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Thursday, 28 April 2022 15:19

North Grenville History Society Settles in at Kemptville Campus

Kemptville Campus welcomed our newest tenant, the North Grenville Historical Society, to Heritage Hall in April. This blog post offers a glimpse behind the scenes!

It’s the spinning wheels and then the giant saw blade that first catch your eye. How did they MOVE that?

Among the 85 boxes of time-protected newspapers dating back to the 1880s, the two wooden spinning wheels, and the rows upon rows of wrapped, labelled and shelved historic artifacts, there are... Hey! There’s a person in there!

Amanda Gould, Director of Archives for the North Grenville Historical Society, pops out from behind a tall shelving unit, mask on, hands gloved. She is one of a crew of professionals overseeing a critical mission this Spring: the moving of the historical society’s massive collection of artifacts to its new home. During the workweek, Amanda is a professional conservator at the Canadian Museum of History. But right now, she’s gloved-up and facing a daunting wall of boxes, as a volunteer. Her daughter Lydia Gould Leblanc is here too – the youngest volunteer member of the Historical Society. She’s working on a specimen collection for her Cabinet of Curiosities; don’t throw out that dried-up earwig!

Lise Treau de Coeli is in here too, among the stacks of boxes. She has just unwrapped something – very slowly and carefully, like a subversive candy-unwrapper trying to sneak a cough drop in an orchestral concert hall. Lise contributes her collections management expertise to the NGHS as a volunteer, and by day works in Collections Management at the Canadian Museum of History.

All weekend, Lise and Amanda have brought their professional skills and careful attention to detail to bear on this onerous house move. The collection of the NGHS, housed for years in the old Kemptville Court House, had to find a new home as the courthouse approached a renovation and re-adaptation, and the Kemptville College Campus is where the collection has landed. It’s in a room with soaring ceilings, too-tall windows (light destroys museum artifacts made of delicate organic materials like paper, cotton, and fur) and countless bottles of hand sanitizer and latex gloves. It’s hot, dusty work. Many other members and board members of the North Grenville Historical Society pitched in hours of their time, packing the collection artifacts. Amanda and Lise are grateful for the jobs that these history-loving volunteers took on.

Lise and Amanda have been joined by Megan Delahunt, who is overseeing the big picture as Move Coordinator, and the Historical Society has hired her on an eight week contract.

All three of these professionals live in different places (Lise drives from Ottawa to do this volunteer work, but her grandmother was a Clothier, she explains). What they have in common is a love of history and the curiosity that drives them to dive into these boxes to figure out who was who, which farm they ran, and how everything and everybody was connected by an invisible web of stories. Mysterious details like the difference between a wool spinning wheel and a walking wheel is something they have come to know by digging. Did you know that a local man, one Mr. Rowe, contributed time-saving modifications to the design of these wheels that made it easier, better for the people spinning the wool? And did you see? Look, the patent application is signed by a former Prime Minister of Canada! It’s all mental caffeine to a history addict. 

How many clues would you find in these boxes of people in your family, or of the man who built the house you’re in, or whose farmland you are now standing on? Wouldn't it be neat to peek through the woolen suits, the handmade tools, the newspaper headlines of 1898, and find something that gave you that little thrill of the find?

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