Memories and Museums – April/May/June 2019

By Marjorie Wilson

Have you ever walked into an antique shop, where a plate or a dish reminded you of your grandmother’s home? Often I have heard people say, “I didn’t know that was antique!”


A connection with the past keeps us visiting antique shops and museums. Knowing absolutely nothing about museums but having operated an antique shop for years I thought that maybe I was qualified to accept an invitation to join the board of the Bancroft North Hastings Heritage Museum. It has been fun but boy, oh boy, did I have a lot to learn.


An antique shop needs to pay attention to display and to make sure the public will see changes in the displays. I thought the same thing should apply to a museum. I found an article written about 25 years ago describing the museum displays and realized very little had changed over the years. We were fortunate to have people keeping the museum open through those years.


On talking with local people I realized that few had visited our museum and in fact many were not sure where it was located. How could a museum hide in such a small town?


So, if we are dealing in memories how does that work? How were we going to get the museum to serve our community?  Perhaps we should be more audacious and step up  to our invaluable role as teachers, and help people make that connection to the past.


Do you know how a birchbark canoe is made? During summer of 2017, right beside the museum master canoe builder Chuck Commanda along with members of the Algonquin community kept us amazed as they built a canoe in the traditional way. Recognizing that many people in North Hastings proudly carry indigenous blood we have added an area in the museum, The Algonquin Room, to share their memories.


We added a genealogy centre so that you may be able to trace your ancestors. Mary, an expert on the history of the area conducted Bancroft Then and Now discussions showing old photos of the area. Many people shared their own memories.


Last winter, 2018, the museum was closed so that major projects such as heating, insulating, etc could be done. Now we hope to be able to keep the building open all year.


In the meantime memories do not stop. Many stories have been written about North Hastings men but we still knew very little about the women who lived here. We have prepared a book honouring the Women of North Hastings. Their stories and some of their recipes are included. Never again feel that doing laundry in this day and age is a chore, in comparison to having to build a fire… as just the first step! (See  book  page 11, Marjorie graces the front cover.)
Honouring the Women of North Hastings: Pick up your copy at the Bancroft Museum or the Bancroft Century Shoppe. Give the gift of stories to your friends for any occasion. Learn of the contributions of the women of North Hastings. Bancroft Museum open Monday to Friday 10:00 to 4:00. Book is $30 (includes tax)
We have not forgotten the young people of our community. In the summer you will find some working in the museum. Programs following school curricula are being used to involve students and the museum.
If you would like to visit this gem of a museum check out our Facebook page – Bancroft North Hastings Heritage Museum for times and special events.

***About Marjorie Wilson
Marjorie has been a contributor to the Wayback Times on several occasions and we are very grateful for her articles and her apparent love of history – and life in general! We asked her for a bio… she has lead a remarkable and interesting life… and this is what she has kindly shared with us:


     As a resident of Bancroft since 1950 I feel bold enough to take an interest in local history. There has been a lot to learn. In 1950 I was a nineteen year old fresh out of teacher’s college in Ottawa. Bancroft was just a spot on the map, unknown to me.


     The first shock was the isolation. I had been born and grew up in Brownsburg, Quebec just north of Montreal. The next surprise came from the local people who expected me to have trouble speaking English! My Grade Three class taught me many things including an interest in the local minerals.


     I grew up in a house built by my great grandfather in 1872 and so was surrounded by antiques.  It seemed natural to open an antique shop. My husband and I shared a love of clocks.   I still belong to the NAWCC. The local chapter, Quinte Timekeepers, meets in Belleville.


      In my long life I have been involved in many activities. My husband and I built houses, cottages, commercial buildings. I’ve always enjoyed, painting, sketching and making things. I took instruction from people like Andre Bieler, Henri Masson. I studied with Oscar Schlienger for five years. Years ago with a topographical map and a compass I tramped all over this north country collecting minerals. John and I enjoyed making wooden things. I did carvings and helped organize craft shows here.


     John was an electrician. We had an electrical firm here for many years. I helped in all sorts of ways. In one interesting period we decided that I would learn the trade. This was short lived. Some of the men working on the site were not happy to see a woman working. The remarks did not bother me. I just ignored them. Apparently they were even harder on John so that cut short my electrical career!


     You can see that I was not idle. I can share something my mother told me. One day when I was a child I complained to mother that I was bored. Her reply was that the world was full of so many wonderful things to learn about that no one could possibly learn everything in one lifetime. Hence there was no time to be bored.
     By the way, the day cap I am wearing in the photo  (book cover, right) was my great great grandmother’s. She came from Scotland to settle on the seigniory of Louis Joseph Papineau, known as the reformer of Lower Canada and his involvement in the 1837 uprising. That seigniory was near present day Papineauville and Montebello.

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