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Souris Valley Museum features historical collection by dedicated researcher

The temporary exposition will remain on display through April 5, and will be available to view and tour during the museum's operating hours.

ESTEVAN — The Souris Valley Museum introduced the Adrian Paton Photo Collection Travelling Exhibit on Feb. 9.

The temporary exposition will remain on display through April 5, and will be available to view and tour during the museum's operating hours.

Paton, who hailed from Arcola, always took a keen interest in history and in photographs of people. The history of Indigenous people was of particular interest to him. He built up an impressive collection of pictures during his life. Although he died in January 2021, Paton's legacy remained alive through the many stories and images he accumulated and shared. Some of them are a part of the temporary exhibit at the museum.

Paton's enormous photograph collection is a look into the past and a record of his knowledge about these photographs. The Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society (SHFS) and the University of Saskatchewan sponsored students who worked with Paton over two summers in 2012 and 2013 to digitize over 700 photographs. During this process, the students also recorded his knowledge and stories about the photos.

The exhibit features selected photographs from Paton's collection, along with information designed to inspire people to reflect on the past.

Eight themes/topics are highlighted and include:

•Windows into the Past – Introduction of Adrian Paton;

•Whose Story – Development of consciousness of diverse histories;

•Intersecting Cultures – Historic photographs of Indigenous people in southern Sask.;

 •Building on the Prairies – Agricultural architecture of the southern Prairies;

•Working the Land – Agricultural technologies;

•Teaching and Learning – Transmission of knowledge across generations;

•Expect the Unexpected – Photographs of the unusual in Prairie life;

•Pictures with a Purpose – Historic studio photographs of Indigenous people from the Arcola region.

Museum executive director/curator Melanie Memory said they decided to bring in a temporary exhibit to attract visitors during the quieter times, and Paton's collection with its connection to the southeast was the perfect fit. 

"This is a good way to increase traffic in the museum, especially in our downtime, and then to use our space," Memory said.

The stand is permanently on display and allows for individuals and groups to view and also have activities around it. The museum's permanent collection is also fully available to guests.

Paton was known as a Prairie historian and photo collector in the town of Arcola and the surrounding area. His passion for historical photos started at the early age of 10 when he received a photo album from his mother for Christmas. He then started to get photos developed and organized into his collection, where along the way he would research the photographs and their stories.

"Adrian stresses that he is not a collector of objects and artifacts, but rather a keeper of history who aims to impart his knowledge to others," says the exhibit description.

"They [the SHFS] had learned about him in 2011, he wanted to donate his photos because he didn't want them to go to waste. And he had done a lot of research and put a lot of his time into it," Memory said, sharing the story of the early days of the travelling exhibition.

"When they got involved, they got these two summer students to go to Arcola over two summers and catalogue all of these photographs. Along the way, they learned a lot of history from him. So then they got the idea, 'Well, let's get all his oral histories written down.' So that's what they did.

"And then in 2015, they presented him with the Heritage Award."

The exhibition has been travelling Saskatchewan ever since, but Memory said, to her knowledge, it hasn't been to Estevan before.

SV Museum's collection also was influenced by Paton's knowledge, as a few years ago, he reached out and supplied several historic pictures of Estevan with commentary.

In 2019, at age 85, Paton compiled and released An Honest, Genial and Kindly People – A Private Collection of First Nations Photographs from the Turn of the Century in Southern Saskatchewan. The book is available for sale at the museum.

Paton left behind a broad legacy of friendship, preserved histories and photographs, and memories. Paton's digitized photographs can be found online on the SHFS website at

Along with the exhibition, a mini-unit for Grade 3 and 4 social studies and English language arts is also included for any visiting students. Teachers who would like to book a tour and time for their students can call the SV Museum at 306-634-5543 or email

The exhibition can be viewed by all visitors at the museum during operation hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. Admission to the museum is by donation.