The Nickle Galleries opened at its new signature location on the main floor of the Taylor Family Digital Library in October 2012. The new site provides the more than 13,000 library visitors a day the opportunity to explore the Galleries’ exhibitions and programs – free of charge. Formerly known as The Nickle Arts Museum, the Nickle Galleries features three impressive galleries highlighting the best of contemporary art in western Canada and intriguing art and artifacts drawn from the Nickle and the Library’s wide-ranging collections.
The Nickle was founded in 1979 with a generous donation by Mr. Samuel C. Nickle, matched by a grant from The Province of Alberta and supported by donations from several founding patrons. Since its opening in 1979, the Nickle has championed contemporary art, textiles, and numismatics in western Canada.
Since September of 1996, the Nickle has also been the coordinators and focal point of the Minor program in Museum and Heritage Studies. This is a minor programme providing students with theoretical knowledge and practical experience in the Cultural and Heritage sector.
We work with the other departments and faculties at the University of Calgary, the community in general, and specifically the art, rug, and numismatic communities to promote learning, research and discovery.
Nickle Galleries, formerly The Nickle Arts Museum, is a university museum with an established history of challenging, relevant and successful exhibitions and public programs. The Nickle has three areas of concentration for its exhibitions and collections: modern and contemporary art, with a focus on Western Canada; numismatics, with strength in ancient coins and modern paper money; and textiles, with an emphasis on Asian carpets. The Nickle presents a full complement of temporary exhibitions and ongoing public programming to engage students and scholars and to collaborate both nationally and internationally. Museum staff, following the highest professional museum standards, aim to foster critical thinking and discovery through their research, exhibitions, publications and outreach.
Samuel Clarence Nickle (1889 – 1971)
Samuel Clarence Nickle was born in 1889 in Philadelphia. The family soon moved to Winnipeg. Shortly after Sam and Olga Simonson, a concert violinist, were married, Sam saw First World War service in the United States Coast Guard. Rejoining the family in Calgary, he entered the shoe business with his father, operating The Nickle Boot Shops. Later Sam established his own store, the Slipper Shop on 8th Avenue. In the 1920’s, he first caught the “oil bug”, investing in oil exploration in the Turner Valley and Athabasca areas. A few years later, Sam Nickle decided to devote his career to oil exploration. Using his Turner Valley leases as collateral, he formed Northend Petroleums. In 1944 he founded Anglo American Oils and ventured into oil exploration in other provinces. Past the age at which most men retire, he continued building and finally merged his businesses into Canadian Gridoil Limited. As he reached his 80th birthday, he decided to donate one million dollars to the university’s special building fund for the construction of an arts museum. This amount was matched by the Alberta government. At the University of Calgary’s Spring Convocation in 1971, Samuel Clarence Nickle was awarded an honorary doctorate in recognition of his community service. Shortly afterward he died at the age of 81. The Nickle Arts Museum was the first building at the University of Calgary to be constructed as the result of a private donation.
Carl Olof Nickle (1914 – 1990)
Carl Olof Nickle was born in Winnipeg in 1914, and came to Calgary with his parents, Sam and Olga Nickle as boy. The family was far from wealthy. In 1937, with sixty-five dollars in capital, Carl launched a newsletter, Nickle’s Daily Oil Bulletin. In 1948 Carl began a second publication, Oil in Canada. Carl was elected to the House of Commons as a Progressive Conservative member in a 1951 by-election, and was re-elected in 1953, retiring in 1957. He formed his own oil and gas company, Conventures, and served on the boards of directors of many companies in Canada and the U.S. Carl’s first love was numismatics and he created a major collection of ancient coins. In 1970 he donated the main part of the collection to The Nickle Arts Museum. In 1955 he established The Nickle Foundation, and in 1971, merged that foundation with one his Father, Sam, had founded to create The Nickle Family Foundation. In 1979, Carl Nickle – like his father before him – was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Calgary, in recognition of his great contributions to the Calgary and University communities. Dr. Carl Olof Nickle died in December 1990.