World Famous Gopher Hole Museum

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. In the diner they pick over fries. In the church a deacon quietly dozes through the sermon, unaware of an ascending angel hovering in the rafters. Curator Dianne Kurta has been the museum's one steadfast caregiver for its 20 year history. Initially convinced that the stuffed gopher scheme sounded a little nuts, she soon found it gave her a sense of purpose, a connection with her hometown. In retirement Dianne became a daily fixture at the museum. 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. Their weathered faces and world-wearied voices cannot hide the struggles of life forgotten by the ascending development of oil-rich Alberta. 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.

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