First land titles office becomes home to surveying history

The inauguration takes place at the Museum of the Association of Saskatchewan Land Surveyors.

BATTLEFORD — Friday ended with thunderstorms and showers, but it was all sunshine and smiles at the grand opening of the Saskatchewan Land Surveyors Association museum earlier in the day.

A vibrant crowd of young and old were in attendance, many chatting outside the museum under the comforting shade of the trees that surround the surrounding area at the front of the 145-year-old building. The ceremony, originally scheduled two years ago (delayed due to the pandemic) was warm for those who waited for the date.

The building is the first land registry office in the Northwest Territories and is therefore known as the oldest brick building in Saskatchewan, having been constructed between 1877 and 1878. It is located near the Battle River on a elevation known as Government Ridge, the location of the territory’s first government.

Although the structure serves as a historical landmark today, it has served various purposes over the years. Originally containing records of all private and public land in the territories, the building was used for 30 years until a new office was built nearer to the Battleford business center in 1908. The town of Battleford acquired the property in 1997.

Memorabilia of surveying tools and technology include the curta, which is considered the world’s first pocket calculator. The device, entirely mechanical (no batteries, keyboard, etc.), was without equal for nearly 30 years before microchips and transistors appeared in electronic calculators in the 1970s.

For Gordon Webster, former president of the association (1983) and now a life member, the changes have been immense. Webster began his career in the field after high school, persuaded by his uncle to come work for the summer; 50 years later, he retired. According to him, the technology used in 1966 was the same as the original equipment used by surveyors in the region decades earlier, but over time the emergence of an electronic measurement system, instrumentation electronics, GPS and drones have completely changed the situation.

These technological changes are where Heather Maloney, the current president of the association, comes into play.

Asked about the evolution of surveying, she mentioned that today’s surveying still traces the footsteps of the original surveyors via the same methodologies, but the technology behind “the art of measurement” has exchange.

Maloney comes from a long line of affiliation with the association, as her uncle, her father, and then her brother all served as president, before she took the reins.

For Maloney, education is an important component of the association’s goal to preserve its heritage, as there is a shortage of surveyors and technicians in the field today.

One of the association’s goals is to show a plethora of classrooms around the building, to see the latest ground scanning technologies, but also to understand how surveys have been conducted in the past.

For those wishing to visit the museum, it is open six days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. See https://www.slsa.sk.ca/ for more details.