Project Spotlight: Alberta Provincial Police Barracks Building Exhibit

2017 has been a fantastic year for the Westwind Design team! This year, many of our clients have opened the doors of their newly designed exhibits, including the opening of the former Alberta Provincial Police Barracks Building, in the Crowsnest Pass. Like many of the interpretive displays we produce, this exhibit embodies a piece of history; only this one explores the intriguing story of bootlegging in Alberta during the Prohibition Era and the infamous death of APP Constable Stephen Lawson.

In this project spotlight, we take you through our design and fabrication process that went into the fascinating visual exploration that embodies the newly restored Alberta Provincial Police Barracks Building.


We were so excited to have worked with the Crowsnest Historical Society on their newest edition to the Crowsnest Museum. Visual storytelling is our favourite enterprise, and we are thrilled we got the opportunity to help showcase such an engrossing piece of Crowsnest Pass history.

Project Objective:

Within such a small exhibit space (1450 sqft) our goal was to inform visitors about Alberta’s prohibition history in the Crowsnest Pass where bootlegging was extremely active. We wanted to focus on the storytelling of the family who lived in the barracks (Lawson family), and other key individuals like, Emilio Picariello and Florence Lassandro who were a part of the death of Constable Lawson, the trial, and eventual demise of the killers. 

In order to achieve this goal, our team of interpretive writers, exhibit/graphic designers and fabricators put a considerable amount of work into the development of the content, spacial layout, graphics/physical styles, colour palette, interactives, and use of artifacts.  Collectively, our team put together a modern exhibit design into this newly restored historical barracks building.

Design Process:

Staring from ground zero, we gathered information and discovered more from experts of the Prohibition Era and Lawson story to develop an exhibit storyline.  Working closely with the Crowsnest Historical Society team, we aimed to incorporate the historic information and artifacts with a modern interpretation of physical and graphic elements. Every piece has a significant role in the exhibit and our designers aimed to ensure they were each impactful in a unique way.

In this exhibit our design integrated:

  • Headlines and informational text designed to look like timely newspaper pages.
  • A colour palette that was inspired by the historical building, whiskey, and the 1920’s era.
  • Archival photographs and recordings of featured individuals – some redone with a water colour effect. This effect is seen throughout all the gallery spaces to create fluidity amongst all of the exhibit elements.  
  • Portal panels about key information pertaining to the building.
  • Infographics stating interesting facts of jail sentences, fines, and the value of liquor seized.
  • Interactive displays that allow visitors a chance to explore and even have a say if they thought justice was served.
  • A retelling of the shooting of APP constable Steve Lawson through comic-book-style graphics on banners suspended from the ceiling.
  • Details from 1920’s furniture in the display cases, and cut outs of an old kitchen stove and sideboard.


Many of the physical elements implemented were wall graphics and interpretive panels. This allowed us to accurately portray all of the content that needed to be told, as well as, activate the environment. There were additional key elements integrated into the design. These being:

  • Four primary display units to showcase artifacts that would have been in the barracks and would have been used during the Prohibition Era.
  • A display case used as an evidence table containing elements that would have been found during the trial process in that time.
  • A platform that has chairs from Picariello’s hotel.
  • Physical interactives that we developed to enhance the story and visitor engagement.
  • A speakeasy door, informing visitors about what was legal/illegal at the time in respect to alcohol.
  • A file box and clipboard that provides information about the evidence found and key points of the case/trial.
  • Visitor response station, allowing visitors an opportunity to place their vote or provide a written response to questions about the Prohibition Era and Lawson story.



This project required many hands to pull it all together. We needed to educate ourselves on all the historical material, and then find a way to distill the information into a format easily read by visitors. This process is very time consuming and overall extremely challenging. In addition, this story has been told and dissected many times with many unique interpretations. To provide visitors with an unbiased interpretation is difficult. However, our team of writers and designers, alongside the Crowsnest Historical Society team, were able to pull it all together to provide visitors with a cohesive and interactive experience!

The other main challenge was designing an exhibit for a building that was to be moved 4’ from its current location, with the interior to be restored to its original state in some areas. We had to work in with the restoration contractors to dictate where exhibit elements, lighting, and electrical would be required. We had a very short deadline to install the exhibit as the restoration of the building wasn’t complete until 2 weeks before the grand opening. Thankfully, all members of the team did an amazing job to pull the project together.

The Reveal!

The Crowsnest Historical Society hosted a Grand Opening Ceremony in front of the Alberta Provincial Police Barracks. It began with a special Alberta Police Services parade, followed by a ribbon-cutting event, and guided tours. The doors of the exhibit opened this summer to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Alberta Provincial Police (APP) and Canada’s 150th Birthday.

Various dignitaries, the public, and even news agencies came together to tour this revitalized historical building! Take a look at some of the editorials featuring the exhibit:

Crowsnest Pass Herald | Grand Opening of Alberta Provincial Police Barracks Building and Exhibit

Calgary Herald | Restoration of historic police barracks stirs memories of notorious murder and hanging

The barracks can be found in the Township of Coleman where it was first built in 1904 and served the APP from 1917 to 1932. To plan a visit and find our more information about the Alberta Provincial Police Barracks Building, visit the Crowsnest Heritage website here.

Find more pictures of our design in our portfolio and leave a comment below. We’d love to hear what you think of the exhibit!

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