Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Adopt an Artefact: Photographs

This week we launch the Adopt an Artefact campaign. Each month from now until August, the Gananoque Reporter will run an advertisement highlighting a particular artefact or collection of artefacts that people can adopt. Adopters will receive a little package describing their artefact and its importance. When the items are displayed, the adopters will have their names presented alongside in recognition of their valuable contributions and assistance in preserving these objects for future generations. All adopters will be recognized here at Collection Resurrection. Our main groups of objects to be adopted will be the massive photograph collection, the archival collection (which includes the Loyalist era papers, Police court records and war diaries of the local artillery unit in World War II), the Link Trainer and Military Collection, as well as a wide variety of unique artefacts pertaining to local history.

Every object has unique needs. This week we begin with the Photograph Collection. As I have shown over the last few months, the Gananoque Museum Collections contain over 1000 photographs of all shapes and sizes, beginning with the early daguerreotypes and continuing through to the late 20th century. Photographs from the 19th century are often very robust and very well made. Keeping them in a cool, dark place free of acidic coverings or backings and also keeping them free of pests is often enough to preserve them. So far, we have managed to catalogue the majority of photos and are busy scanning the originals to make digital copies for display. Money generated from the Adopt an Artefact campaign will go towards digitization, purchasing acid-free containers and acquiring a cabinet to store the large framed pictures in.

Because of the sheer amount of photographs, adopting individual pictures wouldn’t work. Concerned residents or visitors can adopt a group of pictures, either 10 for 25.00 or 20 for 40.00. As an additional gift, adopters will receive a selection of photographs for personal use on CD.

Cheques can be made payable to: Gananoque Museum Collections
c/o The Arthur Child Heritage Museum
125 Water St.
Gananoque, Ontario
K7G 3E3

Feel free to contact me with any questions or to request specific artefacts to adopt from any previous post at

Exhibit Preparations

With the opening of the Arthur Child Heritage Museum fast approaching, we are busy setting up a variety of new exhibits. As you can see in these pictures, the space is slowly transforming. Books could, and have, been written on the industrial expansion of Gananoque in the 19th Century, so it is extremely hard to try and narrow down what to say. At Western, we learned to trim everything we want to say down to one statement, or one idea. For the this exhibit I have tried to present the period of booming industry without any nostalgia or pining for good old days. “The Gilded Age in Gananoque created the town we know today, yet it was a time of great inequality and hardship for many. The working class, influenced by labour movements in the United States, tried to stand up to the powerful elites and demanded fairness in the workplace.” So, in a nutshell, that’s the main idea of the exhibit. Rather than focus on the great mansions that still line some of Gananoque’s streets, I intended the exhibit to show both sides. Yet, it cannot be doubted that many people in the village deeply resented the small group of men who held absolute control over the money and politics in the town. It’s clear that many people felt there were serious abuses of power and the poor were tired of working to make others rich. One angry worker wrote a sarcastic prayer to the Reporter in January of 1885. He wrote:

“Let thy countenance shine upon them [the factory owners] that they may build fine houses and live sumptuously, even though it be necessary to reduce the wages of the working man that they be enabled to foot the bill”

Photographs, artefacts and maps from the period flesh-out the story and help describe the period from 1863-1890, when Gananoque grew to become a town.

The other rooms on the main floor of the Museum are filling up as well. The Clayton Antique Boat Museum is bringing in a collection of antique canoes from across the river to tell the story of this popular pastime and once vital form of transportation.

The room linking the Gilded Age exhibit and the canoes will make the transition from the Thousand Islands to Gananoque, displaying both our popular 3D model of the islands, a small vignette on the Loyalist founder Joel Stone, and displaying a set of “curiosities” from the Gananoque Museum Collections such as an antique dentist’s drill, a 3 foot sawfish snout and other interesting and unique artefacts.

Chris French, of Chris’ Creations has also built some great nature scenes to compliment the exhibits as you can see here. So, lots to do, back to work. Next time I'll share a little of what goes into creating the exhibit panels that tell the story.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Gananoque in the Gilded Age

Opening May 18th, the Arthur Child Heritage Museum along with the Gananoque Museum Collections are pleased to present: “Gananoque in the Gilded Age: 1863-1890.”

Making use of the many artefacts and archival photos from the collections, the exhibit will tell the story of the period when Gananoque grew from an industrial village into a town.

It is not a rosy tale of simpler times or a golden age; it is the period of history which Mark Twain called “The Gilded Age.” This was a term meant to signify that for all the rapid economic expansion and radical growth of technology and industry, the majority of people struggled to make ends meet and to make sense of a new and changing world. It was a gilded age – appearing like gold, but it was really just a thin layer covering a dark and heavy base.

This was the era of the robber barons and the captains of industry, who amassed immense wealth while the average workers toiled to eke out a living. Although Twain was referring to the United States, Gananoque in this period was a microcosm of the wider trends in North America. The National Policy of the Sir John A. Macdonald government, which slapped tariffs on American manufactured goods, ensured that factories could operate and produce goods in Gananoque, using the cheap water power of the river.

Did this benefit the factory owners or the factory workers?

There was something wrong with the system and in the late 1880s as nearly every worker in Gananoque, be they skilled or unskilled, joined the Knights of Labour: a pan-American, pan-industrial labour union. They fought for better working conditions, better wages and to be treated with dignity. The workers challenged the captains of industry for control of the Village council and for a say in their own destinies. But, the power of the owners was not easily challenged…

This is the display area in the main gallery of the Arthur Child Heritage Museum. Each week until the launch, I’ll be showing the little changes that take place as the exhibit takes shape.

Opens May 18th.

Many thanks to Lisa and Pam who assisted in the research for this project, and sincere thanks to Providence Continuing Care for the donation (and transportation) of some second-hand display cases.

HBC Local History Grants

In other news, the Hudson Bay Company’s Local History Grants programme along with Canada’s National History Society (Producers of The Beaver Magazine), have announced that they will provide funds to help produce a new resource for people to learn about the history of the town founder, Joel Stone. Together with Graphic Artist Wesley Cote, we will be producing a comic book based on the adventures of the Loyalist in the American Revolution. Most sincere thanks to the HBC and the National History Society for making this possible. The final product will be available in August. Check back here regularly for some snippets of the art work and story.