World Famous Gopher Hole MuseumThe farm town of Torrington, Alberta wants to be frozen in time just like the taxidermied gophers in its famous tourist attraction. NOW STREAMING ON CBC GEM
For those outside of Canada, click here to watch World Famous Gopher Hole Museum on YouTube.
Tiny Torrington, AB longs to be frozen in time like the gophers in its tourist attraction.
In a dark room seventy pairs of beady eyes stare back at you from behind illuminated glass boxes. The eyes belong to the taxidermized gophers populating the dioramas of the Torrington Gopher Hole Museum. The Museum was opened in 1996 in the rural hamlet of Torrington, Alberta (pop. 200). The gophers are lovingly costumed and arranged in dioramas as members of the community.
The museum's creation story goes something like this: back in the mid-'90s the fortunes of rural Canada were grim. Large scale agriculture had come to gut the family farming industry, in turn depressing the small communities that had grown up around the farms. Tourism seemed like a good option for Torrington, but all the town had to offer was a severe gopher problem that wasn't going away. Finally, one frustrated council member quipped that they might as well just stuff them then, and so the World Famous Gopher Hole Museum was born.
Curator Dianne Kurta has been the museum's one steadfast caregiver for its 20 year history. Initially she thought the stuffed gopher scheme sounded a little nuts, but soon found it gave her purpose and a connection with her hometown. Recently her health has started to deteriorate. Slowly she acknowledges a day is coming when she can no longer be of service to the museum. Can one survive without the other?
This unflinching portrait looks at absurdity and sincerity as intertwined necessities of life. Long-time citizens tell their own stories of Torrington, depicted in tableau by the dioramas preserving them for the ages. A layer cake of comedy, pathos, irony, and empathy, World Famous Gopher Hole Museum is a journey into the human desire to validate one’s own history.