War had ended in 1945 and Midland, a small Georgian Bay town fuelled by shipbuilding, grain shipping and tourism, was looking to promote itself as a destination for visitors.
Sainte-Marie among the Hurons had not yet been built. The Martyrs’ Shrine was an important attraction for the Catholic faithful with regular festivals and pilgrimages taking place, but more was needed.
When J.H. Cranston bought the Free Press newspaper June 1st, 1935, after leaving the Sunday Star, he looked for ways to promote the Town of Midland.
He had a very developed sense of local history and how it formed the basis of the Town’s identity and the
promotions of its chamber of commerce and tourist boards.
What became the Huronia Museum was Cranston’s idea.
Initially, Huronia House, the Playfair family home, endowed to the town, was the first location. It was replaced by the present Museum in Little Lake Park in 1967.
The YMCA had also erected an “Indian Village” now adjacent to the Huronia Museum, and this became part of the display.
The initial collection of old tools, farm implements and so forth were gathered from locals who donated generously to get it all up and running. Collecting is curating and museums have to present their collecting efforts somehow. Displays? In the COVID or post-COVID world, this may not be possible.
We can take a page from B.C. Museums, which organized an effort to place all their significant archives online and digitally. They started doing this 15 years ago and used the university system to assist them. A picture is worth a thousand words…any archival photo is available for use and research.
Can we say the same about our local archives?
Are they as accessible as other museums? Certainly, Tom Barber’s untiring voluntary effort to catalogue the photo archive of the Free Press is nothing short of astounding.
Kids today are looking for “immersive” experiences whether Minecraft or other 3D worlds.
Can we show them historical details in the same way? A field trip to a museum was always fun and that is how you remember details of the day.
It’s not a lesson dryly served, but an immersive experience of content that educators salivate over.
Our real world must meet the challenges of the online world as it demands we be involved. Interfacing worlds are everywhere.
The British Museum has posted millions of archival images for everyone to enjoy, study, discuss and share. The last word being the operative element.
The museum is an essential part of the community as collecting, archiving and communicating is part of the ongoing dialogue about the nature of the town and its relationship to its own history.
René Hackstetter, November 18, 2021.