Tag Archives: Regimental Museum

Looking Back on 2021

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.

2021 Accessions
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!

Archival Material
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.

Memorial Banners
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.

Social Media
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.

Thank you for all your support in 2019!

2019 has been another busy year at our museum and I’d like to share some highlights.

Governance
The Museum Board continues to meet periodically throughout the year under the Chair Jim Lutz, and recently welcomed Ms. Michele McCarthy as a new board member. The board recommends an annual budget to the QOR Trust, reviews the financial progress, and is also currently working on cooperation with Casa Loma operator Liberty Entertainment Group, reviewing options for collections insurance, and development of an emergency plan.

We continue implementing our 2017-2022 Strategic Plan, developed after extensive consultation with our volunteers, visitors, archive users, and key members of the regiment. The annual Implementation Plan is reviewed by the museum team at least quarterly and by the Museum Board at each meeting.

Volunteers
In February we once again held our Volunteer Recognition Night at the Royal Canadian Military Institute generously supported by one of our donors. We were joined by members of the Museum’s Board and by the Commanding Officer and MWO Johnston representing the Regimental Sergeant Major.

We said farewell to a couple of volunteers including one of our long time volunteers who moved to Ottawa. But we also welcomed three new volunteers in September including one with qualifications in photo and paper conservation, one serving member of the regiment, and one from another regiment (we must be doing something right!)

This year volunteers put in over 1,500 hours – although we know there have been lots of hours we haven’t managed to track for work done outside our usual Thursday evening work nights.

Exhibits
April saw us hold a special reception to officially unveil the new McEachren Tunic exhibit case which was installed in December 2018. The family of the late Regimental Sergeant Major Scott Patterson, whose estate funded the majority of this project, were present to assist with the ceremony. Also on display were a number of interesting items that are not usually on exhibit.  Photos from this event can be found here on our Flickr site.

We continue to work on upgrading our exhibits. This year all our timeline and interpretive panels were reprinted directly on a much more durable plastic product that will better withstand the Casa Loma environment.  It was also an opportunity to ensure consistency across all our exhibits. And with permission from the Fort Erie Museum we were able to use images of art works in their collection to re-design the interpretive panels for the Fenian Raids exhibit (image above.)


We completed two more pop-up banners on the regiment’s participation in the North-West Rebellion, and started pre-production work on banners on the QOR in The South African War.

Collections
In 2019 we processed 47 accessions – which ranged from a single item to several hundred. One significant item was the donation of a bugle believed to have been used at the Battle of Ridgeway by the bugler of Capt Sherwood’s Company – The Trinity College Rifles company. While we can’t verify that it was indeed used then, we did research the maker’s mark and confirmed that it was definitely from that period and over 150 years old.

We were also able to purchase a collection of over 500 documents believed to have been collected by Colonel George Taylor Denison II. These span 1802-1885 but the majority are general militia orders from 1855 to 1869 including the order for the Queen’s Own to mobilize for the Fenian Raids and can also be found on our Flick site.

Some other notable accessions included:

  • a WWI Victory Bond flag, a QOR pioneer sword and scabbard,
  • an early 20th century officer’s busby and box,
  • an 1890’s Sergeant’s mess jacket,
  • a North West Rebellion medal belonging to Thomas J. Cauldwell,
  • a 1917 German Mauser rifle,
  • and correspondence to and from the current Honorary Colonel and the Colonel in Chief, the Duchess of Cornwall.

We continue to update our online catalogue as we complete the cataloging process and update the database.

The collections side of operations also involves the appropriate storage of our objects and we continue to purchase appropriate archival quality storage boxes and other materials as well as additional shelving, as our budget allows.

Worth Noting
In September the Regiment held the Change of Honorary Lieutenant Colonel Parade at Casa Loma and the museum was pleased to create an exhibit of regimental sports related material – some dating back to the 19th century, in honour of our incoming Honorary Lieutenant Colonel Vicky Sunohara. Vicky was a Canadian Olympic Hockey medalist and is currently the coach of the University of Toronto women’s Varsity Blues hockey teams. Photos of this awesome event can be found here.

In November we held our annual QOR Day at Casa Loma with over 55 volunteers and serving soldiers staffing our exhibits and programs and over 1,000 visitors attending. As always there are more photos available online!

And earlier this month we helped to facilitate another meeting of the Toronto Military Curators Network to share and discuss items of common interest – and there are lots!

We continue to share our collection and museum work on various social media platforms including our website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Flick – the latter has over 14,000 images!  Please use the links below to follow, like, subscribe, etc. if you don’t do so already.

Lastly our thanks!
Thank you to all who have made a financial contribution this year to support our work. If you haven’t, fear not as there is still time left to make a donation to the QOR Trust and receive a charitable tax receipt for 2019.  A donation of any size will help make a big difference.

Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

On behalf of our whole museum team, thanks again for another great year and best wishes for the holiday season!

Sincerely,

John

Maj John M. Stephens, CD (Ret’d)
Curator, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada
Regimental Museum and Archives

Surprise projection on the side of Casa Loma by the Liberty Entertainment Group for the Change of Honorary Lieutenant Colonel Parade on September 11, 2019.

Bayonets in the Bathtub: A Thursday night at the regimental museum

Even though I arrived 15 minutes before our designated “start time”, Graham had already unlocked the office, set up tables for cataloging, and tried to sort out a DVD display that wasn’t working properly; Cheryl had started sorted through and ensuring the proper documentation for a pile of new accessions; and Elizabeth was re-gluing a loose photo on our window exhibit.

Down the hallway, Rob was giving a tour of the museum – interspersed with a lot of reminiscing – to Josie who had joined the QOR at aged 18 in 1972 and one of the first women to wear the QOR cap badge and parachute with them. Later in the evening Cheryl and Emily who are working our “Women in the QOR” exhibit for next March, looked through photos Josie had brought along and made arrangements to formally interview her in the near future.

Alex arrived and got to work installing a fourth hanging rail in the uniform closet above one of the existing rails in a space with a very high ceiling. This will allow us to spread out and better organize this part of our collection but also means a lot of drilling while standing almost on the top of a step ladder.

Laura got to work cataloguing an archival collection from Professor George Henry Needler, Professor of German at the University of Toronto for 45 years, and a Queen’s Own veteran of the Northwest Field Force of 1885. During the First World War, Needler commanded UoT’s Canadian Officers’ Training Corps, and would later publish his own experiences out West in Louis Riel, The Rebellion of 1885. It should be noted that cataloging an archival collection takes a LOT of patience, attention to detail, and ability to grasp a logical organization of the material it contains.

Larry headed into his photography “studio” in the corner of the photo storage room – under the sloping eves and against an internal brick wall. There he continued his seemingly never ending task of photographing each and every artifact in our collection – which include a continuous intake of new accessions. These photographs are used for our collection database, our website, exhibits, banners and signs, shared with family researchers, and uploaded to our Flickr account (currently with over 7,700 photos).

Dave and his nephew Coleman arrived and set to work cataloging objects – photos, uniform pieces, books, equipment, insignia, and all kinds of military ephemera. Some of these were items that had been in the collection but were being cataloged in detail – a project we’d been working on since 2012 – and others were new accessions received over the past year. This cataloging includes detailed descriptions of the artifact, its provenance, size, material, dates, condition and whatever other information we might have, as well as assigning and attaching/affixing an object number. Eventually all this information will be entered into our database which already includes over 1,600 items. And the database allows us to upload our catalog online so anyone can search through our collection!

Alison was in the office working studiously on her computer creating medal description labels that will be added to walls of our “Riflemen” room. These will help visitors identify medals in the many shadows boxes and understand what they were awarded for.

Emily put her fine arts background to work again while planning how best to finish the photo “stand” we created for Ridgeway which consists of two QOR soldiers painted on a wooden sheet with cut outs to poke your heads through for that perfect selfie! Even in its 75% finished state, it was a big hit at Ridgeway in June and we hope to have it set up again for QOR Day at Casa Loma on November 5th.

Graham also was hard at work cataloging objects and finished up his initial batch just in time to receive delivery of a new acquisition – an amazing set of five photo albums which document the WWII service of a junior QOR officer from 1939 to 1946. In great condition, well mounted and almost entirely labelled, they will provide a great addition to our understanding of this period of the regiment’s service.

By now Alex and Elizabeth had also joined the catalogers and were certainly making progress on reducing our backlog!

Meanwhile, as Curator, I was assigning tasks, answering questions, recalling (more or less) information, making decisions, looking for scotch tape, and doing my best to steer the ship.

Part way through the evening I was pleased meet and provide a tour with Captain (Ret’d) Rick Towey, newly appointed Curator of the Royal Regiment of Canada’s regimental museum, located in Fort York Armoury. Rick is anxious to get some advice on how to get started with his new role – the museum (or collection of “stuff dumped in a room” as Rick described it) and some of us will be visiting the Royal’s Museum shortly and hopefully provide some helpful guidance!

As you can see, on any given night there are a wide variety of tasks, all of which are necessary to make things work like a well-oiled machine – more or less. And our volunteers are come with a variety of skills, experience and interests which are critical to creating the kind of museum team we need:

  • Graham, Emily, Dave and Alison are all currently serving members of the Regiment
  • Larry, Shaun (on sick call last night) and Nicole (also absent as she plans her wedding later this month) are all former serving members of the Regiment
  • Cheryl and Elizabeth are graduates of museum studies programs
  • Alex has a Masters in Public History
  • And Laura and Coleman just have an interest in history, museums and archives

A creative, cheerful, hardworking and dedicated team – what more could a curator ask for?

John

(And in case you were wondering, yes we do store bayonets in a bathtub – where else would you put them?!)

National Philanthropy Day and Charitable Giving

“They who give have all the things.  They who withhold have nothing.”
(Hindu Proverb)

Did you know November 15 is National Philanthropy Day? 

NPD.Sig.Hor.ColorThis special day is set aside to recognize and pay tribute to the great contributions that philanthropy—and those people active in the philanthropic community—have made to our lives, our communities and our world.

What makes philanthropy so special is that no one is required to give of themselves. There are no national laws or regulations which mandate that you must volunteer or get involved. Philanthropy is so powerful and inspiring precisely because it is voluntary—that through the goodness of our hearts, through our need to connect, through our desire to see a better world, we come together to improve the quality of life for all people.

Through your generosity, billions of dollars and volunteer hours are given every year to countless nonprofits and charities around the world. Millions and millions of programs—from feeding the hungry and clothing the needy, curing the sick, saving the environment—happen every day because of you and your commitment to your favorite causes.

On National Philanthropy Day®, charities around the world thank you for your support. Your involvement—whether it’s mentoring, volunteering, giving, staffing an event or showing your support on social media—makes philanthropy possible, and makes National Philanthropy Day so special and meaningful.

Philanthropy and our Regimental Museum

In 2013 we’ve been very thankful for the many generous volunteers who have assisted us in a whole variety of ways at the Regimental Museum. So far this year we’ve seen 43 volunteers provide over 675 hours of service – from cataloging and photography to construction  and painting to exhibit planning and event support! And aside  from these recorded hours, are many many more where are supporters have helped connect with us and share our Museum and the history we tell, through their social media outlets.

Volunteers are really priceless but if we did chose to put a monetary value to their time and effort, even at minimum wage that amount would exceed our annual operating budget – and the year still has a month and a half to go!

We have also been the recipient of gifts in kind from four corporate donors in 2013:

  • The Hudson Bay Company (Flagship Store)- Mannequins
  • Benjamin Moore Paints – Paint
  • Pegasus Catering – Food vouchers
  • Vifloor Canada Ltd – Computers

The Museum’s operating funding (for day to day expenses), rent and  insurance is provided by the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Regimental Trust Fund – to which many of your already contribute financially. Together the Trust, our dedicated volunteers and generous corporate donors form a pretty formidable combination.

But we’d also ask you to consider a special financial donation, particularly in recognition of National Philanthropy Day, to help us move closer to creating a museum of the 21st century – one that will help us tell the very important story of our Regiment and our Rifleman in the most engaging and effective manner we can.

You can mail a cheque to (note your donation is for the Museum Fund:

QORofC Trust Fund
Box 250, Unit 12A
4981 Highway 7 East
Markham, ON L3R 1N1

You can also make a donation online via our Trust Fund’s CanadaHelps page (under Fund/Designation select “Museum Fund”.)

We are most grateful for both your volunteer and financial contributions.

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
(Theodore Roosevelt)