The Bells have renovated their house as well and it is in very good shape. You can get an impression of the house on their webpage. When you enter the museum from the front (We entered from the back) you already get a great impression. First of all Bob's wife tells the story of the museum to all the visitors and invites them to look around everywhere. On the walls you find some historic cardmodels in their original state (which means not cut out and assembled).
On the right side you go into the museum shop where you find a great collection of many cardmodels from different companies. The ones I remember are Schreiber (I always recognize them first as you see them in many toy shops in Germany), Geli, Micromodels, museum miniatures (which are Bobs own creations!), tramways from England and MANY others. You find also a lot of things that are out of print. This is not a small collection in a drawer it is a room of around 20 square meters (200 square feet) and it is filled up with models to buy. And: you can also get everything for origami: Books, paper and everything you need. My friend bought a little origami scorpion around 2.5 cm (1 inch) long that really (!!) looks like a scorpion. And it is made only of one piece of paper (fold not glue). I think this is even more sophisticated than card modelling.
In the room behind the shop you find the railway section. Half of the room is filled with a N scale model railway that runs automatically. The tracks and the rolling stock (the part of it that really rolls) are of course no card models. But lots of the houses are card models. Some of them are self-designed. You see there the street where the museum is with some of the houses from the neighbourhood all in N scale and all self-designed! And, on the tracks there are N scale locomotives as cardmodels. There are much more as you see on the first view.
The rest of the room is filled with cardmodel locomotives in O and I scale (which I like most). Old steam engines mostly from England AND these huge Canadian diesel engines. The cardmodels of the Canadian engines are self-designed and probably some others too. There are also at least 10 micromodel locomotives!
When you want to go to the second floor you have to go back through the shop and then up the stairs. It is difficult to describe but there are models everywhere! Before you go up you see some 1:45 cars and a satellite he downloaded from the NASA server. Going up the stairs you find these amazing paper sculptures I described last time, around eight (?) of them.
In the second floor are four rooms with different topics. On the left side is the architectural room with castles, cathedrals and so on. There is one of these big cathedrals from l'instant durable and as counterpart a micromodel castle. There is much more than I remember now. Cardmodels everywhere (as everywhere...).
The next room is the aeronautic and nautic (?) room with many very beautiful aeroplanes and others. Now I have an impression of what is possible on cardmodels! On many of the models you don't even get an idea that they made of paper. In the corner you find Bob's first cardmodel: The big Schreiber airship LZ 127 (not the small foil one I built which is obviously the same as the big one but only shrinked and printed on metallized paper). He also has a beautiful collection of some satellites flying around. The other side of this room is filled with military kits and many beautiful ships and some submarines. The biggest ship is the Titanic from Taschen (it is a book when you buy it). Bob built it because all the children coming in the museum asked: Do you have the Titanic?
In the corridor between the rooms there is a self-designed ship he wan a prize with. But I don't remember this story very well.
The third room is filled with a huge model of a private house (scale probably around 1:20). This is not a cardmodel. It was donated to the museum by an old lady who constructed the old house of her parents.
The fourth room contains architectural models of other ages like the Pisa tower and an old roman village. Bob's idea was: Come to the museum and travel through different countries and different ages! So this opportunity is taken regularly by school classes.
This is what you see as a visitor. No: this is all the rooms but only a small part of what is in them!
As the cardmodels get more and more the museum looks a little overcrowded. This is not negatively written but if a professional museum would built up such a museum they'd take at least double the amount of space.
Having gone around in the museum we took some time talking with the two. They told us about their problems with the museum.
The Bells like card modelling and origami very much and did it always in their spare time. As the models became more and more in the house they decided to open it as a museum. First they opened it only for a few days a week. (They were both working!) But the visitors became more and more and some people complained about the opening hours. So they decided to retire early and open the museum 7 days a week during the summer. During the winter it is open only on some days a week. So they have a more than full time job in their own house! The problem is that they don't have anymore privacy (imagine people coming in your house everyday). And they spent all their money for renovating the house and bringing up the museum.
Another problem was that some people complained about the entrance fee. So the Bells decided not to take any fee but only donations. And you can imagine that this is not the big money. The museum shop didn't bring big money too. Bob said he sells now much more via Internet. But they are both no good salesmen (and don't want to be). So the business is not very well. And you all know that card modelling is not a million dollar business.
It took many years for the museum to get accepted as a museum by the officials. So they never got money from the province or the community. But the museum is now well known in Canada and internationally because there were several visits by TV-teams and radiostations.
We came to their museum at the last day of the period they opened the museum everyday. It was obvious to us that Bob an Gerry were very exhausted. The museum has become a burden to them. And they become older and have to have a REAL retirement. They can't do this job for another year. This is the reason they decided to close the museum at the end of this year.
Bob and Gerry want to build or buy another house at a lake nearby to retire and enjoy their life. For this they have to sell the house they own now which is the museum. What they would like to do most is to sell the complete house and museum to somebody who wants to continue the museum and the shop. Bob said you can make a real income out of the shop if you want. It is a good basis to grow it up. The Bells' son would continue the shop but he can't buy the house. So they are looking for somebody who wants to move to Edmonton and work in this museum. The house is well renovated and very pretty.
What I think another possibility is to sell only the museum and stay in this house. The problem will be to find a good price for the collection, the stock and the publicity.
Right at the moment I looked at the Old Strathcona Model and Toy Museum's web page. There is a long and detailed letter from Gerry where she tells a lot about the background. This letter is an offer to buy the museum.
The paper faces that Friedrich refers to are paper sculptures, a craft which I learned from library books. Paper sculpture uses the same tecniques as paper modeling but is more of an art form as it stems from the imagination and is produced by trial and error until it looks right. I do not use any pre-drawn pattern but just cut and shape, building up the face piece by piece. If things are out of proportion it does not matter since I am creating a characature (spelling?) and not an exact replica. I usualy use a photo, or preferably, a drawing of the face as a guide. The main piece of equipment you need for paper sculpturing is a big waste paper basket. After more than 40 years in paper modeling I am more enthusiastic than ever and my interests have branched out into other areas such as sculpture, paper engineering (pop ups),origami, paper toys (particularly historic toys), paper cutting, paper theaters, shadow puppetry, and even paper dolls. In fact anything paper except papier mache and paper making, both of which are too messy.
Just a final note. Even if we do not sell the museum as it is we will do our best to keep the collection intact and donate it to some organization that can house it and maintain it properly. Already we have had two shopping malls wanting it as an attraction for customers but I am not too keen on that.
For the last two weeks we have been hounded by the press and TV and we have had some terrific news coverage. As a result we have had over 3000 visitors pass through our doors over the Christmas period, some who were returning for their last look and others who"meant to come but never did and now came to see what they had missed". All in all there were lots of hugs and handshakes so much so that my wife and I were almost in tears when we hung up the closed sign at 5 pm on the 31st. The press honoured us by describing us as "part of Edmonton's history" and with words such as "amazing" and "fantastic" even though I told them that paper modeling is simply a hobby which is enjoyed by people all over the world.
There is still no word on the future of this museum but rest assured we are keeping the collection as is so if you visit these parts please phone us (or e-mail in advance) so we can make arrangements for you to see the collection.
firstname.lastname@example.org| Steve Brown |