where do you start? What are the must-see objects? What if you don’t have a lot of time?
Fear not: We’ve compiled a collection of highlights that will satisfy any visitor, from the casual dabblers to history buffs!
The Nature Lover
If you’re looking for dazzling geodes, wild animals, and ancient creatures, you’ll want to head up, up, up to the Natural History Hall.
Take a left to enter the world of gems and minerals. The giant purple geode or holey concretion might capture your attention at first, but don’t dismiss the small specimens just yet. Did you know we have a piece of Mars on display?
If you’ve ever wondered what the oldest fossil in the RAM collection is, seek out the stromatolites in the Ancient Alberta section. They’re approximately 1.4 billion years old!
While the massive Ice Age mastodon and mammoths are sure to catch your eye, you may be fascinated to discover the story of the Saiga Antelope. She may look like a Star Wars character or some not-so-distant cousin of ALF, but she’s definitely from this planet. Unlike most Ice Age creatures, the saiga antelope didn’t go extinct. In fact, you can still see them today in Russia and Central Asia.
Press on to the Wild Alberta gallery, and see if you can find the living hognose snake in one of the dioramas. Here’s a hint – it may be just under your nose… or your feet!
The Avid Anthropologist
From the earliest people to Alberta today, you won’t find your typical textbook history in the Human History Hall. Once you enter through the gallery doors, head clockwise to catch these exhibits.
For Cree communities, winter is the time that you share stories – and certain stories can only be shared in winter! Visit the interactive display of Wîsahkêcâhk, under the second panoramic landscape from the left, to hear storyteller Billy Joe Laboucan recounting one of the Cree trickster’s humorous adventures. This story can only be heard in the museum after the first snowfall. Once the snow melts, the story is gone until next year when the snow flies again!
Head around the corner, and step back in time through the temporary exhibition, I Am From Here, where you can visit a long-gone diner, welcome home a railroad porter, and meet the descendants of early Black settlers in Alberta.
Many First Nations and Métis women gathered together in the winter, sat by the firelight making beadwork, embroideries, quillwork or moose-hair tuftings, while sharing tea and catching up on gossip. Some mothers would coax their children into bead-sorting duties – separating them out into small parcels by colour and size. Seek out the Sewing for a Living exhibit to see examples of Indigenous women’s incredible talents with beads, quill, needles and thread.
You saw the biplane hanging in the lobby, now see the flight suit of the man that flew it. Wilfrid Reid (Wop) May, First World War flying ace served as a fighter pilot in the First World War. Head to the display case below the yellow airplane to check out how many layers he would wear while flying!
Be sure to take your time in the circular What Makes Us Strong gallery. This space brings together displays from each of the five largest Indigenous nations in Alberta: Nehiyawak (Cree), Niitsitapi (Blackfoot), Dene, Nakoda/Nakota and Métis. Stay to watch the 360-degree video – like the vibrant communities it portrays, there is neither beginning nor end.
The Curious Kiddo
If your little one is a seasoned RAM visitor, they may want to head straight to the Children’s Gallery, but don’t miss out on the great interactive exhibits in the history halls as well!
In the Human History Hall, young visitors can learn about how early peoples hunted the extremely speedy pronghorn antelope; travel from Pigeon Lake to Fort Edmonton with a team of “little dogs;” and giddy-up to the Calgary Stampede atop Champion, the mechanical horse.
Upstairs in Natural History, kids can walk on the wild side. Feed a baby pelican, don your feathers for a ruffed grouse dance-off, and practice your flirting skills with the humming birds.
Then, of course, head to the Children’s Gallery, where kids can make a volcano, control the wind, or put on a show! If this doesn’t tire them out, nothing will!
The Lover of All Things Bugs
This one is for all you brave visitors who aren’t afraid of a few extra legs.
If you want to start big, head to the right once inside the gallery and seek out the Goliath bird eater tarantula. This species, found in America, is the heaviest spider in the world. Can’t see her? Check inside the hollow log.
Prefer something a little smaller? See if you can spot the stalk-eyed fly. The males of this tropical insect use their eyestalks to stare down competitors – the biggest span usually wins!
Some people may think the giant African millipede is creepy, but not you! You recognize the important job these many-legged invertebrates play in breaking down plant material and rotting fruit. Thanks, millipedes!
What is the coolest creature in the Bug Gallery, you ask? The peacock mantis shrimp, named Lyle, is certainly a contender! Brilliant colours and an incredibly powerful punch make this crustacean a must-see.
Even if you’re just here to “do it for the ‘gram,” we won’t judge. If you’re looking for the Instagrammable spots of RAM, look no further.
Before you enter the building, be sure to walk past the Ernestine Tahedl murals on the south side of the museum. These murals previously adorned the former Canada Post building that used to occupy this site. A little #yegdt history, the vibrant pops of red, and that natural light make for a great picture!
Of course, when you first walk in, you’ll want to snap a photo with our two Mammoths in the lobby – you can’t get a more iconic “I visited RAM” snap.
Head up to the Ice Age creatures in the Natural History Hall for some dramatic snaps of megafauna. Yeah, the sloth really was that big. Be sure to include yourself in the photo for scale!
Back downstairs, you’ll need to get a shot of Molly the pickup truck in the back corner of the Human History Hall – because you can’t get much more “Alberta” than a pickup truck.
And of course, don’t forget to hashtag your snaps with #RoyalAlbertaMuseum, or tag us so we can see them!
Phew! You’ve covered a lot of ground in this visit. It’s probably time to treat yourself, right?
First, refuel and re-caffeinate at the Café. Have you tried the bison burger? Or maybe you’re more of a donut person – we’ve got you covered there, too.
Finally, exit through the Museum Shop! With hundreds of unique items from local vendors, including jewellery, home accents, art, food, plus toys your kids will be begging for, and RAM swag to show your museum love, you’re sure to find something you’ll love.
These are just a few ideas. We want to hear from you! What are your go-to stops when you visit RAM?