Tag Archives: museums

Did you Know we have a “World Class Museum” right in Lanark County?

Did you Know we have a “World Class Museum” right in Lanark County?


Photo from the Middleville & District Museum

As someone who studies the past, I have strong personal ideas about what makes a good museum. To get my vote, a museum has to be prepared to take some risks,  and it should present different views and ideas. That said, everyone has a different opinion, but my bottom line is it should be innovative and really involved with its local community. If people donate their family items to a museum they want to see it on display– and that is what the Middleville Museum does. There is very little in their stock room, and each exhibit is set in its own vignette. I didn’t sense institutional stuffiness or aloofness either, which are two of the threats of low attendance at museums– in fact, it was the absolute opposite.


Interior one room sod homeMiddleville & District Museum



Chances are you probably have not visited this little gem smack dab in the middle of Lanark County, and I was one of the guilty ones. It’s not like I didn’t try– a few times the museum was closed for the season, or I came during the week. My driving has its limits now, and then this year I got sick and stayed inside for most of the summer. I knew they closed Thanksgiving weekend and time was of the essence– so when Steve asked me where I wanted to go on Saturday — it was definitely ‘The Middleville Museum”.




So much to see at the Middleville & District Museum


This museum as far as I am concerned is one of the best kept secrets of Eastern Ontario, and deeply entwined with the life of the surrounding area. Some museums might have assumed a level of audience, but not always among the general visiting public. Putting something in a glass case with a parallel text next to it can be a not-very-immersive experience for the visitor.




Something for everyone in the family and a great place for local schools to visit. You don’t need to go to Ottawa–Middleville & District Museum

The Middleville Museum hits it all- with photos and mementos, a small interactive log cabin that you can step back in time, a classroom, and even antique autos and an old funeral hearse. Every turn of the corner was a delight, and even if  a good portion is based on objects–there was an instant connection made between the object and history, which gives us a special kind of access to the past. Immediately I sensed the community in the Middleville Museum, whether it was separated by a pane of glass or not.


Cars and such-Middleville & District Museum


20170826_middleville museum_017.jpg

Middleville Museum, Part 1– Photo by John Rayner– as there is no way my “bad shot” conveyed the awesomeness of this vehicle


No one has an idea about why we go to museums ourselves, or indeed why other people might go. The truth is– are any of us really sure?  Today, I felt this museum was where the unexpected happens and I can’t really put how I feel into words.  I am not a historian, I write and share stories of the past– and today, I looked at the content of the Middleville Museum and didn’t want to leave. If you let your imagination fly while you are walking around a museum and it invades your emotions, you’ve probably got a rather good museum on your hands. Even today, I am still thinking about what I saw– space that was thoughtfully transformed back into time. Well done– the ancestors are smiling from above!



General store and Post Office at the Middleville & District Museum



Schoolroom with personal mementos at the Middleville & District Museum


Curator Alice Borrowman from the Middleville & District Museum

Stay tuned all week to the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page to see more photos of some great interesting things from the Middleville & District Museum.

Image may contain: tree, outdoor and nature

Middleville & District Museum—Address: 2130 Concession Rd 6D, Lanark, ON K0G 1K0
Hours: · 11AM–3PM– check out their hours before you go.
Phone: (613) 259-0229  Open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for the next couple of weeks and also on Thanksgiving Monday from 11-3.CLOSES THANKSGIVING WEEKEND!




Interested in Family Histories from the Middleville/Lanark Township area? Come have a chat with David Murdoch, our resident expert. That would be Archives Lanark and Lanark County historian Marilyn Snedden sitting there. Photo-Middleville & District Museum



In memory of  the late Carman Lalonde who I miss greatly. (sitting in front of Clyde Hall in Lanark Village at his granddaughter and my son’s wedding)

The night before I made my journey to the Middleville & District Museum I had a dream where Carman was discussing ‘The Vertical Board House” and Carman was saying, “I told you that was the Sommerville House— did you forget?” I will never have the memory of Carman Lalonde.. there was only one Carman Lalonde.




When History Comes to You–A Visit from Middleville

Visiting the Neighbours — Middleville Ontario and Down the 511

It’s the Middleville News

Hissing Steam, Parades and a 1930 Hearse–Pioneer Days Middleville

Have You Ever Paid Tribute to our Pioneers? Middleville Pioneer Cemetery

Why Am I Obsessed with History?

Where is it Now? The Heirloom of William Camelon


John Rayner’s Posts

Middleville Museum, Part 3

Middleville Museum, Part 2

Middleville Museum, Part 1





Preserving the Past With Love Without Embalming It — Photos of the Carleton Place Museum 2011

Carleton Place Rules the World — Almonte Waves a White Flag!

The Rosamond Woolen Company’s Constipation Blues

Calling on the Victorian Neighbours Full of Lustre!

When I was 17- The Kitten- Glenayr Knitting Mills Reunion

Shaw’s of Perth-(About the Matheson’s of Perth)- Matheson House Museum

I was Born a Boxcar Child- Tales of the Railroad

The North Lanark Quilts

Bill Armstrong and The Innisville Museum (closed)


unnamed (1)




Middleville & District Museum
Yesterday at 10:00 AM  · 

We’re opening! … Saturday, July 24, at noon, we will open for our 2021 season.
Days/hours: Saturdays, Sundays, and Holiday Mondays, up to an including Monday, October 11th – 12 noon to 4pm.
COVID restrictions still apply. Contact-tracing information will be collected as per the Health Board.
For more information, message us or check out our website at http://www.middlevillemuseum.org/.

Heritage House and Their “Wards”

Heritage House and Their “Wards”


Photo- Linda Seccaspina



Clipped from The Ottawa Journal14 May 1980,



In 1980 an old frame house near Old Sly’s Lock was going to be renovated and turned into a world class museum called Heritage House. Not everyone believed in the project, and some thought it should be located closer to town and more accessible to those on foot. Of course there was the fact that the structure was frame and not stone like the stone mill that was in disrepair at the time. Many thought attention should be made to stone and not frame. In the end the old mid century home sold for the sum of $13,500 and the property was Crown land administered by Parks Canada.



Photo- Linda Seccaspina


The frame building that had suffered a fire and neglect still had  a lot of historical value as it was once inhabited by Truman Russell Ward, his wife Annabelle Chambers and their two children. Truman was the son of  Able Russell Ward founder of the town of Smiths Falls. Anabelle’s Dad Captain McGill Chambers had donated the land and original building to the Smith’s Falls Hospital and the land to St. Francis Roman Catholic Church.

The house had many mysteries which were: hidden walled over fireplaces, a built in bake oven, and an unusual glass pattern in the casement windows. Plans were called to restore eight rooms in 1860s fashion and a rotating display room in the upper floor of the shed with the bottom floor housing a gift shop. Parks Canada plans at the time called for vegetable garden and an apple orchard.

If you have not visited this museum — you are missing a real historical treat.




Clipped from The Ottawa Journal07 Sep 1977, Wed[Second Edition]Page 3



Clipped from The Ottawa Journal22 Jul 1980, TueValley EditionPage 3


Abel Russell Ward was the first resident of Smith Falls in 1826 or 1827, building a log house on what became Beckwith Street, close to the site of the canal locks soon to be built. When the Rideau Canal was first being constructed, and early settlement of Smiths Falls had begun, the two largest landholders in the area were Abel Russell Ward and William Simpson. Both of these men set aside plots of land for their own private cemeteries. When the settlers living in Smiths Falls needed a place to bury their dead, they would often approach Ward or Simpson, requesting space in their private burial grounds. CLICK HERE FOR MORE


Able Russell Ward – one of the founders of Smiths Falls. I am told that this headstone, which sits in the area to the left of the office, has the letters UEL (United Empire Loyalist) on the stone. I am also told that United Empire Loyalists were people who in some way participated in the War of Independence in 1776. Historians tell me that there is no way that Mr. Ward could have been a member of UEL as he wasn’t born until 20 years later! Though he may well be the child or grandchild of a member.

Lavenia Mirrick, the wife of Able Russell Ward. Directly related to those who founded Merrickville and also the person behind the names Lavenia Street and Merrick Street. Also of note, Able Street, Russell Street, and the fact that at one time, a part of Smiths Falls was named Wardsville.


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and Screamin’ Mamas (USA)


                  Heritage House Museum

General Information

A visit to Heritage House includes a tour of 8 period rooms furnished to depict the lifestyle of the times. The Museum’s unique mirror-image facades, indoor brick bake oven and two-story privy preserve an atmosphere of the past in the once derelict house. Enjoy a picnic near our gardens or take a short stroll through parkland to the Rideau Canal and Old Sly’s Lockstation. Presented year round are changing exhibitions and art shows, a variety of special events, workshops and school and children’s programs. Also available are meeting space rentals, gift shop and a Victorian setting for wedding ceremonies and photographs.

11 Old Sly’s Rd,
Smiths Falls, Ontario, K7A 3M3


2017 Hours:

Spring         May 13 – 31:  

  Weekends, 10 am – 5 pm

Summer     June 1 – October 31:     

Wed, Fri, & Sun, 10 am – 5 pm,

Thurs & Sat 12 pm – 8 pm

Fall             November 1 – December 22:     

Thursdays 12 pm– 8 pm, Fri & Sat 10 am – 5 pm

Appointments Welcome Year Round!


Adults $4.50
Senior $4.00
Youth (6-18) $3.50
Phone: 613-283-6311

Email: heritagehouse@smithsfalls.ca



sm_heritage house_375317.JPG


When Museums Lose out to a Pig……



Heritage House Museum–Smiths Falls- photo–Expedia.ca


You know what’s disturbing in today’s world? When a story about a lost pig in Dalhousie Township gets way more views than a local museum parting with one of their prime time players. Heritage House Museum in Smiths Falls losing its curator Carol Miller  really upset me because everyone needs to realize that this could happen in any of your towns, any day, anytime. If we don’t do anything to stop the hemorrhaging; I can guarantee you that these local gems will slowly disappear.

Getting people inside the door is important to keep the local lights on. Sure, dinosaurs get people into the larger doors, but what about the smaller museums that showcase the inventiveness and the life stories of local individuals and events?

I admire our larger national museums, but these are not the places that teach me about the history of your Grandparents and the people who built our communities. Of course they have spectacular exhibitions and elaborate marketing– but in reality, there are limits to how big they can grow, unlike our smaller museums.  Personally, I want to involve myself in a world that lets me experience the vision of a passionate local citizen and the community these people lived in.

Long ago museums used to be similar to a men’s club and you were not allowed to ask questions or even touch in their pristine sanitary world. Now, because of grants being cut and the loss of major donations, museums have had to create a new way of thinking and exploration. The curators and their dedicated volunteers have to learn a new perspective for planning, budgeting, and organizational assessment, and they should be appreciated and supported, not have hours cut, or laid off.

They now have major challenges searching new directions and especially dealing with traditional thinking board members. New ideas to some of these folks are downright scary in part because they challenge traditional professional standards, roles, and practices. Now smaller museums have entered an era in which it is more important than ever to demonstrate that the history that built their local towns are relevant today to their communities. The traditional activities of collecting, preserving, researching, exhibiting, and interpreting are simply no longer adequate. In this day and age of social media, let’s face it– people want to be entertained.

My only argument in all of this is– that some museums need to pick up their game and really understand how huge social networking is. There could be so much attention and curiosity that a couple of million people could bring to them. Smaller museums could turn their curating into wonderful tools that would in turn encourage patronage to investigate the local ambience of the lost time from which those objects and people have come to us.

But, all of this can only come from the original sources of local and personal stories that our local museums house and protect. We need to look through the lens of the past and realize what we wouldn’t have if our local museums didn’t exist, or were even worse– were rolled into one regional museum. All of us need to seriously think about what a 911 situation this whole matter has become and do something about it today as– there might not be a tomorrow.

Small details make perfection.. But perfection is no small detail–Michelangelo

Related reading:

Smiths Falls Heritage House curator let go as a result of service review process





Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.


1 in 25 Local Kids Don’t Know Who Elvis is!



The past two weekends my Elvis Puppet and I have been attending local events. I always joke this is my annual “public awareness trek” in remembrance of Elvis. Why would I say that? Well, to my shock only 1 in 25 kids knows who Elvis is. Impossible you say? I swear on my “Love Me Tender” heart this is a fact.

So what does that say about the younger generation knowing about our local history? Once upon a time, teachers agreed that local history should be in the curriculum, but no one could agree on how it should be taught or why. The Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum used to be invited into the local schools, but that is a moot point now. Apparently, there is no more time in their schedules for such information now.


Usually teachers in history and social studies classes focus on national or international events. But what about the history of the neighborhood where the students live? When kids are encouraged to learn about where they live, maybe they can perhaps link their community to a larger event. Hopefully, they begin to see they are part of a larger story and that they personally make history every single day.

“I’m only interested in the recent facts- that is what concerns me. I don’t want to know about the stuff that happened 100 years ago.”

What people do not realize is that ancient history as they call it, has a value in itself for a personal, family and community perspective. Our local history is the story of where we all live. It deals with the people and events we know best. After writing about the history of the Carleton Place area for awhile; I can tell you it goes way beyond our beloved WWII hero Roy Brown.


Actually, if you think about it, it could give all of us a better sense of realism. Why? Because the major body of local history pertains to the students’ own surroundings. Our Carleton Place youth can physically go out and see where the Findlay plant was, the first mills of our area, and even drop in, buy a cookie, and say hello to Lorne Hart at The Old Towne Bakery. Not for the kids, you say? As much as people refuse to admit it- he is a pioneer in today’s craft beer, and is already in the “history of beverage” books. The bottles of Hart Beer are already considered artifacts at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum.

We sometimes have a tendency to tear down the roots of our area – almost as soon as we have put them down. If schools studied more local history, that might encourage a little preservation, and make us aware of our own links to the past. One should remember that each time we speak about local history, we are training future citizens. We seriously need to encourage everyone to learn the history that just happened outside our door. You never know– to some, the knowledge could become a “burning love of interest”.

“History happens to all of us all the time. Local history brings history home, it touches your life, the life of your family, your neighborhood, your community.” —


Join us on our next tour “Smoke on the Water” The Fires of Carleton Place next week with treats after at Ballygiblins.

Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tilting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place

True Confessions —– I Just Shook Hands With My Vacuum Cleaner


mess Today I turned on my vacuum cleaner for the first time in ages. I’m an honest person, and I’m going to admit that hunting down facts and writing about local history has become a physical and mental addiction. I can blame the followers of Facebook’s Carleton Place Scene for it. Some of the posters got really got me angry one day in January commenting on what little we have to offer in our fair town. I admit I’m not happy with a few things too: like the downtown core and not aggressively going after creative entrepreneurs.

But, because local resident Edna Gardner once said “If you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know who you are!” I began to write about Carleton Place. What happens to those forgotten family things after someone passes away? What will happen to my collection of local collectibles? Some of them need to be preserved for posterity’s sake. To do that, we need a place to keep them. Now that our iPhones hold our pictures and most of us seldom put things in scrapbooks, we really need someone to record things. Do you know what goes on in our Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum– or your local museum? mus5

Have you any idea how many files of local information a Museum has? It not only has historically significantly things, but it has a lot of personal things. It’s the DNA of your town and surrounding area. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure I always say. Nobody but your mother is likely to see any value in that pencil holder you made at summer camp in 1945. But remember there are archaeologists being paid a great deal of money digging up that kind of thing out of ancient sites and putting them on display in museums. Of course some finds are not valuable in monetary means, but they connect us to what we can’t see– unless we own a time machine. Museums study them to learn more about the past. If nobody knows the deeper meaning of those little pieces; they won’t be recognized as anything particularly valuable. We now have local “dig finds” in shadow boxes by Rebecca Lapointe on display at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum dig (1)

Want to know about all our former local mills or if Uncle Billy was once on the run from a bank robbery? Come to the museum! Want to know the history of your home? Ask our curator! Even if Aunt Betty’s dress from 1920 doesn’t mean a thing to you– once it enters a museum– the moment it goes on display, it’s part of history. The Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum keeps them safe and preserves them for future generations. Museums are now considered a form of popular entertainment, but they’re far more than just a place to store things that aren’t useful to a personal collector or family. So yes, I have lost my head as they say over history.

I have now become similar to one of the historians of U C Berkeley I used to giggle at and discuss things with in the post office line in Berkeley, Ca.–ONLY I hope I shut up once in awhile, and I do change my clothes daily. Carleton Place has so much to offer, and if promoted properly by the powers to be, it could a huge tourism draw. If you think where you live is ho-hum, and you think our or your museum and history is also boring- then your thinking is all wrong. As Bob Dylan once sang:  “Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial”. mus6 “If you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know who you are!” —The late Edna Gardner Carleton Place Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tilting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place

Emotional Patchwork at The Mississippi Valley Textile Museum


Our neighbours at the Mississippi Valley Textile Mill Museum in Almonte are showing a wonderful display of quilts. Why should we go? Quilts are treasures that follow their owner everywhere- no questions asked. All the beloved quilts created by the Crazy Quilters of Almonte were made to celebrate events and tell a story. Sit on one of the benches and be their material witness. Every quilt is a piece of art because each one is a masterpiece within.


Seven days after my birth I was placed in a quilt my grandmother had made and brought immediately to her home. My mother suddenly had no idea who anyone was including her brand new daughter. Doctors hospitalized her, blamed it on postpartum depression and said it would be over in a few weeks. Each night for almost two years my father made the 45 mile journey into Montreal, Quebec only to have my mother insist she had no clue who he was. While he was sitting in the cab of a neighbours semi trailer on the way home, I was being tucked into my crib with the same quilt I came home from the hospital in.


One night my father gathered me up in that same quilt and smuggled me into the Royal Victoria Hospital hoping my mother might remember me. I can still see her looking down at the cards she was playing solitaire with while I was holding on to the edge of that dear quilt in fear. To this day I will never forget that image – my father says I was barely two but I still remember the grayness of the room. While my life was sterile and cold, the quilt held warmth and security. My grandmother always said that blankets might give you warmth, but quilts wrap you in love.


At age 12 my mother died, and my grandmother sat with me on her veranda and wrapped that same quilt around me while I cried. Life was never the same after that, and the quilt was placed on my bed like an old friend when I stayed with her. As I traveled down the road of life that quilt was always there while people came and went. Although it was aging gracefully it was still heavy and secure anytime I needed it. Through death and sickness it held comfort and the promise that it would never desert me. This quilt held my life with all the bits and pieces, joys and sorrows that had been stitched into it with love.


At age 47 the quilt died peacefully in my arms. A terrible house fire had destroyed it, and as I looked at the charred edges, I realized the thread that held it together still bound the both of us forever. Now it was time to go down the final road by myself and remembering the words of Herman Hesse I began the journey without my quilt.

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.”


Quilting is about more than stitch lines– a quilt is nothing but an expression of love. Go see the result of expressions live at the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum. You will not regret it.



Mississippi Valley Textile Museum

3, Rosamond St. E.
Almonte, Ontario
K0A 1A0

October to March
Tuesday to Saturday: 10 am to 4 pm.

April to September
Tuesday to Saturday: 10 am to 4 pm.
Sunday: 1 pm to 4 pm.

Children under 12 are always free

Admission $7.00
Members admitted without charge

Sharing History With Friends – Jennifer Fenwick Irwin


You have met Amanda McNeely, Tiffany Nixon, and Teri White who are part of our working team for your Ladies Who Lunch date on June 6th. Here is another one of our members ready to put this shindig all together.

A few years I wrote a blog about my forever friend Sheila Wallet Needham, and there isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t remember the happy times we had. Do you remember your past friends each day? Two weeks ago Marian MacFarlane told me all about her childhood friend in Packenham. Late last week she asked me to add to it as she remembered more of what she enjoyed with her visiting friend.

So today as my person of the day, and also a member of the Ladies Who Lunch organizing group, I proudly introduce to you my friend Jennifer Fenwick Irwin, curator of the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum.

Jennifer grew up in the city of London, Ontario. She had a life I longed for, with her professor and iconic artist father, and her mother also was a talented artist. She and her older brother Graeme resided in an old rambling house full of art students, easels, rising loaves of bread, spinning wheels, and music.

After graduating from High School she traveled around Europe for 6 months then moved back home and in with a boyfriend who played guitar for a punk rock band. Jennifer spent her days working in bookstores, and evenings were spent next to an amplifier in whatever venue he played. As she said, “after two years, hence the deafness”.

Through the wire in 1988 she heard about a Museum studies program and moved to Ottawa. By the third year she had landed a great job at the Museum of Civilization, and met her future husband Pete Irwin. She actually spent a year living in a log cabin right downtown in the market.

Jennifer spent the next two years working at the Museum of Civilization and then at the Library and Archives Canada for another year until her first daughter Olivia was born. Daughter Bridget soon followed, and she landed as she said, “another great gig” working at home for the Glebe Home Day Care program. Each day was tea time and dress up with 5 little girls, including her own.

Jennifer and Pete wanted to set down roots for their family and chose Carleton Place as their destination. Her brother lived here, and they felt they could get “more home for their money” in this area, and bought an ancient 4 bedroom home. The day they signed the final papers Jennifer found out she was pregnant with baby number 3 and newborn Henry took over the room that had been planned as an office.

The Irwin family has lived in Carleton Place for just over 18 years. Jennifer has done her share of jobs from: working at the IGA, Scotiabank, commuting to the Textile Museum in Almonte, and the Library and Archives in Gatineau. During a sejour of unemployment she began volunteering at our Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum. When they received a substantial private donation, Jennifer was hired to catalogue and organize all the artifacts in their collection. Do you know there are over 10,000 and counting?

As she said, somehow they have managed to find the money to keep her employed there for almost 4 years, and she is now officially the Museum Manager/Curator. She takes care of every aspect of running the museum with about 10 regular volunteers and an elected Board of Directors. Between the administration, grant writing, exhibit design, event planning, fundraising, and research, it keeps her busy. If that wasn’t enough, she has recently been tasked with assisting the Roy Brown Museum, the town’s Municipal Heritage Committee, and being the liaison to Council for all three groups. By the way, she still hasn’t finished cataloging all the artifacts!  After all, *”a Museum should never be finished, but boundless and ever in motion” like Jennifer.

Files from Jennifer Fenwick Irwin


Ladies Who Lunch Carleton Place Town Hal June 6th