A Guide to Sunset Country Museums: 15 Places to Discover History in the Northwest

While Sunset Country is the most remote part of Ontario with the smallest population, our history is incredibly interesting and on display in our museums across the region.
Northern Ontario Sportsfishing Centre

While Ontario's Sunset Country is known far and wide for the outdoor experiences we have to offer, there are a lot more things you can do and see while visiting here. Near the top of the list is the incredible history we have and learning about it can add both value and a diversion from your traditional vacation experience. The best place to learn about our history is a museum. Here's a round-up of the fantastic museums we have across the Sunset Country region.

The Patricia tugboat in Ear Falls, Ontario

Museum of Atikokan

Located on Main Street East in Atikokan, the Museum of Atikokan (formerly the Atikokan Centennial Museum) is more than a place where you can see local artifacts and exhibits. It's a place to learn and a place that takes you back in time as you walk through it. The museum tells the story of Atikokan while showing examples of this town's history through images, stories and of course, themed exhibits. See exhibits that tell the story of the local indigenous population, early European settlement and the town's economic history especially as it pertains to mining. 

Museum of Atikokan

Location: 204 Main St East in Atikokan  
Phone: 807-597-6585  
Website: atikokanmuseum.com
Museum of Atikokan Facebook Page

Dryden & District Museum

Dryden is a major service centre in Ontario's Sunset Country and has a colourful history on display at the Dryden and District Museum. Home to an exhibit about the famous "Dryden Buck", that alone should interest outdoor-minded travellers to Sunset Country. But there is so much more on display including exhibits on the City's history as a paper town, its connection to agriculture and the lives of everyday citizens are all there to see. 

Dryden Museum

Location: 30 Van Horne Avenue in Dryden  
Phone: 807-223-1147  
Website: Dryden & District Museum
Dryden & District Museum Facebook Page

Ear Falls & District Museum

Located in the Township Office, the Ear Falls & District Museum has some pretty interesting displays about Ear Falls' history. Learn about what the Ojibwa who have inhabited the region for thousands of years called the area and how they lived off the land and developed deep cultural traditions that remain to this day. Learn about the history of gold mining, lumbering and of course, the area's large tourism industry.

Ear Falls Museum

Location: 2 Willow Cres in Ear Falls  
Phone: 807-222-3624 
Website: Ear Falls Museum

The Muse - Kenora

Located on Main St S in Kenora, the Muse includes the Douglas Family Arts Centre and is one of the larger museums in Ontario's Sunset Country. Visit their website for current information on exhibits or drop in and take a tour in person. If you want to learn more about the traditions of the local Anishinaabe people or early European settlement in this part of Ontario, the Muse is a great place to start.

Argyle I Kenora

Location: 300 Main St S, Kenora  
Phone:  (807) 467-2105  
Website: The Muse and Douglas Family Arts Centre  
The Muse Facebook Page

Fort Frances Museum & Cultural Centre

Opened on Canada Day in 1978, the Fort Frances Museum and Cultural Centre has a wide variety of exhibits and displays on Fort Frances' local history. The museum offers interpretive tours and permanent exhibits in addition to frequent travelling exhibits, local archives and over 10,000 items in its collection. 

The Hallett Tugboat

Location:  259 Scott St, Fort Frances   
Phone: (807) 274-7891   
Website: Fort Frances Museum 
Fort Frances Museum Facebook Page

Red Lake Regional Regional Heritage Centre

Working in conjunction with the Municipality of Red Lake, the RLRHC's mission is to promote the natural and cultural history of the Red Lake area. With both permanent and travelling exhibits, the RLRHC is definitely a must-see if you're travelling through Red Lake. The building itself is a beautiful structure. They have a large collection of indigenous artifacts in addition to an extensive collection highlighting Red Lake's tourism and mining histories. The Crull rock and mineral collection is something you'll want to see when visiting. 

Gypsy Moth on take-off

Location: 51A Highway 105    
Phone: 807-727-3006  
Website: Red Lake Regional Heritage Centre 
RLRHC Facebook Page

Northern Ontario Sportfishing Centre (Sioux Narrows)

With fishing the main tourism attraction in Sunset Country, there is going to be a lot of history about it and it is all brought together and on display at the Northern Ontario Sportfishing Centre in Sioux Narrows. The Centre has displays of everything related to the sportsfishing industry boats, motors, tackle and even a replica of the original Sioux Narrows Wooden Bridge. 

The sportfishing centre in Sioux Narrows Ontario

Location: Highway 71 in Sioux Narrows   
Phone: (807) 226-5293   
Website: Northern Ontario Sportfishing Centre 
NOSFC Facebook Page

Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung (Manitou Mounds)

Not only is Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung a sacred place to local indigenous peoples, but it is also a designated National Historic Site in Canada. Profiling over 8,000 years of settlement, the Centre has interpretive displays, guided tours and an extensive network of trails on site. This is a place of deep spiritual meaning to the local Ojibway of the Rainy River and to indigenous people across North America. 

Pow wow in Northwestern Ontario

Location: 340 Ross Rd, Stratton    
Phone: (807) 483-1163  
Website: Manitou Mounds  
Manitou Mounds Facebook Page

Rainy River District Women's Institute Museum (Emo)

Located behind the OPP Station in Emo, Ontario, the Rainy River District Women's Institute Museum is primarily a Pioneer museum showcasing artifacts from the early European settler days of the area. The museum is open during the summer only.

Womens Institute Museum in Emo Ontario

Location: 21 Tyrell St in Emo  
Phone: (807) 482-3991 
Emo Museum Facebook Page

Railroad 4008 Heritage Museum (Rainy River)

The museum offers a look at railroad history contained in an actual rail car. The rail car was built in 1916 by Dunkirk of Montreal. It was a Sante Fe type locomotive, which carried 200 pounds of steam pressure, weighed 144 tonnes and was 81 feet long x 14' 11" high and 10' 9 5/8" wide.

Railroad 4008 Museum in Rainy River, Ontario

Location: Atwood Avenue in Rainy River 
Rainy River Railroad Daze Facebook Page

Lake of the Woods Railroaders Museum (Kenora)

If railroad history is of interest to you then the Lake of the Woods Railroaders Museum in Kenora is a definite "must-see." Not only is there a locomotive and caboose on display, but the museum itself houses a unique model railway display along with other displays. 

Lake of the Woods Railroaders Museum model train display

Location: Next to Norman Park in Kenora
Phone: (833) 816-7245
Website: Lake of the Woods Railroaders Museum 

Mather-Walls Historic Tea House (Kenora)

Located in Keewatin (now part of the City of Kenora), Mather-Walls Historical Tea House offers a glimpse into how one of the wealthiest early businessmen in Kenora lived. The house is exquisitely preserved and is open to tours during the summer months. They also hold teas several times per year in addition to the famed "Halloween Haunt" in October.

Mather Walls House in kenora

Location: 1116 Ottawa St in Keewatin    
Phone: (807) 547-2870  
Website: Mather-Walls Historical House 
Mather-Walls Facebook Page

The Dennis Smyk Heritage Centre (Ignace)

Named after the iconic Dennis Smyk, the Heritage Centre in Ignace has several displays and exhibits outlining the rich history of this Northwestern Ontario community. The Centre has 9 themes illustrating the life/history of Ignace from its earliest to present days. The themes include Indigenous Peoples, Exploration, Fur Trade and Settlement, Railroad, The Town, Mining, Quarrying, Logging, Road and Air Transportation. These themes are represented by artifacts, photographs, dioramas, models, maps, and written descriptions.

Dennis Smyk Heritage Centre in Ignace

Location: 36 Main Street in Ignace (next to the public library)  
Phone:  (807) 934-2280 
Website: Dennis Smyk Heritage Centre

Chapple Museum

This hidden gem offers a detailed glimpse into the history of the Township of Chapple and its surrounding area. Located in Barwick, the museum offers a Hudson Bay Co. display, a display on locals who fought in the two world wars, a pioneer section and more. The museum is cared for by the Chapple Heritage Committee and it also includes a gallery of paintings by local artists. 

Barwick Chapple

Location: 112 Main Street, Barwick   
Phone: (807) 487-2354  
Website: Chapple Museum

Fort William Historical Park

In addition to featuring an accurate re-creation of the fur trade era inland headquarters of the North West Company, Fort William Historical Park is also home to the state-of-the-art David Thompson Astronomical Observatory and one of the largest telescopes in Central Canada. They also offer year-round festivals and events, an RV and tent campground, in-person, virtual and overnight educational programs, and wedding and conference facilities.

Fort William Historical Park reenactment

Location: 1350 King Rd in Thunder Bay    
Phone: (807) 473-2344  
Website: Fort William Historical Park 
FWHP Facebook Page

There's More to Sunset Country Than Fishing

Our museums offer that bonus experience to travellers when they are here visiting on a fishing trip, family vacation or even on business. Check out the museum nearest to where you are staying and learn about the colourful history of this region of Ontario.

Norseman Float Plane at Red Lake, Ontario
About Gerry Cariou

Gerry is Executive Director of Ontario's Sunset Country Travel Association and is an avid fisherman and nature photographer. Gerry has been writing about Sunset Country's varied travel experiences for over 20 years and lives these experiences year-round in Kenora, Ontario.

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