Case Study: Fort Frances

The team at the Fort Frances Museum and Cultural Centre has made inclusive community engagement their priority by planning simple, but unique programming and generating engaging new content on social media.

Case Study

About the site

Since its opening in 1978, the Fort Frances Museum and Cultural Centre has had a mission to “collect, preserve, research, exhibit, and interpret the artifacts that depict the story of people and nature as it relates to the history of Fort Frances and the surrounding Rainy River District.”

The Challenge

Fort Frances is a small, geographically isolated area; with the next closest large town being four hours away. The museum is run by a single full-time staff member. Additional temporary staff are funded through grants. They have found it challenging at times to find funding.

The community members of Fort Frances and its surrounding area are the people who primarily support and use the museum and its services. Keeping the community interested is crucial.

The approach/new initiatives:

The Fort France Museum and Cultural Centre has turned to creative, inclusive programming and an elevated social media presence to help them make their space a cultural hub for the community.

They offer children’s programming, like drama workshops with a goal “to create a safe and culturally diverse space in which issues and relationships, specifically around race (or gender), can be explored through dramatic technique and story creation.” They also offer themed activity days each week at the town’s new Rainy Lake Square to host, like “Spy School” and “Inventor’s Workshop”.

But, their engagement efforts don’t stop at children’s programming. For example, the museum hosts several adult-oriented events like fry bread sales and, during the summer months, they offer a “Tea and Scones” day where visitors can receive a scone, tea, and admission for five dollars.

New programming is designed to include community members, who may not have been involved before. For example, they specially curated a Pride Timeline that was displayed in a local coffee shop downtown. The timeline told local and non-local LGBTQ2 community stories. They also hosted an Ojibwe Traditional Fashion Show.

Ojibwe Traditional Fashion Show

A woman in her Jingle Dancer regalia for the Ojibwe Traditional Fashion Show

Social media:

The museum staff had the foresight to apply for a grant to hire a Community Engagement Coordinator. In March 2018, Laura Gosse, a recent graduate of the University of Lethbridge’s Archaeology program, joined the team. From the beginning, Laura saw potential for more social media engagement with the surrounding community and she was eager to revamp their social media channels.

In an effort to generate more engaging content, she helped to introduce themed social media days like “History Mystery Tuesday,” and “Fact Friday.” For History Mystery Tuesday, they post an old photo on a social media platform, such as Facebook, and ask if anyone can identify the people in the photo. For Fact Friday, they post interesting facts about the community and about their current exhibits.

A History Mystery post in which everyone was identified.

Flashback Friday photo

The response was fantastic. In less than five months, their Facebook following increased by 300 page likes.

In July 2018, a letter was published in the Fort Frances Times complimenting the museum team for their social media efforts and community engagement. The letter served as an indicator that the museum team is taking the right strides to make resources and programming more inclusive, informative and engaging.

Letter published in the Fort Frances Times

Future Plans:

The Fort Frances Museum & Cultural Centre currently has plans to partner with other heritage sites and spaces in their area to work toward creating a new Indigenous arts workshop series which would travel around the Rainy River District.

Staff hope that by hosting the travelling workshops they can provide a space to create bonds between community members that might not be made any other way.

“I want to try to foster more inclusivity and get people to move around within an hour radius of the Rainy River District,” says Laura. “I want to see people engaging and talking with one another. I think one really awesome way to get people talking is through art. Once you get to know someone while doing an art activity, you’re more willing to reach out and chat with them about other issues.”

Advice for other sites/places from the Fort Frances Museum & Cultural Centre:


Reach out to everyone. You’ll find help in the least likely of places.


Focus on your community, that’s where you’ll find constant support.


Keep inclusivity in mind when you are brainstorming ideas.