As with every other aspect of our society, the impact of another year of pandemic challenged our operation in 2021.
The first half of the year was primarily work from home as a result of COVID restrictions which applied to Casa Loma. By summer though, we began on site work again once all our volunteers were double vaccinated, and continued through to mid-December. Despite these challenges our team of 13 volunteers (including two new volunteers) put in over 1,050 hours in person and from home. For this continued dedication I want to thank each member of this team:
- Briahna Bernard (Assistant Collections Officer)
- Anne Frazer (Photography)
- Rob Grieve (Weapons Officer)
- Steven Hu
- Graham Humphrey (Assistant Curator)
- Shaun Kelly (Deputy Curator)
- Ken Kominek
- Cheryl Nairn (Collections Officer)
- Colin Sedgewick-Pinn
- Bruce Taylor
- Cameron Telch
- Steven Ye
In February we also held a virtual “recognition night” for service undertaken in 2020. Joining us were the Honorary Colonel, the Commanding Officer and members of the Board of Governors, and concluded with a fun quiz on regimental history.
The heart of any museum is it’s collection and there are currently more than 3,750 objects entered into our internal collections database as well as accessible from our Public Access portal – and of course a small stack of data waiting to be entered.
Storage space is a challenge for every museum, but acquiring additional items though gifts or purchase, which fill gaps in our collection, is also important. Once acquired the accession process starts to document where these items came from, to establish our new ownership through deeds of gift, and sending letters of thanks where appropriate.
This past year saw forty-two accessions accepted. Some of these were one item – some however were hundreds of items. Among many others, we were pleased to receive gifts from the estates of Norm McCracken and John Bennett.
We also made some purchases to fill some collection gaps. With funding donated by the QOR Maple Leaf Rifle Club, we were able to purchase a military version of the WWI Ross Rifle as we only had a civilian version in our collection. We also purchased a late 19th century headdress and collection of rare badges, and in December with additional funding from the Regimental Trust, a late 19th set comprising of an officers’ belt, crossbelt, and (rare) sabretache. The only downside perhaps is that many of these items have now joined the growing queue to be properly documented, photographed, and cataloged!
In addition to what most people understand as museum objects (uniforms, weapons, trophies, instruments, etc.) our collection has archival material. These are generally either regimental and regimental organization records like orders books, nominal rolls, meeting minutes, official correspondence, war diaries, etc., and personal manuscript documents (called Fonds) such as letters, service records, photographs, news clippings, certificates, etc. Lastly there are special collections generally related to some specific event such as the 1910 Trip to England. We have lots of all three types of material!
The process of organizing, describing and preserving these is very different from cataloging any single museum object like a pair of boots or a cross belt. Its also difficult to make progress in a single Thursday evening volunteer night because of the need to pack everything up again at the end of the night. So these have made better work from home projects and we have been able to complete a number of them during 2021.
As is normal each year, a number of significant projects were undertaken off-site or from home:
Database Migration to Web Based
In January we completed the migration of our “PastPerfect” collections database from a single desktop version to a cloud based edition. This is actually more exciting for us than you might think. Up to 10 people can be working in the database at any given time (vs. the previous one); it absolutely facilitates work from home; and it means that in many cases, cataloging data can be entered directly rather than on cataloging sheets and then transferring the information. To allow this to work we also purchased two Chromebooks that catalogers can use as they catalog. The web edition also means that our “public access” database is immediately updated if additions or changes are made to the internal database. Geeky yes but a game changer for our collections management processes!
QOR Orders Book Digitization Partnership
Thanks to Museum Board member Tristan Strathy, it was brought to our attention that Brock University Archives have four 19th century orders books of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada which fill the gaps in our own collection. We contacted the Brock archivist who graciously allowed us to send a volunteer to digitize the books using their equipment. We have now both added these digitized versions to our respective websites. You can read more on this and get links to the documents in this previous blog post.
Cemetery Walking Tours Updated
These tours were one of the very few things not impacted in any major way by the pandemic – in fact the outdoor nature was a good way to get some fresh air exercise and learn about our Riflemen! Besides additions to our existing tours of Necropolis and St James, we’ve added Prospect and Mt Pleasant , and are starting on one for Pine Hills Cemetery in Scarborough. You can find them all here.
Another project we were able to undertake while working from home, was the creation of five pop up banners with the names of all our regiment’s fallen (including our very recent discovery of Rifleman Nussey’s training death.)
The intent is for these to be used for various outreach projects or at appropriate regimental events. They were first displayed at the November Officers’ Mess dinner held at the Royal Canadian Military Institute and we’re well received.
We continue to use various social media platforms to both share our regimental history and museum news. If you’re not already doing so we very much encourage you to follow or subscribe as appropriate for the platforms you use!
- YouTube* (285 subscribers, 45,647 views and 2,153 watch hours in 2021)
- Twitter (882 followers)
- Instagram (over 1,700 followers)
- Facebook (over 6,050 followers)
- Website – with a record in 2021 of 93,300 page views by more than 41,600 unique visitors!
*At the end of the year, the video on the history of our uniforms which had been originally posted in November 2020, went somewhat “viral”. We now have over 1,430 subscribers and this video has been watched over 178,000 times!
The Museum Board of Governors
This group provides important governance and oversight as well as support, advice and guidance on specific issues like insurance. The Board held two virtual meetings on 27 May and 30 November – the latter including approval of a 2022 budget proposal to submit to the Regimental Trust Fund.
Our sincere thanks to the Board members who are ably led by Chair Mr. Jim Lutz:
- Captain Adam Hermant, CD (Ret’d)
- Ms. Lisa Holmes
- Chief Warrant Officer Shaun Kelly, CD (Ret’d) – Deputy Curator
- Ms. Michele McCarthy
- Captain Dave Pampe – Battalion Liason
- Major Tony Schultz, CD (Ret’d) – Regimental Trust Fund President
- Major John Stephens, CD (Ret’d) – Director and Curator
- Mr. Tristan Strathy
- Ms. Jenna Zuschlag Misener
In a future post we’ll highlight some of our plans for 2022 despite the continuing challenges of the COVID pandemic.