On July 1st 1947, the Huronia Museum first opened in a large wooden frame building that had been the family residence of James Playfair 1860-1937, a prominent Midland businessman. The current museum building was Midland’s Canada Centennial project and officially opened on July 1st 1967 in Little Lake Park adjacent to the Huron/Ouendat (Wendat) Village.
In 1976, the Historic Art of Huronia Gallery in the museum building opened and presently displays art by David Milne, Homer Watson, Manly MacDonald, Franklin Arbuckle, Hilton Hassell, Mary Hallen (Victorian era watercolours), William J. Wood, Thor Hansen, Group of Seven artists (A.Y. Jackson, Franz Johnston, J. E. H. MacDonald) along with contemporary art, native art and archaelogical collections of Ouendat and Ojibway First Nations. Other exhibits are about Georgian Bay lighthouses, shipwrecks, maritime and military heritage. There is also an extensive photographic collection of the work of Midland’s long-time professional photographer, John W. Bald.
The Huron Village represents what Huron life was like between AD 1500-1600, just prior to the arrival of Europeans. The village has the following components: shaman’s lodge, wigwam, masks, fish racks, longhouse, sweat lodge, corn field, bone pit, fur drying rack, burial rack. The Huron Village was created by W. Wilfrid Jury (1890-1981), Director of the Indian Archaeology and Pioneer Life at the University of Western Ontario in London. The village is modelled on Jury’s work on the excavation of the pre-contact Forget site near Midland. The village originally opened in 1956. In May 2007, a fire destroyed part of the village. Reconstruction is underway, and the village is now open to the public.
4 thoughts on “Huronia Museum description”
It would be nice to see a diorama or at least a site plan of the Forget site on view at the village so that visitors would get a better sense of the size of the village in its original context. The village has always left me with a claustrophobic feeling when I think of the number of people who would have lived there. How many longhouses and fires were there at the Forget site? I think I should take the tour and see what is said from an archaeological standpoint.
So, what is a museum?
Our museum as are others is defined by the public by the nature of the exhibits they present. Our largest display is the Huron native village that greets all visitors as they approach the museum and incorporated into its’ name. I would assume that both by name and by visual image the visitor has built up an expectation of what might be found inside.
Our museum is currently undergoing a study to determine its growth requirements for an anticipated expansion. Is it needed? In what areas? At what cost? These are some of the questions that are being addressed by the board and as always in such exercises lead to perhaps more fundamental question that are harder to answer. Who does the museum serve? For what purpose? With what staff? At who’s cost?.
One of the most fundamental questions is; Was the museum established as a community archives repository for its material culture that would serve to educate future generations and visitors as to our communities past supported by the community for the community or was it intended as a tourist attraction subject to the competition from other attractions and the ebb and flow of tourist dollars? This then raise other questions; What is our community, how do we define it by time and space? What is meant by Huronia? Is it a geographic tourist boundary or a culture? Is this the Midland museum or do we want to serve a larger population of both geography and cultural interest? What are our responsibilities to the community that supports us?
If I look at the visitor log, I see that the vast majority of comments are from out of town, in fact out of country visitors. Did they come here as one more stop on their rainy day tour or did they come with a purpose beyond entertainment? Are they really interested in the history of Midland or were they seeking to learn of the Huronia of a more distant past? Should we tell the story of Historic Huronia or should we leave this up to the Wendat, the Jesuits and Ste Marie?
Are we satisfied with a visual display of our past or do we wish to provided research opportunities for those desiring a more in depth approach to history? Can we serve all these interests?
I have my own personal opinion as to which direction I would like to see the museum expand both in programming and space and I have shared these with the board, staff and consultants. But the museum board are facing some difficult decisions that will effect the long term health and vitality of this 60 year old community institution. These decisions will impact on more than just space. They will effect staffing and operating costs and ultimately our fait as just another small town community museum or one with a far broader scope that takes advantage of our communities unique placement in the history of time and space and the life of Canada and its people. They need to hear from its membership, the community as a whole and its visitors as to were we go from here.
So what is the museum to you?
It is interesting to note that after a review of the museums website I could not find reference to the archaeological collections or exhibits help by the museum. I did find a historical overview of the Historic Huron period in the history section of the website, but no reference in the collections or exhibit sections. Given the amount of space that these displays take up and the draw that Huron History is to the museum I am surprised to find the lack of attention to it as either a display area or under collections.
Maybe I just missed it!
Any website goes through stages of evolution. Based on my experience, it can take several stages to get close to an ideal presentation of the information. I believe that the design chosen had the background functionality to enable staff without large amounts of html expertise to update the site, by adding to the categorized framework that visitors to the site have presented to them. Recently some technical and website services problems have made it more difficult to update the site. Efforts are in progress to smooth all this out. As I understand it, suggestions for the website should go to Nahanni Born.