O'Leary museum rebranded as Canadian Potato Museum

Eric McCarthy
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[O’Leary, PEI]— A panel just inside the main doors of the Canadian Potato Museum in O’Leary (Prince Edward Island) points out that this country ranks somewhere around 12th or 13th in world potato production.

Canadian Potato Museum.

China and Russia rank first and second respectively, producing as many spuds as the next eight countries combined.

If PEI were classed as a nation it would be in the top 30.

But here is where Canada and Prince Edward Island step up: Based on population and production, Canada ranks sixth in per capita potato production.

Belarus is first, harvesting around 900 kilograms of spuds per capita.

PEI, however, harvests about 10,000 kg per capita.

“Welcome to the potato capital of the world,” the panel concludes.

After passing the giant potato just outside of the entrance to the museum, the information panel gives visitors their next indication of the significance of the potato in PEI.

The main building in the museum complex underwent a $325,000 transformation over the winter months and is now re-opened to visitors.

Going hand-in-hand with the transformation was a board decision to rebrand the facility as The Canadian Potato Museum.

The space where The Amazing Potato Exhibit had been housed, to the left of the main entrance, is now home to the community museum.

The exhibit has been moved to the other end of the building and incorporates some new technology.

The potato equipment gallery leads the way to that exhibit, taking up much of the former community museum space, and is more spread out than before.

MacDonald said there was a lot of duplication the way things had previously been set up, but now most of that has been eliminated.

The renovations also provided a storage room where many miscellaneous items are now stored, yet available for viewing.

A key component of the renovation involved ripping out walls to create a gift shop that’s more than double what the museum had to offer before. The gift shop continues right into a new P.E.I. Potato Country Kitchen, a 40-seat restaurant which prides itself on dishes and desserts made with potatoes as a key ingredient: Potato chili, potato pizza, potato cookies, potato bread – the list goes on. 

Visitors can step up and learn to make potato fudge. 

“We’re getting a lot of local support, which is great,” MacDonald said. 

Diners and gift shop customers can bypass the admissions counter.

MacDonald said the changes are even more impressive than what the board had envisioned, and he believes they got good bang for their buck.

There are detractors to the rebranding, and the relocation of the giant potato, but MacDonald said the board believes in the finished product.

“The main reason for that,” he said of the name change, “is to raise the profile of the museum.”

There is also potato equipment in the exhibit from Ontario and elsewhere, he said, and they expect to add more.

“It’s marketing: raising the profile of the potato and, at the same time, emphasizing the Prince Edward Island potato,” he said.

“In a sense, we are the potato capital of the world.”

Official opening of the Canadian Potato Museum was set for 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 16.

Journal Pioneer

Organizations: Canadian Potato Museum, O'Leary museum, P.E.I. Potato Country Kitchen

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Canada, China Russia Belarus Ontario

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