Historical society renews calls to create military museum in Summerside area

The Summerside and Area Historical Society is renewing its calls to create a military museum in the area. 

The group says important relics that date back to the First and Second World Wars and earlier are currently gathering dust in its members' attics and basements and would better serve the community — and the Island — if they were placed on permanent display. 

Randy Ross, a member of the group, describes himself as an amateur historian and said he has a vast collection of memorabilia, including over 100 military uniforms, weapons and medals. He said he's dreamed of opening a museum to house his collection for over 20 years. 

"We've been trying for quite some time now to get a museum on P.E.I., with the emphasis on military, because we have such a large military history on P.E.I.," Ross said. 

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

He said some of his memorabilia, as well as items his fellow group members have collected, are loaned out to be displayed at schools and other community buildings. But, without a permanent place to display the artifacts, he's worried important parts of Island history will be lost.

"The stories have to be told, these young people risked their lives daily so we can enjoy the freedom we have today and their memories have to be honoured," he said.

Sold online, tossed in trash

George Dalton is also a member of the society as well as the Lest We Forget P.E.I. Veterans committee, which creates historical profiles of Island veterans. 

Dalton said without a place to donate Island artifacts, some memorabilia is being sold online or tossed in the garbage.

He said many of the group members are getting older and it's becoming more difficult for them to take care of the artifacts. 

"I call this kind of D-Day, we're all getting old, seniors who have passionately been the custodians of our heritage," he said.

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

For now, Dalton said the group is focused on encouraging younger people who are interested in history to get involved.

"Our big goal is we want to pass the torch and recently it's been encouraging. Young people want to join the committee, people in their 20s and 30s who have a passion because their grandpa was a veteran or their dad was a veteran," he said. 

Dalton said the group doesn't have a location for the proposed museum yet, but the Discovery Centre planned for Summerside could be an ideal place to have a permanent military display. 

The group plans to raise the idea, and seek support from the municipality at the next Summerside council meeting.

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