For 40 years in the early 1900s the Medalta factory produced tens of thousands of durable and still-popular dishes and storage crocks from imported Saskatchewan clay. But, the industry boomtown was left to ruin with machines and punch-cards still in place when the plant shuttered in 1954. Today, the Medalta Potteries National Historic Site lends insight into western Canada’s earliest large-scale industry and includes the Medalta factory—now a working museum—plus an archeological site and the nearby brick and tile plant.
Equal parts hipster and history, the aging industrial architecture of the Medalta factory, set against a Badlands backdrop, hosts a new era of artisans reviving the craft of stoneware and ceramic arts using the antique machinery. The museum features nostalgic displays on the life and stories of factory workers and over 30,000 pieces of regionally made pottery. Its adjacent free-to-access Yuill Family Gallery, fronting the two massive excavated beehive kilns, has rotating pottery exhibitions and an artist-in-residence program with studio space that serves as a community hub. The artists’ replicas are available for sale in the gift shop.
The site is located at 713 Medalta Ave SE in Medicine Hat off Industrial Ave SE (Highway 41A). It’s 185 miles southeast of Calgary and 132 miles northeast of the US border town of Sweet Grass, Montana.
Museum hours are 10am to 4pm Tuesday through Saturday and until 8:30pm on Thursday when a lively marketplace with food trucks and local vendors takes place in the high season. Admission is $12 for adults and $10 for youth (ages 6-17) and seniors. Guided museum and archeological site tours, as well as two-hour pottery workshops, are available.