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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Historical Research Partners recognize Maidstone Bicentennial Museum volunteers for dedication  


by Sylene Argent

Volunteers are the backbone of the community, and those interested in preserving the past are an asset in ensuring local history is remembered for generations to come.

  Early last week, Tim McGuire, Lakeshore Councillor Kirk Walstedt, and Ed Byrne, members of the Historical Research Partners (HRP) trio, surprised Victoria and Romeo Beaulieu, volunteers of the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum, with a recognition award that Walstedt handmade of local, 150-year-old barn wood.

  The awards noted the couple was being recognized for their outstanding contribution to preserving Canadian history.

  The HRP Trio are dedicated to preserving history, and have spent a lot of time helping to digitize former Maidstone land deeds that are housed at the Essex & Community Historical Research Society in Essex Centre.

  Walstedt said he and the HRP members have worked with Victoria and Romeo Beaulieu in the past and appreciate all they do in promoting and preserving local history.

  Because the trio understands the importance of recognizing volunteers, they started presenting awards last year to show volunteers their efforts are appreciated.

  McGuire noted that before the creation of the Municipality of Lakeshore, Maidstone existed, and the HRP group members love what Victoria and Romeo do to keep those memories alive.

  “You two just jump right in,” McGuire said of Victoria and Romeo when a need arises at the local Museum. “We want to recognize those most deserving. We don’t take for granted all you’ve done. Thank you.”

  Victoria and Romeo were surprised with the gesture and overwhelmed with the recognition.

  Victoria Beaulieu has been the Curator of the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum and Chairperson of the Maidstone & Area Historical Society for many years.

  The duo organizes and volunteers for events and programming, organizes displays, and recently oversaw the Museum’s newest expansion, thanks to a 2019 Ontario Trillium Foundation capital expenditure grant in the amount of $120,100, which added an HVAC system and electrical service for the entire facility. In addition, the floor was repaired, insulation was added, and drywall was put up at the rear building. The grant also included installing a small addition to the rear building, in addition to a new outdoor pavilion and storage area.

  Earlier this year, Victoria got the Native Heritage Gardens at the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum certified as “Wildlife Friendly Habitat” through the Canadian Wildlife Federation, had the Museum’s plain storage unit painted by artistic students at St. Anne Catholic High School in 2019, oversees summer students who help with programming and achieving, leads the Junior Historical Society, organizes special displays to commemorate Remembrance Day, and hosts special programming to promote bees, butterflies, and Indigenous history.     

  The Maidstone Bicentennial Museum facility was originally built in 1915 and was used as the second Town Hall for the Township of Maidstone. It was used as the Town Hall for 50-years. The first building was built in 1875 and was burned down in a 1914 fire.  

  The facility houses the original Council table.

  In October of 2020, the HRP presented their first recognition awards to Essex & Community Historical Research Society (ECHRS) members Laurie Kowtiuk, and Doug and Donna Gammon.

  Currently, the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum is open Mondays, Tuesday, and Wednesday for 10-4pm and by appointment. Victoria is pleased to test those waters to see what works as the Museum has been closed for the past 20-months.

Since the start of the pandemic, volunteers with the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum have not been able to host events or fundraisers, which has been tough as it relies on those funding mechanisms to continue to remain open.

  On September 30, the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum will be open 10-5pm to recognize the first national Truth and Reconciliation Day and will emphasize aboriginal contributions to the War of 1812 and display other things the Museum has done to honour Indigenous history. It will also host a grand opening on October 2 from 10-4 to show off its new expansion, and with it, new displays.

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