All Things New at the End of the Year

By ALANNAH MACGREGOR

As we approach the last month of 2022 I found myself confronted with the fact that I haven’t written a blog since January of this year. Occasionally in the past as a collection technician I’ve struggled with what to write in these blogs. How could I describe to you exactly how amazing it is to hold an artifact in your hand and have the privilege of documenting everything about it, who owned it, who made it, every scratch, crack and dent that makes it unique? Today I find myself writing this blog and I have a feeling the trouble will be keeping it from turning it into a novel. 

Spoilers first, while I am an old face at the Museum of Lennox and Addington early this October I started work in a new role, I am now the museum’s Programs and Exhibition’s Co-ordinator, and to be honest I could not be any more thrilled about it!

A glimpse into the past, a photo from my first weeks of work as a summer intern 2019

A short trip down memory lane. I grew up in Lennox and Addington County and yet went 23 years naïve to the fact that I had such an interesting museum in my backyard. Come winter of 2019 and I’m searching the internet for a summer internship, I applied thinking it would be a small maybe one or two room museum, despite this I spent whole days preparing for my interview. I still remember the first moment I walked in the foyer the day of my interview, my first thought was “Whoa” my second thought was “I want to work here!” If you’ve been to the museum, maybe you remember the first time you walked through the front doors into that big open space with huge dark wood beams running along the ceiling, and grand glass cases which for me at the time contained incredible model ships. I didn’t know how lucky I was when some time later I was accepting an internship with the museum. I had no idea the happiness, frustration, and pride this museum would bring me over the next three and a half years. 

Returning to the present, I still pause a moment every morning when I walk through this beautiful building, I get to see my hand in the exhibits as I go by, banners hung, a grain shovel researched, a diorama accessioned. In 3 years I can see the small impact many hours of hard work have had on the museum and I am filled with a joy I cannot describe.

The aforementioned banners

I am writing this blog just over a month and a half into my new role, and I’m still learning the ins and outs. Having solidified most of our winter programming for 2023 I sit here thrilled about what the museum will be bringing our wonderful visitors in the new year. Our coming activities largely focus on introducing people to a multitude of cultures through insightful presentations, art workshops, music, and dance. Our programs this winter will keep your toes tapping, your art hearts filled, and your minds thinking about new perspectives.  

There is definitely a learning curve to any new job and while I’d like to say I’ve gotten some of it down pat, that’s always when you’re hit with something new. So far I’ve learned to cast a wide net when planning, that no day is going to go according to plan, and most importantly try to stay flexible. I’ve also been getting fantastic guidance and support from the team here at the Museum of Lennox and Addington! My favorite piece of advice so far was that I need to be bossier on occasion. 

Mostly I’ve been learning to take the good with the bad with any program. The first PA Day program I designed was in late October; the school aged children and I learned how to recognize bird songs, played a game in the museum, and made our own bird seed. While this full program was a success there were also lots of takeaways like the programs I design don’t take as long as I expect them to, and most importantly avoid cranberries at all costs, even the dried ones make an awful bright red mess. I’ve also had the opportunity to create a school program based around our photo exhibit Owls of Amherst Island and Other Canadian Wildlife, for a kindergarten/grade 1 class. Part of the program included learning how we identify what kind of animals we saw. Seeing those students light up with interest when they are asked to think about how we tell a bear from an owl, was a huge huge highlight in this new role. However even with a school program there were takeaways, primarily it’s getting the hang of what each age group requires and how many fun facts I can throw in with the fun activities and still have their interest. Overall I think at this point I’m learning just as much from every program as our participants. 

An artifact going on display early 2023

This new role also includes an exhibition’s components, which is an area of museum work I’m better versed in. This component helps ground me and reminds me that no matter how many programs I put together our collection and exhibits are the backbone for everything we do. I still derive a lot of joy sitting from down for a quiet hour or two and working with our artifacts. Does it belong in this exhibit? How will we display it? What challenges does it pose? They are all questions that need to be answered before the big install. 

Late December and into early January 2023 the museum staff will be taking down several exhibits to make room for the amazing new ones. As much as I love installing new exhibits and getting to see the museum in a whole new light, I find taking down any exhibit is a bitter experience for me. It’s difficult to take something down when you know how much work went into getting it up there, exactly how much effort went into creating the exhibit’s concept and all the people who had to come together to bring it to life. If jeopardy had a category called “Life lessons I learned at the museum” the first answer would be “What is: change is hard, but there is always something exciting coming around the next corner!”    

So that’s where I am right now. My desk is no longer the thing of order seen in the first photo and instead looks like a small tornado passed over it, and some days my brain feels the same way. Despite this, I still like to take time every day when I walk through the museum to appreciate the beauty of where I work, its past and my past; but I also take equal time to welcome whatever new experiences this wonderful museum has in store for me. At the end of the day, what more can you ask out of any museum than to be somewhere people can go to experience the past in all its difficult complexity and to look to the future thinking about what’s right around the corner.          

Oh Look at the Time!

By JoAnne Himmelman

Oh what a curious job I have….I got to work with one of my favourite people and put my “history hunter hat” back on for a couple of weeks. Martin Wright and I have been chums since I started working at the Macpherson House in 2001. He has been a person that I have turned to time and time again for counsel and a shoulder to lean on. I am proud to call him friend. We both have a bone deep love for the Macpherson House– I enjoy taking TIME to sit and talk to him as he has so many memories of the Macpherson House before I stepped through its doors.  He has helped relentlessly to present the Macpherson House in its best possible light, time and time again. We have sat in that House countless hours talking shop!

On our behalf – Martin has pursued auctions and has roamed the halls and alleyways of antique houses…all for the love of the game that history collecting truly is. Martin knew that I was on the hunt for a tall case clock for the lower hallway at the House. It was a void in that hall that was gnawing at me. The Laird of Napanee would have had a tall case clock! 

In recent months, we had been going back and forth on another clock….but wasn’t really sure… it’s a hard call… I know we should be looking at Canadian made pieces  but those early clocks are hard to come by and even if available, our budget couldn’t support it.  So we talked and we didn’t think it inconceivable that Macpherson would ship things to Canada from overseas. So we went in hunt of another solution…the House was built c1826 BUT our time period that we like to project at the House is as late as 1840, so anything before that is really fair game. It opened it up slightly for us.

TA-DA- this clock made its way to the public domain… Martin called me and we checked it out. It’s an Irish clock from Ballymoney, and from our digging we think it’s about 1825 – using the manufacturing timelines of the clockmaker Joseph Gordon. The stylization of the woodworking is true to this early period – it has  lovely ball and claw feet, columned mahogany wood detailing,  and a hand painted moon “face” dial – it is all so absolutely endearing.  So maybe this clock is a winner for us… off to the auction house we went! 

The clock-workings will need some restoration BUT we will work with a conservator in the Spring on that secondary project. I can’t wait to hear those bells chime. In the meantime this lovely new addition to the museum collection adds to the overall ambience of the House and is befitting of the upper-crust lifestyle that Macpherson truly lived.

Thank you to Martin for his constant friendship and guidance in my career. It was fun to be your co-history sleuth with this clock!! Now what’s next??

The Curation of Traditions: Halloween Edition

Confessions of a Curator

By JoAnne Himmelman

Sigh…this time of year always leaves me so melancholy. While my red hair might indicate my love for autumn, I have to tell you that it lies. I actually get quite sad when August fades into September and Pumpkin Spice takes over the world. I am a summer person, through and through. I love warm summer nights, dipping my feet in the lake, enjoying  a glass of wine by an evening bonfire, and listening to the calls of the loons (no not my children)… I mean actual loons as they hunt for their dinner. We get such a short summer season that I just want to wrap it up and hold onto it… I have yet to figure this out.

As I wave goodbye to summer, my family is ushering in the hockey and dance season. We say hello to homework, intramural sports, extra art classes, football, hockey road trips, and dance shoe fittings. My husband and I become a tag team and ships that pass in the night….we race the roads, we sit on narrow dance benches and in cold arenas, we text each other updates about our days and we long for the quiet respite of Summer.

October is here and almost over…we have settled into our back to school things and maybe have gouged out a groove to the routine…maybe?

So while I am looking at travel sites and planning my sunny vacation to the South this winter, because you know..its sunny and hot!! My daughter is looking at me to make her Halloween costume. Sigh…it really is October.

From the Archives of Lennox & Addington

While I have limited time to do a lot of extras right now… I must say… I make great costumes. I am not the mom you go to when you need cupcakes, cookies, or even spare time anymore…I honestly don’t have it and I don’t bake!  But if you need me to pull out a costume for a school play, event, or holiday ….I am your gal.   Maybe it’s the exhibit designer in me!!

So what does this have to do with anything museum, you might ask?   Well…here’s the thing.  It’s about the tradition.  We create tradition with our holidays that build into excitement, expectation, and genuine joy.   It’s about that time spent with your children, spouse, and friends during that celebration that creates the stories, objects, and photos that eventually make their way into a museum collection.

Have you ever just stopped to think about why we do things?  Where did it all start?  My every day at work is this very question – why?

My job as the curator is to hold the stories and curate them into an exhibit of objects that sparks emotion (good or bad).  So while I was making my daughter’s costume last night, I was mulling this.

Here I am making tail feathers for my daughter’s Peacock costume and in the background, my kids are setting up their Halloween village, a collection of Halloween houses they have been building since they were little.  I realize while I am in the thick of being the “tired mommy”, my kids have keen expectation and exude joy at our simple family traditions. But to them they aren’t simple…they are the extraordinary in our ordinary life.   Do you remember the exhibit I installed last year on this very thought….the ordinary is the extraordinary!

So while I am curating my family life into a series of holidays and celebrations. I realize it is what I do within the museum as well. I curate those human interactions, I document the time, the story, the object and then box it up, where it waits to be pulled out and celebrated again.  Just like we do in our homes…we box up our traditions and we bring them out to celebrate our holidays and special days.

Museum curation is a special job.  I get to safeguard the stories, I get to care for them and hold them dear for future generations to enjoy.  Much like my mom life at home…I hold my own family’s stories dear for my grandchildren to hear some day.  I will pull out the photos, the keepsakes, a costume or two….and I will celebrate the traditions we held dear.

So this was kind of deep thinking on a Tuesday night, after a long work day, in between folding laundry, making supper, and walking the dog and of course designing the important Halloween costume. 

Over the past 14 years, I have made over 20 costumes.  I love the challenge of creating what my children ask me to make them.  Halloween is a holiday steeped in darkness…made lighter by costumes  that are worn to trick the dead/souls that wander the earth on October 31st, we carve pumpkins (originally turnips) to ward off spirits,  we collect candy…wait a minute…why do we collect candy???

I love the history, the tradition, the fun, and the creativity that comes with every Halloween….so maybe, just maybe my goodbye to summer is a touch more bearable…if I think about all the traditions and family fun that come after the summer fade….

OH BTW….I have scavenged the museum collection and we have NO costumes or objects from past Halloweens…..so sad. Do you have a Halloween story for the museum?  Do you have some photos, costumes, home décor from your childhood?   Let the museum know at museum@lennox-addington.on.ca

Hello from Heather!

Meet the Archivist

Hello there! This blog post is coming to you from Heather, the new Archivist here at the Museum of Lennox and Addington. I couldn’t be more excited to join the team, and I am so looking forward to getting to know our community. I originally hail from Sudbury, and after spending the past three years living out on the east coast in New Brunswick it is good to be back in Ontario, closer to family. Lennox and Addington is a whole new area for me to explore, and I can’t wait to dive in. In my free time you can often find me at the library, exploring hiking trails, or visiting other local museums and heritage sites, when I am not spending time with my dog and three cats, or riding my horse. I’m always looking for suggestions for new sites to check out!

Pippi, Ginny, Cali, Holly, and Merlin (Left to right, top to bottom)

I am often asked what led me to become an archivist, or what my background is that allows me to do the work I do. It was a long and winding road which led me here, and I questioned my path plenty of times along the way. I can’t put my finger on exactly when I fell in love with history, or what got me hooked, but growing up history was all around me, in the books I read, the movies I watched, even the video games I played. Every family summer vacation involved many visits to museums along the way, and even though we visited the same sites year after year there was somehow always something new to experience, and these were highlights of the trips for me. To this day wherever I travel I seek out the local museums and historical sites.

National Railway Museum, York, England 2019

Though it seems my love of history was always there I did not always know where that love would take me. I started my university career thinking I would pursue a degree in science and follow a more “practical” path. It took less than one term for me to realize that road was not for me, and by the second term I had jumped ship to Ancient Studies and Classics. I loved diving into the stories of “ordinary” (upper class) everyday people through their letters, books, and poetry that made their world come alive in a way no history textbook could. While completing my undergrad I worked for a summer at the City of Greater Sudbury Archives, digitizing minute books, newspapers, and audio cassettes. One of the projects I worked on was digitizing the oral histories of Ukranians who had immigrated to Sudbury, something I think about frequently these days. The power of archives to connect with the community around them, preserve voices that would otherwise be lost, and help those voices to be heard is one of the things I love most about this job.

Nevertheless, it took me some time to find my true passion and several years of navigating through the choppy waters of graduate studies. My plan had been to carry on and do a PhD, but the deeper I got into my Master’s program in Scottish Studies, another of my passions, the more I came to realize that life as an academic was not for me. Instead, my love for museums and cultural heritage, in general, led me to complete a second masters degree in Public History. That opened up a whole new world for me as I began volunteering and working in museums. I was at first torn between a career in museums and a career in archives, but when I landed an internship at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick I knew I had found my place. However, I realized I needed more formal education in archival theory and practice and thus embarked on a third masters degree in Archival studies which I have nearly completed. Over the past three years, as an intern and later as Archives Manager of the Charlotte County Archives, and through my academic work, I’ve developed my passion for not only preserving history, but making it relevant and accessible in the present. I love meeting people from all walks of life, and getting to know their stories. Working in smaller communities I’ve also found my passion for local history. I have seen firsthand the ability of archives to reunite families, to give people a sense of place and an identity, to better understand the world around us, and to build for the future.

 Gertrude Preston of Amherst Island on a road trip with a group of friends, 1920s

Archives are not a static entity, trapped in the past, but rather are always growing and changing with us. While archives continue to preserve paper records as they have always done, one of the modern challenges faced by archivists that I look forward to is  continuing to adapt the archives to the digital age. This includes the preservation of both these paper records in digital form and what we refer to as “born digital” records in forms that survive as digital technology evolves and changes, to ensure that these valuable historical records are not lost.

I’ve always been drawn in by the social side of history, how people in the past lived, and how they saw the world around them. Archives offer so many different windows into the stories of our past, and often you can really get to know the individual(s) who created them and step into another world through their words and images. I am thrilled that I have found a place where both the Archivist and the Public Historian in me can shine, and I can’t wait to share our stories with you.

 

Be a Part of Lennox & Addington’s Story – Scan your Photos to the Archives!

Are you part of Lennox and Addington County’s story? Then we want to hear about it! 

Share photographs with us during the month of April and be part of our community digitization project. What’s in for you? You’ll walk away with free prints of your scanned photographs to share so your original copies stay safe for a long time.

For the month of April, you’re encouraged to bring 1-5 photographs of anything or anyone in Lennox and Addington County to the Archives. Photographs can be of yourself growing up here, your ancestors from a century ago, a business or even your family participating in a COVID-19 activity while stuck at home. Anything goes as long as you can tell us the story behind it!

 

Here’s how it works:

  • You bring 1-5 photographs of any size and colour to the Archives
  • We scan your photographs, you tell us the story behind them
  • You walk away with 8×10 colour prints of your photographs 

Scanned images become part of the permanent digital collection at the Archives of Lennox and Addington to be shared with the community 

Stop by the Museum of Lennox & Addington, located at 97 Thomas Street East in Napanee, Monday – Friday from 10am – 5pm  until April 30th. Note that we will be open on Saturday, April 30 from 10-5 for this project. Call 613-354-3027 for more information or contact Kim Kerr at kkerr@lennox-addington.on.ca.  

March Break Fun at the Museum of L&A

We’re all counting down the days until March Break, and I couldn’t be more excited to have a week full of fun events lined up to keep your families entertained! This year we’ll be blasting off with daily space-themed activities that coincide with our Astrophotography and Vintage Space Toy exhibits currently on display. 

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While you are enjoying the exhibits make sure you keep your eyes peeled for Lennox, the friendly space alien, who is hiding in one of the photographs. When you find Lennox make sure you let our staff know, so you can get a prize!

Families who don’t want to schedule themselves to a specific program, no need to fret. Parents, you can plan your museum visit around your schedule and still make it out to the other awesome March Break events happening in our community. 

We have drop-in activities available at any time through the week as well as our fun learning nook to explore.  Yes, that command center was handmade by moi! I had so much fun making it, and I’m sure your kiddos are going to LOVE playing with it. 

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For those who are just learning about space to those who are space-obsessed, we know there will be lots for everyone to enjoy. Puzzles, books, stargazing, planet exploration, puppet-making and more! LEGO lovers, you can come and build a space ship (I’m hoping some readers will get my LEGO movie reference)!

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From Monday to Friday we will also be offering staff-led programs and story time throughout the day. While you are here enjoying the programs, we are also offering free family passes to view our exhibits.

Here is our week’s breakdown:

Monday… we will be making planet puppets. Be inspired by our felt solar system, or color your own paper puppets!

Tuesday… the Miller Museum of Geology will be here for an immersive meteorite activity.  Kids will be able to get their hands on micrometeorites, examine them under the microscope and learn all about these marvelous space rocks. 

Wednesday… enjoy a galactic space sensory activity. You may get ooey-gooey so come dressed appropriately. 

Thursday… the Museum of L&A is the host site for March of the Museum. Staff from surrounding Museums will be on site hosting programs and activities to keep you entertained and inspired by our local history. Test your engineering with our special balloon powered rocket activity! Please pre-register, as seating is limited! *If seating is sold out please contact us and we will have a kit available for you at another time*

Friday… we’re all about astrology. Kiddos will be making an illuminated astrological viewer with museum staff. 

Saturday… we have a special guest joining us from Pineapple Toolbox. Depending on your skill level you can construct a flying space craft with glue or try your hand at sewing. We encourage you to preregister as kits are limited!

To be honest, this Museum programmer has been looking forward to March Break for 2 years! It’s not quite back to “normal” but this jammed-packed week will sure help to make your March Break memorable. We’re open Monday to Saturday from 10am – 5pm. While you are here make sure you check out our new space themed book shop too! We can’t wait to see you back in-person. 

Have a question? Please check out our website at www.countymuseum.ca or contact us at 613-354-3027. 

We’re Having a Moment

I had to update my personal information form at the dentist recently, and I smiled at myself as I wrote archivist under profession. I knew what was coming as soon as I handed the form over the counter. As predicted, the receptionist scanned the page to make sure every field had appropriate content, and said, “Archivist, oh, what’s that?”

What is that? It’s a lot of things actually. If we believe the entirety of the profession can be explained from scenes in popular culture, then I guess I find the answer to historical questions in archival records every time and save someone’s life doing it. I’ll tell you from experience, I have never rushed through archival records in search of clues to save someone’s life (every Dan Brown book turned movie, ughh) nor witnessed a researcher doing the same.

BUT luckily, we’re having a moment. We’re – as in archival professionals and as a professional field – in popular culture and the news lately, and I think all of it is great for people’s understanding of and learning about what we do and why it’s important.

Yes, I’m about to bring President Trump into this. How can I leave out the fact that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) of the United States is opening an investigation into the former President’s handling of White House records? If you haven’t been following this (it’s ok, I understand), US presidents are required by law to transfer their letters, work documents and emails to the National Archives. All of the records, not some, all. Trump is accused of taking boxes of records from Washington, D.C. to Florida, some of which are marked classified, and destroying others. Now NARA is asking the Justice Department for an investigation.

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National Archives of the United States, Washington, D.C. Image from Bestbudbrian, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


 

How bada$ is that??? The National Archives taking on a former President. Archives are complicated institutions bound by laws and policies that we have to balance with the needs of our communities and stakeholders. Certainly in the L&A County Archives, we’re not chasing records down through investigations but we have laws and policies we must abide by too. NARA is using its power to ensure laws and policies are followed so that history doesn’t get rewritten by what’s missing or omitted from the record base. It’s hard to come up with a modern archive that’s more important to have intact than that of this particular former President. Scholars and journalists will be busy with this one for decades, I imagine.

On a brighter note, archivists are featured in supernatural thrillers now too. Netflix’s series Archive 81 tells this story: “An archivist takes a job restoring damaged videotapes and gets pulled into the vortex of a mystery involving the missing director and a demonic cult.”

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Image from Netflix, accessed February 22, 2022


Ok, I know how that sounds, but there’s legitimate archival work being showcased until the demons show up. What’s important here is that the archivist gets entangled in this supernatural mess (also never experienced this as an archivist) while working to digitize analog media, something archives are compelled to do all over the world in their efforts to preserve the historical record. Finally, a pop culture reference to archives beyond the stuffy reading room and hurried flip through “old” books and texts. The work of digitizing records (photographs, diaries, sound recordings, old films, etc., you get the point) is not quick or cheap. Staff time is intense with this type of project and don’t forget maintenance costs – yes, even digital files require upkeep!

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Examples of different media types archivists work with.


There are many other examples of archives in pop culture and the media (think genealogical shows like Who Do You Think You Are? and Finding Your Roots) that I don’t have space for here. And what does all of this have to do with our work in L&A County? Nothing really, except to highlight that we do a lot of different things to collect, preserve, and provide access to the historical record. I’m just happy to see that the profession is being noticed and hopefully better understood. That way, when I joke that I hardly use my teeth at work, I’ll get a smile instead of a dead glare from my dental office receptionist.

And… We’re back!

Back open at the Museum of L&A

After another month (mostly) working from home, with only my cat to keep me company, I am thrilled to be back in the archives! In January, I devoted most of my time to bringing more content online, specifically photographs. I’ve been busily updating descriptions in the collections database to get as many digitized photographs up online as possible. I’ve also spent a lot of time scanning photographs on loan from some of our community members, continuing the quest to preserve snapshots of everyday life in L&A throughout the twentieth century.

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One of the most vivid photographs I came across while working from home was a photograph of T. I. Winter’s drug store in Newburgh, taken in 1910. We have little information about the photograph or who the people in it might be, but the clarity and detail within the photograph – from the crumpled newsprint on the street to the stacks of paint cans in the window – really brings the scene to life.

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We’ve also been busy behind the scenes developing online exhibits (coming soon!) for the Museum website and the next archival exhibit that will be on display IN-PERSON in March. You can look forward to hearing L&A stories highlighting agriculture, labour, and even fire insurance maps! We have also begun working on a few social media campaigns for the Spring – get ready for a look at the many forms of art and nature in the archives!

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Being back in the archives means that I have more time to devote to what I cherish most about my job, processing collections – ensuring that the cultural records of L&A are properly stored, organized, and retrievable, so that the unique and varied stories of life in L&A may be shared both tomorrow and one hundred years from now! Community archives work is fascinating because it is continually a balancing act between preservation and access, managing your time and resources in a way that ensures that the public can easily engage with collections while maintaining the physical integrity and unique history of each item.

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As disheartening as it was to have to close the museum’s doors once again, coming back to the building each time brings a new appreciation for the work and learning that happens here. There may be a few more hills to climb in 2022, but I’m certain that it is going to be an exciting and educational year in the archives!

We’ve missed you! Book your visit today.

Moving With The Times

Confessions of a Curator

I am writing this blog on the day the biggest snowstorm has hit in years!  I honestly sit here in a bit of awe that we are still in the midst of this pandemic almost 24 months later and that I am yet again working from home. But alas, here we are and do want to know the most scary thing of all?  – I am left alone with my curatorial thoughts… so many of those and let me tell you… yikes!

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The view of my backyard and my snowy birds just trying to find their meal.



What is a curator to do when her museum is closed?  Quite simply – I organize and organize some more…I have been working diligently over the past 2 years to organize and navigate our amazing museum collection.  We have close to 15,000 objects in our collection and I recently completed a collection plan for the site.  This plan included an in-depth review and physical inventory of the collection.  If there is ANY blessing to COVID, it is the gift of time.  I have had time to think and do things for our collection that would have otherwise been waitlisted.  

Much of my job doesn’t get seen by the public. I would say a good 75% of my day is “back of house” projects that make the “front of house” (ie exhibits and programs) look good. As tasking as it all seems sometimes – if the backend is navigable and all things traceable, my future self will be happy! The means better collecting, better exhibits, and more comprehensive programs.

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The Curatorial team made great headway in 2021 to organize several storage spaces in the museum. Here is the dynamic duo pictured in the furniture storage room.



What I am now working towards in the wake of this review is filling in the known gaps and making sure our County story continues beyond the 19th century.  The museum collection needs to start infilling post war story telling. Our grandparents and even more so now, our parent’s generation is now historical and as much as we don’t want to think about it, the stuff that is from their childhood, their angsty teenage years and early married days…are wanted for the museum. Objects from the 50s, 60s, 70, 80s, 90s and everywhere else….are needed. We need to make sure we tell the whole story of the County so that years from now and when there is someone else caretaking the County story….I know I have done my part in the collective preservation. 

My curator’s brain had to orient itself with that thought. The entire existence of our County history was not formed just 200 years ago….it was formed 25 and 50 years ago too and continues to be formed now…through these unprecedented COVID times and our everyday lives beyond this pandemic.  The stories that are in our parent’s living memory matter and we need them preserved.  I would love to hold some of the more obscure County tales in my hands….those unique objects that shape the physical, emotional, social landscape and character around us. While we have started this collecting with a couple of 1960s and 1970s wedding dresses, vintage toys, and household items…we still have a long way to go. 

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Wedding Dress worn by Debbie Morgan at Roblin in 1976. This accession is not yet available online, however it came complete with shoes, veil, catalogues, and photos.


 

To help perhaps inspire some of you…the museum is hosting a vintage space toy exhibit “FUN IN SPACE” this spring. These toys will surely bring back many memories of your own childhoods or that of your parents. These incredible toys, from the 1950s and 1960s, are demonstrative of a time when kids were in constant awe of the world above them, when the Space Race was full on, and when the moon landing was front-page news.  This collection represents a period of time when our world as we know it was changing, when technology was changing daily and it was widely believed that living off planet wasn’t too far off.  Our imaginations were soaring and the creation of these toys was a result of these exciting times. 

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Space People c1950.


 

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Space Patrol Walkie Talkies c1955.


 

This time is in living memory, so while NASA was not in our backyard here in L&A County- the narrative and the technology influenced our lives here 50 years ago and it changed an entire generation forever!

This is just an example of how one event impacted our lives. I haven’t even started with clothing, music, art, literature, social customs, County events and programs, and home trends, that also  need to  come together to give us a solid picture of these times from our not so long ago.

The Museum of Lennox and Addington want to collect for everyone and to tell stories from all walks of life.  Can you lend a hand?  Do you have story to tell me from these “newly historical” decades?  Email me at museum@lennox-addington.on.ca.  Your stuff may be just what we need!

A Plain White Treasure Box

Do you know that feeling of joy when you’re unwrapping a gift and you’re pretty sure you know what to expect? You open the gift box, you unwrap the object and suddenly you’re holding something completely different in your hand! That was exactly what I felt this past week when opening a box of artifacts. 

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The past few months I’ve been inventorying my way through the boxes stored in what has been functionally deemed ‘the military aisle’. Early last week I moved on to the next section of the aisle, and brought down a plain white box. I carried the box to my workstation, took the lid off, and saw that the inside was full of objects wrapped in opaque white tissue. I moved one of the wrapped objects onto the table, gently unwrapped it; and what’s now sitting in front of me, but an Austrian pig! Okay more accurately a ceramic piggybank with an Austrian maker’s mark. I bent down to table level, looked this itty bitty piggy in the eyes and started giggling really hard. Why was I giggling? Well if you take a look at the photo above you will see that the pig has a horizontal division in its colouring and this pattern, to my eyes, makes the pig look like its wearing pants. Immediately I am reminded of the internet debate of how a four legged animal would wear pants. If you don’t know this humorous debate I recommend looking it up. Looking at this piggybank I’d say pigs wear pants on all four legs, not just the back two. 

So why on earth am I rambling about how a pig would wear pants? The answer is simple, because I wanted to share with you a moment of joy brought to me in just an everyday moment of my job. A week or so later, I‘m still cracking up every time I look at the pig. There were three more artifacts I found just in this box, which made me smile.

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The first of these artifacts is pictured above. Upon first glance, with the artifact in a neutral position. I assumed that it was a very simple pair of garden snips. Upon gently squeezing the two handles together the artifact reveals itself to be a very small curling iron. When I saw this I had a moment of pure delight, this was completely unexpected. I had never seen a non-electric curling iron before. With a little research I learned that this hazardous hair appliance would have been used by warming the metal end in a fire then applying it to the hair like you would an electric curling iron. This frequently resulted in burns. Personally, I have never been so thankful for modern hair styling tools.

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Another artifact from this box is an ironstone bowl. Many museums have plenty of examples of ironstone, this is because ironstone was much more durable for transport than other more delicate ceramics such as porcelain. When English potters were sending their wears over to North America they found that ironstone was one of the most popular materials as it was less expensive and stood up to the trials of rural North American life. How does this bowl from the late 19th century lead to a moment of joy? Very simply, because we have only a snapshot of its history. This bowl was found in an abandoned unspecified Methodist church likely south of Napanee. As far as we know this is the only bowl that was found in the abandoned church and doesn’t that bring up a number of questions. Is this the only surviving member of a set? If there was only one, what did the church use it for? Did the bowl even belong to the church or was that just a convenient place for someone to get rid of it? I don’t know the answer to these questions but it brings a little bit of wonder to my job getting to take a moment to just imagine the different possible pasts for this bowl before it came to the museum. 

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The last artifact I’m going to talk about was actually the only military related object in this box. Coming across this case it immediately peaked my curiosity. With a little research a heartwarming story unfolded. In the months approaching the first Christmas of World War One, a 17 year old Princess Mary, of the British royalty, wanted to use her private allowance to purchase a small gift for every soldier. Though this wasn’t feasible it prompted a public fund where people on the home front could donate a little money to give a gift to every soldier associated with the British Empire. It took several years but eventually almost every solider had received a small gift generally of tobacco or a small writing case all kept in one of these small metal cases. Starting with the good will of a single 17 year old girl in 1914 it snowballed to a six year campaign to deliver a gift to every soldier. I find myself now in 2022 reading this story, and I can feel my day brighten up a little. 

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Like everyone, there are days doing my job where the next task (or box) seems like just more of the same, but I was super lucky this past week to be reminded that every day brings at least a little surprise. Sometimes there’s a little truth to those old adages; it’s good to spend a little time stopping to smell the roses, or giggling at the pigs, whichever you prefer

Museum hours

Monday – Saturday: 10am–5pm

Macpherson House & Park hours

Closed for the season – stay tuned for 2023 updates

Archives Hours

Monday – Friday: 10am – 12pm*, 1pm –4pm

*closed from 12pm –  1pm 

Museum and Archives daily rate

Adults (ages 13+): $3
Children (ages 12 and under): free

Museum & Archives location

97 Thomas St E, Napanee, ON K7R 4B9

Macpherson House & Park location

180 Elizabeth Street, Napanee, ON K7R 1B5