Summerside, P.E.I., family with decades of memorabilia calls for local museum

·3 min read

An Island family with local artifacts and memorabilia stored in their home is renewing calls for a museum for the Summerside area.

The artifacts — some dating back to the 1940s and '50s — are the vast collection of Lowell Huestis, a well-known resident of the area who died at the age of 90 in 2018.

The collection includes everything from newspaper clippings to paintings documenting important moments in Summerside history.

"I think he was always interested in history and he saved things that he felt were important," said his wife, Doreen Huestis.

"He worked to preserve a lot of the things that were being tossed. And, you know, he felt that those things, that was the history, and it should be preserved."

History could be lost

Lowell was fascinated by aviation and its history. In addition to helping create the historical aircraft display at Slemon Park, he also painted many model military aircraft and took to carving them himself out of wood.

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC
Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

Through his career as a radio broadcaster, his countless hours performing as a musician and his interest in animals and nature, he was deeply connected with his community. He documented local events, either painting them himself or safeguarding photos and news stories.

If some of these items aren't saved, that history will be lost as well, his wife said.

"There's a new generation coming along and maybe they don't have any idea of a lot of this stuff. So if there was a museum, they could see for themselves," Doreen said.

She said many people have likely already forgotten some of the events her husband took the time to document.

"It's very important, and I think each day it becomes more important, because he wouldn't want those items to be just, you know, set aside and not appreciated by another generation."

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC
Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

'An important part of our history'

His daughter, Lowleen Read, has spent the years since her father's death sorting through the materials and gaining a deeper understanding of his extensive collection of art, music, stories and images of historical significance.

"These are valuable," said Read.

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC
Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

"They are an important part of our history. And while there are things that are important to us as family and we can, you know, save a carving or a painting, there are some things here in the home that just need a better home to showcase, to protect for years going forward."

Read is currently working with community groups to advocate for a museum for the city of Summerside. She plans to lobby the local and provincial governments on the importance of a museum for the current and future residents of the municipality and people across the Island.

"It's about a risk assessment," said Read.

"You know, leaving things where they're not properly stored and protected. Then you risk the loss of some of this. And that's a fear of mine. I don't want another year, another month, another week to go forward without knowing that we can have a proper home for this."

Talks about future museum ongoing

Mayor Basil Stewart said a museum for the Summerside area is on his radar.

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC
Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

"There's a lot of history here," said Stewart. "It's a shame to have things stored in the corner someplace or in the basement."

He said discussions about a potential museum are ongoing among council members, but at this point, there aren't any timelines on the project.

"I know council support having a place, a museum to display all of our great history, but it takes a while to get it tied together and to get the funding in place and to make sure when it's done, it's done properly."

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