Sam... Our Founder

Sam Waller: Collector, Naturalist & Teacher

Young Sam Waller c. 1915

A lifelong collector, Sam Waller called himself a "Pack Rat" and referred to his museum as a "Clutter-torium". Following in the tradition of the Victorian-era collector of oddities and curiosities, he amassed an astounding and eclectic array of unusual items over his lifetime. But more than a mere collector, Sam was also a dedicated and knowledgeable naturalist, a taxidermist, and a serious museum curator and teacher.

As a teacher, first in northern Ontario and then at various Aboriginal schools in central Manitoba, Sam used items from his growing collection as visual aids to overcome language barriers in the classroom. In 1958, upon retiring from teaching, Sam opened his "Little Northern Museum", sometimes referred to as "The Biggest Little Museum in the World". There, he explained, he hoped to 'portray life as it once was in the distant past'. He intended for his Museum to 'give the young the opportunity to see visions and the old to dream again their dreams'.

The new attraction was popular with both locals and visitors, with over 5,000 names recorded in the guest book in the first eight months of operation. Sam lived on-site, and the Museum was often open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Sam's ever expanding collection soon outgrew this modest setting, and in 1970, as a provincial centennial project, the local Rotary Club constructed a larger building to house the Museum and its live-in Curator. Sam was a hospitable guide a veritable fount of knowledge who even prepared tea and biscuits for his favourite guests. Sam passed away in 1978, by which time the Town of The Pas had taken over the administration of the Museum.

Since that time the Museum has continued to grow and evolve under the direction of a number of staff, the most notable of whom was Paul Thistle, a long-serving Curator who oversaw the renovation of The Pas Court House and Community Building into a purpose-designed, climate controlled museum building, and the subsequent move of the Museum's encyclopedic holdings into the new facility.