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Throughout our travels abroad Deb and I have explored many museums and galleries over the years. We initially sought out a variation of sites to inspire ideas while in the midst of designing our “Room” at home. The history and time periods of these wonderful exhibits left us breathless at times but I couldn’t help note that visiting a variety of pubs would also offer some design ideas. I didn’t usually win that proposal but the compromise entailed a few pints for me after the tour while we discussed what we had just observed.
It is with disbelief that Toronto happens to be one of the only major cities in North America that does not have a museum dedicated to its history and in the same vein neither do the Maple Leafs. There is work currently underway to proceed with homes for both and the city of Toronto Museum is on line. This is of particular interest to me because one day I will have to part with my vast collection and would like it to remain intact so it can be enjoyed in the future. Besides, it took me a lifetime to acquire.
The process of change for us will be difficult (well for me anyway) and almost surreal, so it is with earnest enthusiasm we are exploring all options. Recently it dawned on Deb and myself that we have never traveled to Ottawa to see what our own country offers in the way of historical preservation. I’ve been to Ottawa a few times for minor hockey tournaments and to see the Leafs win a few playoff games against the Senators but other than that, the only good Senator I’ve known was ex-Maple Leaf Frank Mahovlich who was appointed as one. Now I must say I have an on going friendly wager with Ottawa owner Eugene Melynk when our two teams meet. I did mention to Eugene when he visited our “Room” that the only reason he was allowed was due to his generous donation to St. Mikes new athletic field. That reminds me, he still owes me a dinner from last year.
The good folks at the Canadian Museum of History welcomed us to tour the sites and offered a behind the scenes observation of the archives. It was with an open mind we made the four drive to the Capital a week ago with the plan too make our way around the museum and the following morning a guided tour of the archives.
The first thing that caught my attention arriving that morning was the sure beauty of the city enclosed by these magnificent landmark buildings. I’ve spent so many years hating the Ottawa Senators it never seemed possible such could surround them. The CMH building was massive and attracts a million visitors a year standing as Canada’s largest museum. With our 150th anniversary as a country coming up in 2017 as well as the 100th year for the Maple Leafs they expect visitors to increase exponentially. The museum is three levels and from the ground floor takes you back 5,000 years to the first settlers progressing throughout the years to the modern era. The CMH is undertaking a massive renovation to the third level that happens to cut the story of the growth Canada as a nation short, however once completed visitors will realize the wait was well worth it.
After a few hours we made the short walk to the Military Museum. It was fantastic. The attention to detail, facts and realism was world class and even for the casual observer, well worth the visit.
The next morning we anxiously prepared to meet one of the curators for our guided tour of the archives. After the small taste the previous day we where both filled with curiosity and questions. We toured the stored artifacts in climate-controlled environments and designated to the periods in time. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and very passionate about her work so we got along famously. Sensing our thirst for historical significance pertaining to each piece, it was with great pride she patiently walked us through the steps an item takes before it’s displayed. The researching of the artifact, documentation, photography and possibility of restoration if there’s a hint of damage or erosion, are all part of the process before an item is museum worthy. Each step is meticulously carried out with the skill of a surgeon, it takes time, expertise, patience and a vision of what the end result will be. It’s with painstaking detail each piece is handled leaving Deb and myself walking away extremely impressed, and proud.
What excited us on the drive home leaving Ottawa that day centered on the vast scope of history covered in the numerous museums throughout the nation’s capital. We as a nation have to make more of an effort to tell our story as Canadians. We have a long, proud and fantastic history but we just didn’t become the best country in the world by accident. It took ingenuity, foresight and sacrifice to set the standard of who we are. The energy and passion oozing from each of the researchers we spent time with at the CMH was infectious and they are determined to get our story too the world.
It’s of particular interest to myself to hear the plans to relay our growth as a nation through hockey. There is a small sampling of the game currently on display but needs work. The acquisition of the oldest stick has set the wheels in motion. The appeal of the Maple Leafs across the country in the early years (long before social media) is a story they want to tell but I think the story reaches far beyond that. How many people are aware of the Coloured Hockey League, played between 1895-1920 in Nova Scotia? Rules from the league are used in the NHL today. But why stop there? There is proof I’ve mentioned before that baseball was first played in Canada along with football, lacrosse and basketball.
The year 2017 is a year of significance; from the 150th birthday of Canada, 100th anniversary of the Leafs, 50th year of expansion in the NHL, so its nice to see the necessary steps in progress to make this celebration one the world will stand up and take notice. Can’t wait!