Short Docs·Photos

This museum in a tiny Alberta town is home to 77 stuffed gophers in 44 dioramas

Photos: Each diorama depicts an element of life in Torrington, Alta. ( (population: 200)

Each diorama depicts an element of life in Torrington, Alta. (population: 200)

The stuffed gophers of the Torrington Gopher Hole Museum are lovingly costumed and set up in scenes that depict life in Torrington, Alta. (CBC / World Famous Gopher Hole Museum )

The Torrington Gopher Hole Museum is located in the rural hamlet of Torrington, Alberta (population: 200). It is truly a sight to be seen.

The museum is home to 44 dioramas about life in Torrington, made with 77 individual taxidermied gophers. In 2016, it was featured in the CBC documentary World Famous Gopher Hole Museum.

Where did the idea for this quirky museum come from?

In the mid 1990s, Torrington had a gopher problem. A big one. There were too many gophers, and they weren't going away. One day, a local resident jokingly suggested that they should just stuff the gophers and put them on display — so they did.

The museum opened in 1996 and the price of admission hasn't changed since: it's a toonie for adults and 50 cents for children 14 and under. 

Gophers at the Torrington Curling Club and skating rink. (CBC / World Famous Gopher Hole Museum)

The museum is run by a group of local women who came up with the concepts, created the outfits and built the dioramas. They now manage tours and museum upkeep.

A gopher goes hunting. (CBC / World Famous Gopher Hole Museum)

Each gopher is decked out in clothing and props that are made by hand or bought at local hobby shops.  

In some cases, the diorama creators went above and beyond to make the dioramas as accurate and lifelike as possible; like using real sheep manure (sealed in a special plastic bag, of course).

Each diorama features hand-made outfits and props, designed to make the scene look as accurate and life-like as possible. (CBC / World Famous Gopher Hole Museum)

The Torrington Gopher Hole Museum helped put the town on the map as a tourist destination; in its first year, the museum saw over 10,000 visitors. As the years have gone on, it averages about 5,000 visitors during the four months of the year that it's open. 

For the women who run the museum, it's an opportunity to flex their quirky, creative muscles, while commemorating the town they know and love — even as it changes. With life moving at a rapid pace, towns from Torrington to Toronto are losing touch with the way of life that the gopher museum depicts. 

Gophers in the moonlight at the Torrington Gopher Hole Musuem. (CBC / World Famous Gopher Hole Museum)

Dianne Kurta has been the museum's caretaker since it opened.

"The way of life that's been depicted here is even dead in Torrington," Kurta says in the documentary. "And I know in the cities, it's dying." 

A gopher takes a trip to the Torrington post office. (CBC / World Famous Gopher Hole Museum)

A snapshot of the simpler times, the Torrington Gopher Hole Museum has served its community well — hopefully, it will continue to do so for generations to come. The museum will be open for tours in the summer of 2021.

A scene from the diner in Torrington. (CBC / World Famous Gopher Hole Museum)

Even if you can't see the gophers in person, you can always pay a visit to The Torrington Gopher Hole Museum in the short documentary World Famous Gopher Hole Museum, now streaming on CBC Gem and YouTube

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