Banff Park Museum - Atlas Obscura

Banff Park Museum

The oldest natural history museum in western Canada houses more than 5,000 vintage botanical and zoological specimens. 


The Banff Park Museum officially moved into this beautiful building in 1903, making it the oldest surviving federal building in any Canadian national park. The museum exists because of the tireless work of Norman Bethune Sanson, the museum’s curator from 1896 to 1932. During his time as curator, Sanson aspired to make the museum “the best of its kind in Canada.” He hiked over 32,000 kilometers and never passed an unusual specimen without collecting it for study and display. When he retired, he was not replaced and today’s collection is very much in keeping with 20th century museum practices.

The oldest specimen in the museum is a male merganser collected in 1860 and can be found on your left as soon as you enter the museum. The main level contains specimens that have all at some point been found in Banff National Park. The second floor contains more exotic specimens as well as a model of Sanson’s office. 

Sanson also looked after the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station. He hiked up the mountain and reported his observations to Ottawa for over 33 years. The Geographic Board of Canada recognized his contributions by naming the highest point of the mountain Sanson Peak just six months before his death.

Know Before You Go

The museum costs $4.25 for adults and $3.75 for seniors and is located right in the heart of the Banff village.

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December 19, 2023

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