Glenbow Museum began with the remarkable vision of petroleum entrepreneur and lawyer Eric Lafferty Harvie. Mr. Harvie came into his fortune when oil was discovered on the land to which he held the mineral rights to, with the discovery in Leduc in 1947 and in Redwater in 1949. With this prosperity, he decided to pursue his favourite passion — collecting — and simultaneously return some of his good fortune back to the region that had been so generous to him. Mr. Harvie's goal was to collect the objects representing the history and culture of Western Canada as well as from around the world.
Eric Harvie began collecting material relating to the history of Western Canada in the 1950s, developing an extensive collection of artifacts from North America that tell the fascinating story of Aboriginal peoples, frontier exploration, and the development of western Life. He built on these North American collections with extraordinary artifacts and art from Asia, West Africa, South America, and islands in the Pacific, eventually amassing a huge museum collection. Establishing the Glenbow Foundation in 1954, Mr. Harvie's collection became an eclectic blend of western history and international art and artifacts.
In 1966, Eric Harvie and his family donated his impressive collection of art, artifacts, and historical documents to the people of Alberta. Today, Glenbow Museum is one of the most entrepreneurial museums in Canada, playing an essential role in defining Western Canadian culture. Glenbow also continues Eric Harvie's vision to be "Where the World Meets the West," inviting visitors to explore three major special exhibitions annually, and an eclectic range of permanent galleries featuring significant Western Canadian and international collections.
About Our Founder
Eric Lafferty Harvie (1892-1975) was the Glenbow Museum's founder and the West's most notable philanthropist. From small town roots in Orillia, Ontario, he moved west, started a one-man legal practice, and kept his eye on business opportunities in the new province of Alberta.
Eric married Dorothy Southam and together they had three children, Joy, Donald, and Neil. The family liked nothing better than weekends at their Glenbow Ranch, where they hunted, fished, and camped out under canvas beneath the prairie sky. On February 13, 1947, at the age of 55, Eric received a life changing phone call from the president of Imperial Oil. The Leduc No. 1 exploration well had hit a gusher on land whose mineral rights he owned. And so began the quest that consumed the final 28 years of his life: to create institutions that celebrated the history and beauty of this part of the world. Determined to give back to Canada, Mr. Harvie provided support for the creation of the Glenbow Museum, the Banff School of Fine Arts, the Luxton Museum, the Calgary Zoo, Heritage Park, and Confederation Square and Arts Complex in Charlottetown, P.E.I. To continue the legacy, the Devonian Foundation was created, and was run by his son, Donald Harvie.
By the time of his death Eric Harvie had donated about half a billion dollars (in current value) to Canada, and his dreams for our collective western heritage. Those dreams now live on in all of the institutions he created.