Maidstone Bicentennial Museum recognizes Truth & Reconciliation Day, hosts grand opening

by Sylene Argent

Photos submitted

After having to close its doors, for nearly 20 months, due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, the volunteers at the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum were busy hosting two events last week.  

  The first event took place on Thursday as the Museum acknowledged the first nationally recognized day for Truth and Reconciliation.

  Museum Curator, Victoria Beaulieu, explained the goal at the local Museum is to educate. In keeping with the mandate, the Museum, for years, has recognized Aboriginal contributions to the War of 1812.

  “It is important to recognize,” Beaulieu said, noting the Museum’s new expansion allows for a permanent War of 1812 display. As part of the day’s festivities, Beaulieu noted Dave Bombardier explained the significance of Métis sashes.

  “The purpose of the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum is to educate,” Beaulieu said. “Our library has a good selection of reading material of Indigenous history books for kids and adults.”

  For the event, volunteers took those books off the shelf and displayed them for visitors to look over and become aware of Aboriginal history. The Museum also provided a booklet that visitors could take home that provided information on residential schools and missing children.

  “History is not pretty, but we have to tell it,” she said.

  Attendees were also able to enjoy a campfire outside.

Next year, Beaulieu hopes to build on the programming for Truth and Reconciliation Day.

  Looking ahead, once a month, a story and craft time will be held at the Museum that will include teaching Indigenous history.

  On Saturday, volunteers with the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum hosted a grand opening, which showed off the recently completed expansion project, which came to fruition, thanks to a 2019 Ontario Trillium Foundation capital expenditure grant in the amount of $120,100.

  The grant 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.

  Inside, visitors were able to view the new area, which offered plenty of displays to learn from, including a library, and exhibitions that focused on the War of 1812, schools, and artifacts of the past.

  Outside, visitors were able to visit the heritage gardens, watch black powder demonstrations, and look over a teepee set up for the occasion.

  Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain joined the festivities on Saturday and was impressed with what he saw.

  “It’s tremendous. There are so many people out there now with many activities to do. “Vicki and [her husband] Romeo and their group have done such a great job. They brought history to life.”

  Bain noted there is so much to learn when it comes to history, and that the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum is a learning tool for the entire community to utilize. “It brings the community together. We need to connect to history,” he said.

  He was proud the volunteers were able to secure the 2019 Ontario Trillium Foundation capital expenditure grant and noted the displays they were able to put up as a result are tremendous. When walking into the building, “It feels like you are walking into the past,” he said.

  Next spring, Beaulieu noted the Museum will install an outdoor clay oven, which was purchased with the grant. This device will serve two purposes, display 18th century cooking methods and help the Museum raise funds during events.

  She said the Museum was extremely fortunate to have received the grant.

  Beaulieu noted that the Museum would not be what it is today, or able to secure that 2019 Ontario Trillium Foundation capital expenditure grant, without the support of the community.

  The Museum is now open Mondays to Wednesdays, from 10-4, and by appointment over the weekends, following pandemic guidelines.