Today marks exactly fifty years since our Regimental Museum opened at Casa Loma under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel William T. Barnard, ED, CD (Ret’d) and with City of Toronto Mayor William Dennison cutting the ribbon.
Also present were Mrs Reginald Pellatt, widow of former Commanding Officer and Honorary Colonel, Colonel Reg Pellatt, VD; the Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel John G.B. Strathy, CD; and then Honorary Colonel, Colonel C. O. Dalton DSO, KStJ, ED.
As many of your will know, the museum was originally established in 1957 at the Regimental Depot in Calgary. The Depot Adjutant, Captain Joe Schmidt was the first Curator and the museum was authorized by the Regimental Executive Committee to help train new recruits in the regiments history. It was officially opened by Major General Chris Vokes, General Officer Commanding Western Command.
However in the late ’60s the Depot was closed and a new location was found for the museum in the historic Casa Loma, built by Toronto financier and the Queen’s Own’s longest serving Commanding Officer, Major General Sir Henry Pellatt,CVO, DCL, VD. After the First World War, Sir Henry has lost Casa Loma to the City of Toronto for back taxes. It would sit vacant before serving as a short lived hotel, and eventually be taken over by the Kiwanis Club which ran it as one of Toronto’s most iconic tourist attractions for 80 years.
Arrangements were made with Kiwanis to occupy most of the third floor which needed considerable painting and plastering to make usable. Museum objects were shipped from Calgary to Toronto, and new exhibits set up. And on June 7, 1970, the ribbon was cut and the museum officially opened.
Of course a lot has changed since 1970. In 1988 LCol Barnard was succeeded as curator by his assistant, Captain Peter Simundson who would continue in the role for another 22 years. On Peter’s retirement in 2012, Major John Stephens assumed the curator’s role.
Changes of space allocations and upgrading exhibits, labels, and interpretive panels has continued over those past fifty years. In 2014 came a new operator as the Liberty Entertainment Group replaced the Kiwanis Club of Toronto, and a new relationship with The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Trust that operates the museum on behalf of the Regiment.
Behind the scenes there was also continuous improvement in storage, cataloging and IT systems – and of course in more recent times, embracing the opportunities to reach a much wider audience through various social media platforms such as this website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Flickr.
Today we had hoped to host an event at the museum to celebrate this anniversary but of course the best laid plans “of mice and men” can be sabotaged by a viral pandemic. Despite that our museum team continues to work remotely as best we can on a variety of projects, and we look forward to celebrating this anniversary throughout the coming year when Casa Loma and our museum return in some fashion to a new normal.
For now though we want to thank all those in the Regimental family who have supported the museum over the past fifty years – through donations of objects, financial support, and their time and effort to get us where we are today!
And while you can’t visit the museum in person right now, we encourage you to browse through our online catalog – the random image option usually brings up some interesting objects!
In pace paratus!
Your museum team.
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