The Craigleith Heritage Depot is on the hunt for local connections to the military – past and present.
“This is a virtual place where we honour and remember those who gave the highest public service and provided us with freedom and peace,” said Andrea Wilson, curator of the Craigleith Heritage Depot Museum.
The ‘Our Military Heritage Exhibit’ was launched on Saturday at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 281 in Clarksburg with an outdoor, socially-distanced event.
The museum’s new, online exhibit is a living collection of photos, stories, and archives of military ties within The Blue Mountains.
“This exhibit reflects the military heritage of all those who've had the opportunity to live in this remarkable place from the past all the way up to today,” Wilson said.
The exhibit is housed online through the Biblioboard system, which allows users to view as well as upload their own content.
Veterans Affairs provided the museum with a $9,000 grant that was put towards digitizing its own collection.
With the museum collection digitized and online for viewing, the museum is looking to the community to fill in any blanks and add in more detail.
“It's based on the museum collection, which was gathered by the community. That is the core of it, but it doesn't tell all the stories,” Wilson said.
The collection is broken down into five categories - 19th Century, First World War, Second World War, peacekeeping, and resources.
“These exhibits contain the personal story of a few of the many people in our community who stepped up to serve our country is an important way to honour and preserve the memory,” said the Town of the Blue Mountains Mayor Alar Soever.
A number of dignitaries were in attendance for the exhibit launch, including Soever, Grey County Warden, Paul McQueen, MPP Jim Wilson and MP Terry Dowdall.
“This exhibit is a milestone initiative of remembrance, honour and preservation. It is truly an exceptional example of collaborative efforts of community and government,” said Dowdall.
During the event, Wilson provided a few examples of exhibit stories, including the experiences of two cousins who served as nurses during the First World War.
“One of their brothers was also a physician during the war and they all served at the same field hospital,” she explained.
The online format of the exhibit will allow for an endless collection of materials, with no limit.
“What we'll hope is that as people see images online, through this exhibit, they may know more stories and they may have more information or a picture,” said Sabrina Saunders, CEO of the Blue Mountains Public Library. “So, we start with the fact that this is a military history exhibit, but then what else? How else did they touch our community?”
Individuals who may need assistance in uploading or contributing materials to the exhibit are encouraged to contact the museum depot staff.
Saunders adds that museum staff have also been working with Canadian researchers who focus on military history.
She says the collaboration with researchers adds to both the quality of content the museum is able to house, but also increases the presence of the Blue Mountains in other books and research materials.
“It's not just the exhibit, it's the exhibit and it's the research that goes on to it. Then by working with the researchers, we're bringing it full circle,” Saunders said. “That researcher may write a book, and then that book shows up in our library as a piece of local history.”
The museum will not be capping the project with a deadline, and will continue to build a living collection.
“We hope that you'll join in the journey of growing this resource so that we can all remember, reflect and connect to these remarkable stories,” Wilson said.
Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca