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Ontario Museums

As the Ontario Museum Association (OMA) prepares for "Museum Month" this May, attention is drawn to the many excellent museums within the province.  The OMA strives to make museums accessible for both local residents and the global community by supporting a sustainable museum sector.  "Museum Month" is a celebration of Ontario's museums which includes special events and exhibits in collaboration with Ontario's extensive heritage program.  The association recently won a Top 50 Ontario Festivals Award.  Museums can be found in every corner of Ontario - each museum focuses on unique aspects of Ontario's rich culture, many of which are housed in historic places!  Though the collections within the museums are often the focal point, the buildings themselves are rich with cultural and architectural history.

Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge, Wikimedia Commons 2008 / Refuge-pour-les-Pauvres-du-Comté-de-Wellington, Wikimedia Commons 2008An excellent example of a historic building converted into a museum is the Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge NHS.  Situated between Elora and Fergus along the Grand River, this former working farm operated as the county poorhouse for many years.  As the oldest identified example of a state-supported poorhouse, it currently functions as the county museum and archives.  Its grounds include a barn, drive shed and storage shed which can still be appreciated by the public.  Representative of many 19th-century institutions which implemented new social policies, shares its heritage and history through its collections and annual autumn Harvest Home Festival.

Another quaint Ontario building is the Leacock Museum located in the StephenStephen Leacock House, Ontario Heritage Trust / Maison Stephen Leacock, Fiducie du patrimoine ontarien Leacock House on Lake Couchiching in Orillia.  This historic place was the home of Canadian author Stephen Leacock, most famously known for his short story collection Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912).  Since much of his written work is inspired by the house and its surrounding community, tourists and literature enthusiasts are drawn to the Stephen Leacock House.  Reflective of his success as an author, Leacock's house and property provide insight into his lifestyle.  Surrounded by a large property with gardens, mixed woodland, and a view of the lake, this local museum is a point of pride for Orillia residents. 

In Northern Ontario, air transportation is very important.  Sault Ste. Marie's Ontario Provincial Air Service Hangars were created in 1924-1925 Ontario Provincial Air Service Hangars, City of Sault St. Marie / Hangars du service aérien provincial de l'Ontario, Ville de Sault St. Marieto serve the public.  As a significant government initiative, the hangars are an example of innovative engineering technology and are associated with the development of the Ontario Provincial Air Service which established forestry techniques with the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests.  Ontario Provincial Air Service Hangars are directly linked to the Sault's high reputation for excellence in forest management.  Currently operating as the Bushplane Museum, the hangars help to celebrate this history by exhibiting a fascinating museum collection.

Although it has performed many different functions over the years, the former WarFormer War Museum, National Archives of Canada C-15204 / Ancien Musée de guerre, Archives du Canada C-15204 Museum in Ottawa is best known as a museum.  This Tudor Revival building still remains an important Ottawa landmark, even though it no longer operates as a museum.  Architecturally, the building is unique because its design is meant to accommodate the weight of an archival document collection.  Because of this, the fireproof building features large open spaces with minimal intermediate supports - advanced technology for a 1904 structure.  The former Canadian War Museum is an early example of the country's emerging cultural policy that greatly contributed to Canada's sense of nationhood in the early 20th century.

One of Ontario's more unique museums is located in Pointe-au-Baril.  With a view across Georgian Bay, the Pointe-au-Baril Lighthouse has a fascinating history.  Pointe-au-Baril Lighthouse, Parks Canada / Le phare de Pointe-au-Baril, Parcs CanadaComplete with a gallery and lantern, the Lighthouse is associated with the 19th century policy to improve Canadian in-land navigation.  The Pointe-au-Baril Lighthouse has continuously served its function since its creation in 1899.  Although it was decommissioned in 1983, it still contains automatic coastal and range lights that provide guidance to vessels.  The area in which the staff resided was converted into a museum, attracting tourists with its charm and aesthetic beauty.  The location and style of this Lighthouse gives it maritime characteristics which draw visitors to the museum.

This May's celebration of "Museum Month" is an excellent opportunity for Canadians to get out and experience Ontario's museums.  With so many different focuses for every museum, there is something for everyone.  Whether your interest is in airplanes or lighthouses, Ontario museums provide well-rounded collections.  Take the opportunity to explore the province's history - it's important to appreciate its cultural heritage.





May is Museum Month: http://newsarticle.virtuo.ca/mmweb/
Ontario Museum Association: http://www.museumsontario.com/en/