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Champlain Trail Museum had more visitors last year

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

David Lemkay did a presentation entitled “Making Tracks, Making Waves:  Innovation in the Forest” during the Ottawa Valley Historical Society's 2013 annual general meeting, held at the Kiwanis Fieldhouse recently. Lemkay was the keynote speaker.

David Lemkay did a presentation entitled “Making Tracks, Making Waves: Innovation in the Forest” during the Ottawa Valley Historical Society's 2013 annual general meeting, held at the Kiwanis Fieldhouse recently. Lemkay was the keynote speaker.

Change was the order of the day for the Ottawa Valley Historical Society, which held its annual general meeting recently at the Kiwanis Field House in Riverside Park.

David Whitmore, the incumbent OVHS president, handed the gavel over to Stephen Handke, the new president of the OVHS, while Bill Clayton was named the new first vice-president, taking over from Handke.

Angela Siebarth, the manager and curator of the Champlain Trail Museum and Pioneer Village, said in her annual report to the OVHS they saw an increase in the number of visitors throughout the 2012 season; a total of 7,232 had strolled through the grounds and the museum, as compared to 5,125 in 2011.

These figures reflect total attendance, which includes general public tours, group tours, special events, Kids Day programs and outreach.

Siebarth said May’s attendance was up significantly in 2012 because the Options Trades Fair was in May as opposed to April the previous year. That event brought in 2,386 people.

"We are happy to report that the museum experienced an increase in attendance in June, July and August of 2012 as compared to 2011," she said, when they welcomed 2,851 visitors. This is 360 more than in 2011. Those months are prime time for the museum.

"September and October’s numbers were up as well because of a new event in September, the Nostalgia Fair, and a significant increase in attendance at our Haunted Halloween event in October." A total of 858 came out during those two fall months, compared to 506 in 2011 for the same time period.

Among 2012's exhibits, summer staff member Julianna Morin created two new temporary exhibits: an enhanced royal exhibit for the Diamond Jubilee and an interactive stereoscope exhibit. Three temporary displays that were also installed included a Recent Donations exhibit, Petroliana by volunteer Wayne Woods and a railway exhibit by Stephen Handke.

In the fall of 2011, the Fire Station No. 3 exhibit was created to house the newly restored 1923 Bickle Fire Truck. This exhibit was officially launched at the 2012 Sneak a Peek gala.

New and relevant artifacts were added into exhibits in Founders Hall; artifacts were also removed and rotated in exhibits. Museum exhibits in Founders Hall were dusted and cleaned, with new labels placed on them.

The increases in attendance is due partly to the success of many special events held at the museum, Siebarth explained.

he Nostalgia Fair replaced the Heritage Blueberry Festival, and included activities during this event such as antique appraisals by Janet Carlile, heritage group displays, and guest hobbyists discussing their hobbies, selling antiques, swapping model railway items. About 100 people came to this first-time event.

The Valley Lines Model Railway Club also partnered again with the museum to present a successful CP model railway exhibit to the public during March Break. Approximately 625 people attended the train show.

The traditional Strawberry Social benefitted from beautiful weather to attract 270 people.

The Antique Car Club of Pembroke was a partner again, displaying their vintage vehicles. Some of the demonstrators included John Cullen caricatures, Stuart Campbell’s steam engine display, Val Champ quilting, Wayne Klatt spinning, Jennifer Patterson doing basket weaving and Tom Stephenson doing Dancing Dolls. Siebarth extended thanks to Brian Wilson and friends for organizing and providing the entertainment.

The Victorian Tea on July 12 brought in 97 people.


"Our second Haunted Halloween evening was held on Saturday, Oct. 20. This event was quite a success attracting 200 more visitors than last year for a grand total of 300 people," she said, noting students from a Fellowes High School drama class did a great job of dramatic storytelling in costume.

"We will be repeating this Haunted Halloween next year with more of our buildings open for dramatic storytelling."

Throughout the year, seven Renfrew County schools visited the museum and participated in Early Settlers programs in May and June, as well as 15 community groups, including daycare centres, seniors’ residences, the Pembroke Boys and Girls Club, community mental health organizations and church groups.

The United Churches in Pembroke and area held a successful joint church picnic on the museum grounds in September. The churches covered all of the costs associated with this event and gave a substantial donation for the use of the grounds.

"Total attendance for our Micksburg Pioneer Church services was 207," she said.

The museum's Kids Day Programs continue to be a great success as well, Siebarth added.

Ellen Wong, Julianna Morin, and Jory Turcotte presented an excellent Kids Days Program. Thanks to funding from Young Canada Works (YCW), they were able to hire Wong and Morin, while Turcotte was hired through a donation from the Kiwanis Club of Pembroke.

"We received a great deal of positive feedback about the quality of the Kids Day program this year," she said. "As a result, the museum had 423 registrations. This number was down from 2011 because of cancellations in July due to the extreme heat."

Siebarth thanked the Kiwanis Club of Pembroke which provided funding, and the loan of tents again from the 42nd Field Regiment ensured they could have an increased number of children in the programs.

The summer staff organized a “Final Summer Fiesta Appreciation Event” at the end of the summer as a thank-you to the parents and sponsors of Kids Days. Everyone who attended this event seemed to enjoy it. There was a barbecue and the entertainment included live music provided by singer Jory Turcotte and DJ Adam Freeman, face painting with Margaret Phillips and a demonstration of wooden toys by Tom Stephenson.

Commenting on promotions, Siebarth said the Champlain Trail Museum’s website, since its creation four years ago, has attracted a total of 134,104 hits and 61,900 unique hits and generated numerous research requests from across the country, a strong beacon for Pembroke.

"During 2012 and up to the present the museum’s website has attracted around 52,500 hits which is an increase from 2011 with 41,500 hits," she said.

The museum was featured in the Renfrew County 2011 travel guide and Ontario’s Onroute Summer Fun Guide, advertised on Pembroke’s website and tourist guide, the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association’s website and guide, the Direction Ontario Francophone tourist guide, the Ontario Museum Association website and the new Renfrew County Museums Network website.

Media coverage was also extensive this year including articles in various area newspapers, 21 articles and photos in The Daily Observer and a series of appearances in the spring on CTV Ottawa Morning Live.

Siebarth said the museum's success is due to the dedication of its volunteers and the ongoing generosity of its sponsors.

"Around 80 volunteers contributed 2,742 hours to the museum in 2012," she said. Volunteer roles included assisting with special events, program presentation, creating exhibits, building and outdoor maintenance, administration, collections work, and acquisitions.

Among these volunteers: John Hanson worked tirelessly to get the flower beds ready for planting and he helped to maintain them throughout the season; Steve Sipocz kept the emergency exits shovelled out and checked the roof and gutters over Founders Hall; Larry Fisher looked after unlocking and locking the Micksburg Pioneer Church for weddings, Evensong services, and whenever it was needed.

Siebarth said the vocational class at Fellowes High School assisted with planting the log home garden and yard cleanup in the fall and students in the Fellowes drama class did spooky storytelling and drama at the Halloween event.

"Many thanks to all of the people who volunteered at the museum in 2012," Siebarth said. "Without the essential assistance of our volunteers in these various capacities, the museum would not continue to thrive."

Six museum volunteers were awarded Ontario Volunteer Service pins in 2012: Sandra Mick, Emma Barron, George Barron, Jory Turcotte, Margaret Scheuneman and Kim Sheppard.

Among the many partnerships the museum enjoys, it partnered with the members of Heritage Pembroke to present Heritage Day in February; Blue North Studios continued to waive the Museum’s website hosting fees in 2012; KI Pembroke donated a new large filing cabinet to house the museum’s collection files; the Pembroke Horticultural Society continued to support the museum by providing plantings on the grounds; the Kiwanis Club of Pembroke assisted the museum to present the Sneak a Peek Fundraising Gala and the Kids Day program; Alice and Fraser Minor Sports Association, Knights of Columbus, and the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 72 also helped sponsor the museum’s Kids Days Program; the 42nd Field Regimental Museum provided tents for the Kids Day Program and for the Strawberry Social; and Phannenhours Berry Farm and Brum’s Dairy continued their long-time sponsorship of the Strawberry Social.

The museum continues to be a member in good standing of the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association, the Ontario Museum Association, the Renfrew County Museums Network and Heritage Pembroke. It also continued its partnership with Pembroke Heritage Murals.

The AGM wrapped up with a historical presentation highlighting aspects of the forest industry. David Lemkay, whose talk was entitled “Making Tracks, Making Waves: Innovation in the Forest,” said this is a story which needs to be told.

In his presentation, he discussed and showed slides about the following:

From the book by Don Beauprie, “Destination Algonquin Park, Tracks to Cache Lake and the Highland Inn”; J. R. Booth and the building of the railway through Algonquin Park―acquiring the land, construction of the railway; and from the book by Harry B. Barrett and Clarence F. Coons, “Alligators of the North”, about the alligator boats made by West and Peachy and used in the lumbering industry.

Lemkay showed slides of several of these boats in use, after restoration, on exhibit such as Expo 150 and the Logging Museum in Algonquin Park.

Stephen Uhler is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist


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