Category Archives: Archives

Behind the Scenes: Acquisition and Accessioning Part I

“Acquisition and Accessioning: Taking legal ownership of objects, especially (but not always) to add to your long-term collection through the process of accessioning: the formal commitment by your governing body to care for objects over the long term.

In legal terms, acquisition involves a ‘transfer of title’ from the previous owner to you. [It] gives you proof of ownership, and it assigns a unique number that will link each object to the information you hold about it.

Accessioning has a very specific meaning: it brings with ethical responsibilities to preserve objects over the long term…”

Collections Trust UK

Many of you will be familiar with our physical exhibits at Casa Loma, and many more of you will be familiar with our social media posting on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and of course this website.  But much of what our volunteer team does is actually behind the scenes as we acquire, accession and catalogue new objects, and then either add to our exhibits or put them carefully into our collections storage so they will be safe and we know where to find them.

This post will explain our acquisition and accessioning process and Part II will explain what happens next.

Where do our objects come from?

Before we dive into the details, you might wonder where we acquire objects.  The vast majority are donated to the museum as gifts – from serving soldiers, veterans, and relatives of former QOR soldiers.  Occasionally they will also come from donors who have picked them up at flea markets and yard sales. From time to time we may actually purchase an item from E-Bay or online medal auction sites however our acquisition budget is extremely limited and so these are generally only very unique or rare items.

How do we decide what we want to accept?

Like most museums around the world, we have limited storage space and have to give careful consideration to what items we accept into our collection. Don’t get me wrong though – we are very grateful when people contact us with objects they think might we might want!  From time to time however we have to say “thanks but no thanks.”  This begs the question of how we reach those decisions.

First we have to consider the museum’s 1956 mandate:

to encourage the study of Canadian military history and in particular the history of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, to rescue from oblivion the memories of its members, to obtain and preserve narratives in print, manuscript or otherwise of their travels, adventures, labours and observations, to secure and preserve objects illustrative of the civil, literary and military history of the Regiment, and to maintain a museum and a library.”

The museum’s interest also includes the six First World War Canadian Expeditionary Force Battalions perpetuated by the Queen’s Own Rifles and soldiers who served in them.

So clearly we’re looking for items related in some way to the regiment itself (or its perpetuated battalions), or to any members who served in it.  And for the latter, these would generally be related to their service with the QOR.

There are exceptions to this. For example items that might illustrate a particular period during the regiment’s service which are not already in the collection.  Recently we acquired a WWII two-piece mess tin from another museum.  It was not connected any in way to the regiment or anyone who served in it but it was a common WWII object that we did not have in our collection. Another was a WWI Victory Bond Flag – again not specifically related to the QOR but certainly an important part of WWI history.

Once we’ve established that the object or objects might be relevant or useful, there are still some further considerations:

Is it legitimate?

Sometimes – particularly for sale on the internet – objects are represented as something they aren’t either intentionally or from ignorance.  Sometimes half-forgotten family lore just doesn’t quite fit the facts. Is this “19th century” cap badge really from the 19th century?  Does the condition of a medal ribbon and other “facts” seem reasonable?

2019.08.001

For example a recent donor claimed a bugle (2019.08.001) had been played at the Battle of Ridgeway.  The bugle cord that came with it was clearly not 150+ years old but the engraving of “Captain Sherwood’s Company” made sense.  It also had the makers mark engraved on it and after some research we found that particular mark was only used for a five year period that spanned 1866.  None of this proved that it was actually played at the battle but it did confirm that it was from the correct time period and certainly could have been played, so we agreed to accept it.  We also need to have some assurance that the person donating the objects has the right to do so – in other words is actually the owner, or perhaps the executor of an estate.

How unique is it? 

QOR Silent Butler
2019.17.001

Generally we only need so many of the same items in our collection.  When a wooden ash tray stand painted like a QOR soldier (2019.17.001) and used in the Sergeant’s mess was recently offered to us, it was a no brainer to say yes.  However unless it was in mint condition (see below) we aren’t going to accept any more copies of Chambers 1899 history of the regiment as we already have six.

How big is it? 

The practicalities of limited storage space unfortunately mean we just don’t have room to accept everything – and the larger the object, the more relevant this consideration.

What condition is it in?

Aside from storage limitations we also have a limited conservation budget so if something is in poor condition and may take considerable effort and expense to properly conserve and preserve it, then we certainly need to consider that carefully. If we already have examples of this artifact in our collection, we’ll also want to determine if the item being offered is in better or worse condition than those we already have.

Can we safely store this? 

Occasionally safe storage is also a consideration.  Live ammunition, or nitrate film – which has a tendency burst into flames under the wrong storage conditions – would be two examples.  We recently had to find a way to safely dispose of the contents of a WWII polish tin which had become corrosive (not to mention the strong odour!) and threatened damaging other objects; however we did manage to save the tin with its paper label.

Can this still be used by the regiment?

Officer's Crossbelt
2018.03.003

Perhaps somewhat uniquely, our acquisition policy allows for the museum to send accoutrements in useable condition to the reserve battalion if they are needed.   The most common example of this would be sergeants’ and officers’ crossbelts which are expensive and hard to source these days. These would be acquired and accessioned but not catalogued in the next steps of our normal process.

We’re going to accept them – now what?

Once we’ve taken possession of the objects we’ve agreed to acquire, we enter the donor and donation information into our accession database and assign it a number.  The accession number 2020.02 would represent the second accession of 2020. An accession could be one item or hundreds of items as long as they are all being donated by the same person at the same time. An item (or object – I’m pretty much using the two interchangeably) could be a uniform piece, book, artwork, photograph, weapon, or collection of archival material such as correspondence or meeting minutes.

Once that’s done, our database allows us to quickly prepare a “Deed of Gift” which lists all the items, indicates that they person donating them is the legal owner, and legally transfers ownership (and copyright if held by the owner) to the Museum, to do with as it sees fit.  It is critically important establish this ownership for the future. Luckily now, much of our administration can be handled by email including sending thank you letters and deeds of gift to be signed.  Once the signed deed is returned to us, we scan it and upload to our database and also file the original copy in our office files.

The process for items that are purchased is almost identical except that the receipt is used to establish the museum’s ownership instead of the deed of gift.

The database also allows us to record the provenance or history of the ownership, as far as we know it. Provenance gives value to objects. For example a pair of WWII boots is valuable – but much more valuable if we know they belonged to Rifleman X who wore then on the D-Day landing and through to the end of the war.  Or to record family lore such as “grandfather said he got the epaulettes off a prisoner of war he was escorting from the trenches to the rear areas.”

The objects are now ready for cataloging and storage but our Collections Officer will explain that process in Part II.

What if we don’t want the items?

Sometimes items offered to us have no connection to our mandate or other use to us.  In that case we try our best to find and connect the donor with a more appropriate museum.

Sometimes some of items are of interest and some are not and so we can decide to accept some, all, or none.  An example is a donation of 10 antique rifles – several were relevant but three were not but it was an all or nothing donation. We accepted all but eventually would sell the three and use the funding to supplement our acquisition fund.  This was made known to the donor before making the donation and they were fine with this arrangement.

Sometimes we’ll accept donations for our education collection particularly when we might already have several in our museum collection.  These can be used or tried on (for example uniforms) by visitors or school groups – definitely not a recommended practice for items in the actual museum collection.

And if all else fails, we just have to say thank you for thinking of us, but no thanks.

What happens next?

Next comes the detailed cataloguing of each items in the accession, including labelling and photographing, and then finding safe and appropriate storage, which is recorded so we can find it again when we need it!  Our Collections Officer will describe this process in Part II of this blog series coming soon!

QOR WWII War Diaries Now Completely Online

Our museum is extremely lucky in having original copies (i.e. one of three copies made when then were first typed) of the World War II war diaries for what would become the 1st Battalion, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada (CASF).

These documents provide a wealth of information about the regiment’s participation and progress throughout the war – from the efforts to form the battalion in June 1940, through duties in Newfoundland, training in New Brunswick and England, the successful but devastating landing on D-Day, the continued fight through Europe, to finally to the German surrender on 8 May 1945.

We are also very lucky to have most of the Routine Orders issued during the war and while often administrative in nature, they help to fill in some of the gaps left by the war diaries – particularly in regards to personnel postings and casualties within the battalion.

Unfortunately the original documents are fragile and not particularly user friendly as there is no way to easily search through them.  So in order to protect them, and at the same time make them more accessible, we have undertake to transcribe and post on our website all these war diaries. We’ve also scanned all of the routine orders and posted them into the war diaries at the appropriate places.

And if that wasn’t enough, we added maps to help illustrate where the battalion was at various times and where it was headed, and inserted photos from our collection into the appropriate location in the timelines. These photos add some amazing sense of place and time. Lastly we added links to more detailed profiles on our website for many of the key soldiers mentioned in the diaries by name.

Now when I say we, I really mean one of our curatorial assistants, Sgt Graham Humphrey and more recently, with the help of Kate Becker. Graham and Kate have spent literally hundreds of hours on this project over the past three and a half years – scanning, transcribing, creating maps, and inserting photos. The result though is a spectacular resource that serves to both protect our archival documents while sharing them with the world.  Even without any official announcements, these page have been viewed over 16,000 times to date.

And the importance of making this information available today is even more critical as fewer and fewer WWII soldiers are left to share their stories first hand.

Bravo Zulu to Graham and Kate on their outstanding work to see this project through to the end, and I strongly encourage you to take some time read through this important story of some of our regiment’s finest hours:

Photos, photos and more photos – now on Flickr!

In our museum collection we have loads and loads of photos – some in files and some in frames and some in albums and some more recent ones digitally. And in addition to those, over the past two and half years we’ve been taking more photos – of museum events, of each artifact and even photos of photos!

Much of this effort has been led by Captain (Ret’d) Larry Hicks who has been diligently photographing each artifact in our collection – a mammoth task on which he’s made amazing progress but still lots more to go. Among these have been some amazing photo albums for which Larry has painstakingly photographed each individual photo. He has been assisted by Corporal Justin Dreimanis, a serving soldier in the regiment and a recently graduate of Humber College’s photography program. And last but definitely not least, our WWII “guy” Master Corporal Graham Humphrey has scanned every WII photo in our files.

Of course the more photos we collected, the question increasingly became what do we do with them? Photos of artifacts are added to our Museum Collection Database but how could we share these to a wider audience – be they descendants or researchers or members of the regimental family?

And so I’m pleased to announce the official launch of our new QOR Museum Flickr site for sharing all these photos – almost 4,800 actually! There are some great photos from the Cold War regular force days, awesome officer photos from the late 1800s, a scrapbook of Fenian Raid newspaper clippings, a great record from the 1910 trip, and loads of WWII photos from Newfoundland, New Brunswick, England and Europe as some examples.

All these photos are organized into “albums” – 48 so far. Albums contain photos with something in common – they could be all from a real album in the museum’s collection, or they could contain photos on a certain topic – 1910 trip or band photos for example. Photos can show up in more than one album. So a band photo from the 1910 trip will be in both the band and 1910 trip albums – pretty cool if we do say so ourselves. There are special topic albums on shooting, sports and the Pellatts among others.

And all of this is still a work in progress – we’ll keep organizing and sort and uploading – and of course taking more photos so come back regularly to check them out!

But wait – we need your help!

If you’ve ever inherited your parents’ or grandparents’ or great grandparents’ photo albums – or shoeboxes – you’ll know how frustrating it is when they so often don’t have names on the back! And trust me for a museum its even more frustrating 😦

And so this is where we hope you can help 🙂 If you can identify people or places or sometimes even dates in any of our photos which don’t already have that information indicated, PLEASE take a moment to share what you know in the comments box. Before you can do that, you will need to create a Flickr account if you don’t already have one but it only takes a few moments and we would very, very, very much appreciate any help you can give us in documenting these valuable historic records of QOR history.

As a sample of what you can look forward to, here’s a gem: No 5 Company in Stratford, June 1866 (shortly after the Battle of Ridgeway)

No5Coy

Happy viewing and let us know what you think!

 

Newly Digitized Archival Films Uploaded to our YouTube Channel!

We’ve recently had three 16mm films in our collection professionally digitized and I am pleased that they have now been uploaded to our Museum’s YouTube channel and added to our Videos page on the website.

The first is a 15 minute black and white overview of the various activities that took place during the Regiment’s 100th Anniversary in 1960 including events conducted by all three battalions which existed at the time.

The second film is a 26 minute black and white “History of The Queen’s Own Rifles” produced by the CBC and featuring then museum curator Lieutenant Colonel William T. Barnard.

And lastly is a four minute silent “tour” of the of the fairly new Moss Park Armoury including the Officers’ and Sergeants’ Messes. (If anyone is able to help us nail down the date by identifying any of the soldiers in the film, we’d greatly appreciate it. Leave a comment below!)

We’d like to thank the Digital Treasury Group for their excellent and professional work on this project and helping us with the cost!

We have almost a dozen more films which we hope to digitize as the funding becomes available. Unfortunately our storage facilities are not ideal for the storage of films and frankly they are virtually inaccessible now in the 16mm format so we’re very excited to be able to make a start on this important preservation project!

1893 Officers’ Photo Album

1893 Photograph Album of the Officers of the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada
1893 Photograph Album of the Officers of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada

One of the joys of being the Curator (or a volunteer) is “discovering” fascinating items in our collection – particularly those interesting items that for one reason or another, are not on exhibit. One facet of our the collection is the archival material – records, manuscripts and photos – many of which date back to the 19th century. Some are in great condition and others not so much.

One which is in reasonably good condition, is a photography album entitled “Officers – Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada – 1893”.  In contains 37 black and white portraits of the officers in the regiment in 1893 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel R. B. Hamilton. They include several names of those who later would command the regiment: Delamere, Pellatt, Mercer, Rennie and Royce. And as did Mercer and Rennie, others also held command roles during the First World War: Barker, Le Vesconte and Michell. Peuchen later commanded a QOR Battalion but was best known for surviving the RMS Titanic. Surgeon Lesslie and Assistant Surgeon Nattrass were long serving members of the Regiment.

Of interest to many will be the variety of regimental dress and headdress which appear in these photos which may not all have been taken in 1893 but certainly were of that period and shortly before.

As part of our ongoing cataloging project, Capt (Ret) Larry Hicks has been photographing many of our artifacts and archival materials and once again has done an excellent job of photographing these photographs so they can be added to our digital database and to our website.

I encourage you to take a moment to return to the 19th century and check out the contents of this amazing 1893 Officers’ Album on our Flickr site.

Bernières-sur-Mer

Ever wonder what Bernières-sur-Mer looked like on June 6, 1944? Well here is an Aerial photograph taken roughly around 1100hrs on June 6th.

Bernières-sur-Mer June 6th 1944 1100hrs
Bernières-sur-Mer June 6th 1944 1100hrs

Cheers,

MCpl Graham Humphrey

What is the story of YOUR remembrance coin?

Units of the Canadian Armed Forces often follow the tradition of presenting new members of the unit with a regimental coin.  These coins are normally serialized, based on the member’s date of service with the unit, with a registry of coins being held by regimental headquarters.

The coin is meant to be symbol of membership within the unit, with members expected to carry their coin at all times.  

During Lieutenant Colonel Fotheringham’s first term as Commanding Officer, then Company Sergeant Major Shaun Kelly created a unique initiative which incorporated the exclusive membership aspect of a regimental coin whilst also honouring the history of the Regiment.  Instead of a coin which is serialized to the member based on the date of service with the unit, members of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada are issued a coin with the particulars of a member of the Regiment who died during one of the wars which the Regiment fought in. They were first presented to members of the regiment on Remembrance Day 2002.

QOR Remembrance Coin reverse
Reverse of Remembrance Coin of Museum Curator Maj (Ret) John Stephens, CD.157601
Rfn E. Honeyford
D/W (Died of wounds)
16-Apr-1917 

The antique pewter like coin is 39mm in diameter. The Obverse has the Primary Badge surrounded by the name of the regiment and the regimental motto “In Pace Paratus”. The Reverse has inscribed the particulars of the member whom the coin is dedicated to:

  • Service Number;
  • Rank, Initials, Surname;
  • KIA or D/W; and
  • date of death.

A coin is presented to each member of the Regiment by the Commanding Officer or Regimental Sergeant Major on the first Church Parade which the member participates in after having been “badged” into the Regiment.

The Names Behind the Coins

 But carrying the coin is just the first step. Riflemen are strongly encouraged to research the soldier named on their coin and many do. This makes the act of remembrance much more meaningful.

On our Regimental Museum website we have a section called “Soldiers of the Queen’s Own” in which we are adding biographies of soldiers who have served in the regiment – during any period since 1860 – or in the First World War battalions that we perpetuate. To date we’ve only added a very tiny sampling.

But we want to continue to expand this depository particularly as we approach the centenary of the First World War. If you’ve researched the soldier named on your coin, we strongly encourage you to send us whatever information you have – it can be in point form – so that we can add it to our website.

Please email your information to museum@qormuseum.org and make sure you include all the details from your coin as a starting point.

Thanks,

Major (Ret) John Stephens, CD
Curator

Announcing our QOR Regimental Museum YouTube Channel

youtube_logo_stacked-vfl225ZTxThe Queen’s Own Rifles Regimental Museum recently launched our new YouTube Channel  which is a great place for us to share digital versions of regimental film clips in our archives. So far we’ve uploaded eight clips from D-Day landing footage to the History of the QOR on its 140th Anniversary!

Two things:

Firstly visit our channel and check out the footage uploaded to date. If you enjoy the videos you watch, help us raise our YouTube profile by clicking the “LIKE” button (the thumbs up logo) at the bottom left of each video!  And while you’re there we also encourage you to click the “SUBSCRIBE” button which means YouTube will tell you whenever we upload a new video clip.

Secondly we invite you to share any film clips you have with us so that we can include them in our museum archives and add them to our channel. Footage doesn’t have to be WWII or the 50/60’s to be part of our regimental history so please take some time to contact us if you have something that you think would be (or aren’t sure if it would be) what we’re looking for. Obviously video of training or jumps or formal parades is all pretty obviously a yes 🙂  You can contact the museum at museum@qormuseum.org and we can figure out how best to facilitate sharing your footage with us.

A Preview

If you haven’t already seen one of our most historic clips, check out this footage taken from a landing craft at Juno Beach as the QOR head on to the beach. Then check out the rest of the clips we’ve uploaded on our site – and we have more to upload over the coming weeks and months!

 

 

Sharing Our Archives Online

Aside from our collection of artifacts our museum has an interesting archival collection of documents, records and other materials dating back to the 1860s. These were created by the Regiment, by regimental affiliates or donated by individuals or their families. The museum itself has also collected a variety of material. We hope to create a catalogue of our archives to make them more accessible to researchers.

book2net Kiosk

Our lack of full time staff to respond to requests for information has led us to consider the benefits of digitizing certain records and making them available online. To this end, we contacted Anne Dondertman of the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, University of Toronto, who is graciously allowing us use of the library’s digital book scanner designed for use with bound volumes. This is a book2net Kiosk for those enquiring minds.

After scanning, we import the individual jpeg images from a book into a single Adobe Acrobat pdf document. We then add books marks, run optical character recognition to create a searchable document (if possible), add metadata and reduce the size of the pdf for uploading to our website.

I can now scan about 400 pages per hour if I resist the urge to read while I’m scanning. As we only have access to the library a couple of hours each week, it may take us some time to process our materials. In the meantime we’re prioritizing so that we`ll be scanning the most useful/interesting first – a rather subjective process!

To date we`ve digitized and uploaded to our new ARCHIVES page:

  • one Nominal Roll (1866-1882)
  • three volumes of Regimental Orders (1868-1874, 1886-1892 & 1892-1897)
  • the regimental Book of Remembrance, 1866-1918,
  • three sets of Regimental Standing Orders  (1880, 1894, 1925)

We’ve also linked to some previously scanned documents:

  • the 3rd Battalion Nominal Roll 1915
  • two diaries of soldiers who were in the North West Field Force
    • Lieutenant R. S. Cassels
    • Rifleman J. A. Forin

We’ll continue digitizing and uploading as documents are completed. We hope you’ll find this material both interesting and helpful!