Arts·Big Things

Donalda, Alberta's giant lamp celebrates what may be the largest collection of lamps in the world

The museum contains 1,100 oil lamps, some dating back to the 1600s, and it's given light to this community.

The museum contains 1,100 oil lamps, some dating back to the 1600s, and it's given light to this community

The museum contains 1,100 oil lamps, some dating back to the 1600s, and it's given light to this community. 3:55

If there's one thing Albertans do even better than huge trucks and grain elevators, it's making massive monuments for little places. Follow Tamarra Canu on her summer Albertan road trip as she travels her province to find out what these big things mean to the small towns that call them home.

On this episode of Big Things Small Towns, Tamarra heads to Donalda, Alberta, one of the prairies best kept secrets but perhaps not for long. Driving in at dawn or dusk, you will see the World's Largest Oil Lamp, perfectly suited to compliment Donalda's museum holding the world's largest collection of oil lamps, some dating back to the 1600s. 

The town is full of colour and culture despite it's shrinking population. We meet with the original lamp committee and hear why the creation of an oil lamp gave its citizens purpose and faith that kept the town alive for generations to come.

All across small town Alberta, these objects are lighting the way for tourists and citizens alike to come appreciate life on the prairies... even if only for a moment to see the breathtaking view the giant lamp provides of the edge of Alberta's badlands.

The Donalda Lamp Committee

Built: 2000
Height: 12m
Width: 5m
Material: steel and fibreglass
Time spent: 4 years
*Lights up

About Big Things Small Towns

At one time, the largest things spreading across the Canadian prairies were grain elevators and Ukrainian church domes, but in the 1990s, citizens of small towns began building their own roadside giants. Some relevant to the times, some questionably random and some still popping up today.

On Big Things Small Towns we visit six of Alberta's most legendary locations:

  • Drumheller! The "World's Largest Dinosaur" takes you back to prehistoric times. Plus, you can see how it and many other dinos are made.
  • Falher! You'll celebrate the "World's Largest Bee" in more ways than one (including witnessing Tamarra facing one of her biggest fears by participating in their annual bee beard spectacle).
  • Vegreville! You'll find out why the "World's Largest Pysanka" (or painted egg) is truly unique from creation to design.
  • Glendon! Tamarra's headed to take a bite out of its world-famous perogy and discover how the monument may have saved the town itself.
  • Medicine Hat! This town celebrates Indigenous art and identity with the spectacular Saamis Tepee that celebrates culture, history and the legacy of the Calgary Olympics.
  • Donalda! The "World's Largest Oil Lamp" has been lighting the way for tourists to discover the beauty within the walls of the town.

You get to see these objects and the diverse Alberta landscape through the lens of spectacular drone visuals while you learn about Alberta's rich history and, more importantly, start planning your own road trip. 

Special thanks to The Kubasonics for their song Giants of the Prairies. Graphics and poster designed by Chris Brodt.

About the Author

Tamarra Canu is a freelance filmmaker, recently a grant recipient to produce her film The Act of Being Normal. She was Additional Camera and Production Assistant for Vital Bonds on CBC's The Nature of Things and Production Coordinator for CBC's Equus- Story of the Horse. She began her career at CBC News Edmonton as Associate Producer and is proud to be able to keep telling stories for the CBC.