Friday, 19 June 2015

Field Trip - Wellington County Museum







The Wellington County Museum and Archives is a National Historic Site. It is located in a building that stands as the oldest remaining House of Industry in Canada. It was built in 1877 as a "Poor House" or place of refuge for the poor, homeless, and destitute people in Wellington County. It operated as a Poor House and Industrial Farm until 1947 when it became a County Home for the Aged  It has since been transformed into the Wellington County Museum and Archives. A new Archives wing opened in 2010.  Completely separate now is the Wellington Terrace, a senior's residence.  Quite a big difference in standards from "The Poor House" senior's living conditions!
  
The main and largest exhibit is the “The Poor House”, featured throughout the Museum, provides glimpses into the lives and activities of the people who lived, worked, and often died here. This exhibit was the recipient of an Ontario Museum Association Award of Excellence in 2007.  There is a model of what the original "The Poor House" would have looked like.

 





Attitudes towards poverty, charity and a community's social responsibilities are reflected in the many compelling heartbreaking stories and photos presented here.  Between 1877 and 1947, over 1500 destitute men, women and children sought refuge at the ‘Poorhouse’.  It makes you realize how blessed we are to be living within a country that now has a large social net.    While the entry way to the building is lovely, I cannot image the dread & trepidation people felt entering this building. 




Built as an Industrial Farm, the site included a sixty-bed house (men and women separate), thirty acres of crops and a barn for livestock. Many of the inmates were admitted because of poor health or advanced age and had no one to care for them. At the edge of the property, a one-acre cemetery was established for those who had no family to claim their remains at death.  More than 270 men, women and children are buried here.   It is a cemetery like no other.

By the time we finished touring the exhibit we felt emotionally spent. I will add that I think people should visit this exhibit just to realize how far we have come and yet still have to go with the treatment of our aged and/or those at a social, physical or mental disadvantage.  Maya Angelou you were right, “When we know better, we do better”




 
Along with the Poor House exhibit, there is a section for displaying local memorabilia from World War I, including uniforms, medals and photos.  Part of the display includes a set to replicate what trench life was like, along with artifacts that servicemen would have received as treats and comforts from home. While standing in this display a sound recording plays of what would have been gun fire and other battle sounds.  It was a constant roar and I am sure would wear any person down in a matter of hours, but in reality this went on for weeks on end.  A moment of thanks to those that endured and gave readily.  





 




The final display is one of the First Nations tribe of the region.  A tribe known as the Neutrals, were a collection of  Iroquoian-speaking nations.  The Neutrals were called Attawandaron by the Huron, meaning "people whose speech is awry or a little different". Both people spoke Iroquoian languages but were culturally distinct and competed for resources.
The  French called the people "Neutral" (French: la Nation neutre) because they tried to remain neutral between the warring Huron and nations of the Iroquois Confederacy.  There are several pieces from a local dig site that shows remnants of their pottery, tools and arrow heads.  

To one side the display simulates The Neutrals long home and on the opposite side is what a pioneer’s home would have been like during the same period of time. The Neutrals lived in large family groups and the pioneers in smaller family units. Both were pretty rugged and again glad I live in a time of comfort.


Outside the gardens had yet to receive their spring time prune and trim and like in my garden, so many weeds!  There is an area of the main building that can be rented for weddings or other events and while we were there the adjacent barn was getting a makeover for an upcoming wedding ceremony.  The barn is also used for event displays and demonstrations.  At the back and separate from the main building is a branch of the Wellington County library. 

While I am glad we visited this site and I did indeed learn a lot about the county we live in, I am not sure we would make a return visit, although I have recommended that friends definitely put this on their list of places to visit.


10 comments:

  1. This is fascinating. Just the kind of place I love to visit too

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    1. Thanks Sian. I love learning about people and their lives. Text books can get a bit stuffy after a while. I am surprising myself with all that there is to explore in our region.

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  2. Gosh, what an experience - from the very poor and destitute to weddings ... I can see why these lovely buildings and interesting exhibits must have pulled your emotions every which way. A very interesting 'tour' and thank-you - I will probably never see this for real, so great to see it through your photos and story-telling.

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    1. Thanks Alexa. Both my photos and story telling are on a learning curve. I think I live in one of the best places and want to introduce everyone to bits of my region.

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  3. This looks like a fascinating place to visit.

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    1. Thanks Barbara. I was trying to give a good account without boring everyone.

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  4. Lovely building. I keep thinking of the care taken by previous generations to create lasting beauty for even the most functional of purposes. Glad this one still has positive, practical uses and good to have a chance to discover "lesser trodden Canada". (BTW My neighbour is there at the moment!!)

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    1. Is your neighbour coming to Ontario? Toronto for the PanAm Games? Oh I do hope our weather, people and sights give a good account of ourselves. On a different thought, I liked your comment on your blog, about your book review about it not sounding like a school essay - ah, I need to work on my style, facts & jaunty repartee. And a writing journalism teacher advised, always read aloud first before pressing publish.

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    2. She's gone for a month (guess who's watering her garden!) and all I know for sure is that she's going to Vancouver and Toronto. She's also taking in a glacier. I did try to have a conversation but she's apt to go off on a tangent for hours and never get round to finishing answering the question!! I am hoping for a photo session when she returns and trust I will find out more... I'm pretty sure she's been before and liked it so all bodes well. :o)

      Yes, I am yet to settle into a blogging style that feels comfortable, but it's easier than it was. I remember saying similar to Delanie early on and she said it took a while to find her mojo. You do seem more naturally adept at the medium. Is it getting any less nerve-wracking yet? Does it feel like a chore/commitment?

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    3. So far not feeling like a chore or commitment - everyone has been so kind and positive. I like making the connections, learning from others. Finding a voice, finding interesting things to engage with I think may take a bit as I am not entirely sure yet what it is I want the blog to do/be. Ah yes, Vancouver is the usual launching spot for the Alaskan (US of A) and Yukon cruises, it is a beautiful city, I have been for business and family often but not on a cruise to the glacier.

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