A Detailed History of UCAMA
The Ukrainian Canadian Archives and Museum of Alberta (UCAMA) was founded by Hryhory Yopyk, an accomplishment for which he deserves the gratitude of the Ukrainian community of Edmonton and Alberta as well as of all those who appreciate the importance of a museum. It shows what can be accomplished by one determined individual with the help of family, close friends, and associates.
As early as the mid 1960’s Mr. Yopyk considered establishing a museum-archive in to permanently house the memorabilia of our Ukrainian pioneers in Canada, particularly in Alberta. His dream began to take form in 1968 when the Rev. Bohdan Lozynsky presented him with a large number of books and other printed material collected from pioneers throughout Alberta which he began to systematically catalogue and file. His wife, Stefania, assisted in restoring and repairing damaged items.
Hryhory approached Very Rev. Dr. M. Sopulak, editor of the newspaper Ukrainian News to publish the list of donors and appeal for additional contributions and the collection continued to grow as further newspaper articles provided readers with updates on the collection which encouraged even more donations. Most weekends found the Yopyk’s travelling throughout Alberta collecting materials with the aid of parish priests. During these forays into rural Alberta Hryhory always brought along his camera to photograph the many churches.
The collection was initially stored in the Yopyk’s home, but by the early 1970’s it had grown to large for their house to accommodate. Hryhory had come to a crossroads and was advised by some to turn over the collection to the Ottawa while others counselled that it be sent to various museums in Ukraine. But heeding the advice of his wife he decided that the collection had to remain in Edmonton. To this end Hryhory approached like-minded individuals and invited them to a meeting to establish a new institution. At that meeting a name was chosen and a first committee appointed and the Ukrainian Canadian Archives and Museum of Alberta was born. This very first committee was comprised of: Hryhory Yopyk, president; Very Rev. Dr. M. Sopulak, vice-president; Mykhaylo Nakonechny, secretary; Bohdan Melnychuk, treasurer; Mykhaylo Kohut, finance chairman; members at large – Yuri Stefanyk, Stefania Yopyk, Prof. S. Eremenko, and Pavlo Foremsky. At the first meeting of the directors two additional members were added to the board: George Fedunec and Steve Hucul. On 15 September 1972 the directors of the museum met to sign the charter for the museum which had been prepared by Russell Dzenick. The charter was submitted to the Provincial government for approval which was duly granted on 31 October 1972.
The search now began in earnest to find a suitable building to house the UCAMA collection. Hryhory found the building which was purchased for $21,500. A down payment of $1,000 was made by Hryhory Yopyk, Bohdan Melnychuk, and Prof. S. Eremenko. The balance was borrowed from the Heritage Trust Co. and guaranteed by Hryhory Yopyk, Bohdan Melnychuk, Very Rev. Dr. M. Sopulak, Steve Hucul, and Prof. S. Eremenko. The loan was negotiated by Russell Dzenick.
Architect R. Prodaniuk was then engaged to provide plans for the remodelling of the building (plans that he prepared without charge). The plans were approved by the City of Edmonton. The remodelling labour costs were funded by the Alberta Government with a grant of $18,000 under the LIP programme and the Federal Government provided $6,000 for cataloguing. It was determined that additional funds were needed for the reconstruction of the building as well as to purchase shelving, tables, and cabinets. To this end a Finance Committee was struck with Mykhailo Kohut, George Fedunec, Steve Hucul, and Hryhory Yopyk as members. Bohdan Melnychuk prepared a bi-lingual brochure indicating the needs of UCAMA. The members of the Finance Committee embarked on an ambitious campaign to encourage 25 people to each donate $500. To set an example each committee member contributed $500.
On 27 October 1974 at 2 pm the Ukrainian Canadian Archives and Museum of Alberta was officially opened. Russell Dzenick was appointed chairman of the committee arranging the opening day ceremonies attended by over one thousand people. The Honourable Horst Schmidt, Minister of Culture with the Government of Alberta unveiled the engraved plague. Following the unveiling those present sang the Ukrainian anthem under the direction of Roman Soltykewych.
Hryhory Yopyk was officially recognized for his contributions in the field of culture by the Edmonton Historical Board which awarded him with an honourary certificate in 1976 noting his work in the preservation of the Ukrainian heritage in Edmonton.
In 2002 UCAMA’s Board of Directors determined through a professionally prepared feasibility study that the present building which houses its extensive collections is functionally obsolete. Therefore, in March of 2003, UCAMA acquired the Lodge Hotel and the Brighton Block on Jasper Avenue (both designated as Municipal Historic Resources by the City of Edmonton). This prominent downtown location will serve as an accessible new home for the museum and its collections. Phase 1 of the construction is expected to be completed by mid 2014.