Ontario 150

Amherstburg Freedom Museum recognized by Ontario Trillium Foundation at AGM

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Amherstburg Freedom Museum held its annual general meeting inside the Nazrey AME Church and the meeting included provincial recognition for the museum.

The museum was recognized by the Ontario Trillium Foundation for receiving a $45,000 grant under the Ontario 150 Community Capital Grant program. The money helped the museum complete the project to put a new cedar shake roof on the Nazrey AME Church with some of the funds also being put towards a new courtyard at the museum.

“We had a great year in 2016 and we’re looking forward to a great 2017,” said Monty Logan, president of the museum’s board of directors.

Dan Allen (left), chair of the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s grant review team, and Essex MPP Taras Natyshak (right) present Amherstburg Freedom Museum president Monty Logan with a plaque in recognition of the museum’s Ontario 150 grant.  The presentation came at the museum’s annual general meeting.

Dan Allen (left), chair of the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s grant review team, and Essex MPP Taras Natyshak (right) present Amherstburg Freedom Museum president Monty Logan with a plaque in recognition of the museum’s Ontario 150 grant. The presentation came at the museum’s annual general meeting.

Logan also pointed out the challenge to repair the church roof was assisted by a fundraising campaign, and thanked those who donated towards it.

Essex MPP Taras Natyshak recognized the museum, saying while he gets to honour those who receive grants from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF), it is the OTF that does the bulk of the work.

“The importance of maintaining, preserving and sharing this facility – this place of worship – and all the stories within is immense,” said Natyshak.

Natyshak pointed out the church’s role on the Underground Railroad, stating people seeking freedom from slavery found solace and love at the church. He said it not only means a lot to the Amherstburg and Essex County communities, but the church means a lot to the nation as well.

Dan Allen, a member of the OTF’s grant review team, noted the Nazrey AME Church has been part of the community for 170 years and it has played a vital role for so many people throughout the generations.

The AGM also was a time to recognize volunteers, including awarding the 2017 recipient of the Betty Simpson Volunteer of the Year Award. That was presented to Carolin Harris.

“It’s an incredible place to volunteer,” said Harris. “It was humbling to receive such a prestigious award. It’s humbling because it’s something I enjoy.”

Harris, who estimated she donated 200 hours of her time in 2016, said she lives across the street and came to volunteer about ten years ago when she saw a need to help maintain flowers and plants the Amherstburg Fort Malden Horticultural Society had planted.

“Ever since then, I’ve been taking care of it,” she said.

Harris added her children have worked at the museum and said “I could never repay what the museum has given to them.”

“Without volunteers, we couldn’t keep the doors open,” said Logan, who also paid tribute to the museum’s staff.

Logan also pointed out the museum is looking at getting a new website and wants to digitize their archives to make them more accessible online.

Carolin Harris (centre) receives the 2017 Betty Simpson Volunteer of the Year Award from Amherstburg Freedom Museum curator Mary-Katherine Whelan (left) and board president Monty Logan (right).

Carolin Harris (centre) receives the 2017 Betty Simpson Volunteer of the Year Award from Amherstburg Freedom Museum curator Mary-Katherine Whelan (left) and board president Monty Logan (right).

“We’re really excited about that initiative,” she said.

The museum is excited to host the Amherstburg Freedom Summit this fall, he added.

Programming committee chair Philip Alexander noted the museum facilitated the photography of some Underground Railroad descendants for an exhibit called “North is Freedom.” It was launched at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and was later displayed at the U.S. embassy in Ottawa. Alexander also pointed out the museum housed a portion of the “Family Ties: Ontario Turns 150” exhibit and also presented Mac Simpson Awards to students Sarah Tesfay and Keenan Wilson to help them pursue post-secondary educations.

Fundraising chair and museum vice president Darryl Hogan said they have a $35,000 goal that they want to hit and noted the upcoming June 3 “Ribs & Ragtime” event is one of the ways they will do it along with the Emancipation Gala and the Walter Perry Golf Classic. He encouraged people to bring family and friends to the museum so they could see what it’s all about.

Curator Mary-Katherine Whelan said the museum welcomed 1,654 visitors last year including school groups and people from across Canada and the United States. She thanked the volunteers and staff for their work and believed one of the most important parts of their jobs is sharing the history and stories the museum has to offer.

 

New festival coming to town to celebrate Canada and Ontario’s 150th birthdays

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A new festival is on its way to Amherstburg this summer in recognition of Canada 150.

From July 1 to Aug. 13, the Ontario 150 Tour will travel to six Ontario ports starting in Toronto, then on to Owen Sound, Sault Ste. Marie, Midland, Amherstburg, and finishing in Brockville. Amherstburg’s event will take place Aug. 5-6 and will be known as the “Canuck It Up!” festival.

In collaboration, Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada will present the Tall Ship Appledore V and a “Raiders, Rebels and Redcoats” re-enactment that takes place at the Fort and in the streets that same weekend.

An enormous rubber duck will be coming to Amherstburg as part of the Canuck It Up Canadiana Festival that will be held Aug. 5-6. (Special to the RTT)

An enormous rubber duck will be coming to Amherstburg as part of the Canuck It Up Canadiana Festival that will be held Aug. 5-6. (Special to the RTT)

Manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota said the new event came about through the successful submission of a co-op grant application and in collaboration with lead organization – Water’s Edge Festival and Events based out of Toronto.

“Amherstburg is the only municipality in southwestern Ontario to be included in this commemorative tour, thus maximizing impact for visitation and economic benefit for the town,” she said.

Calling it a 150th “signature event,” Rota compared it to the Roots to Boots Festival in 2012 and the Sails to See Festival in 2013.

“We’re anticipating about 25,000 people to visit our town Aug. 5-6,” she said. “This event will be fun and everything Canadian. We just want to celebrate all the good things about Canada and about Amherstburg.”

Multiculturalism, inclusivity and participation will be the overarching themes of the event, she added. Highlights of the festival include Rhythm of the Nation; an interactive street dance and musical performance centered on nationally-renowned street artist DJ Creeasian. This artistic piece was written specifically for Canada 150.

The West Coast Lumberjack show is heading to Amherstburg as part of the Aug. 5-6 Canuck It Up Canadiana Festival. (Special to the RTT)

The West Coast Lumberjack show is heading to Amherstburg as part of the Aug. 5-6 Canuck It Up Canadiana Festival. (Special to the RTT)

There will also be “n action packed” West Coast Lumberjack Show, the world’s largest rubber duck in support of Ducks Unlimited Canada, the Amherstburg Farmers and Craft Market, local performances of all genres, a Kids Fun Zone and more.

All activities will be free and souvenirs, such as Canada 150 t-shirts and caps, will be available at the Gordon House.

Rota said the town anticipates the town to be full of activities that weekend.

“It’s going to be high energy and high fun,” she said.

The event is being recognized as a major festival locally for the Canada 150 celebrations and could be one of several this year.

“We’re always proud that Amherstburg seems to be the epicentre for large scale community events,” she said.

The Canada 150 red and white tulips, planted in the King’s Navy Yard Park last fall, should also be blooming soon and the town encourages people to come down to the park and view the tulips when they are in full bloom.

 

Traveling exhibit makes stop at Amherstburg Freedom Museum

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A traveling exhibit has made its way to the Amherstburg Freedom Museum and is part of Black History Month.

“Family Ties – Ontario Turns 150” is being hosted on the second floor of the museum, with the regular exhibit still being featured on the main floor.

“It’s from the Archives of Ontario,” explained Mary-Katherine Whelan, curator/administrator at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum.

Whelan said the museum has previously worked with the Archives of Ontario, including performing research for the travelling exhibit. The exhibit tells the story of four families around during the period of Confederation, including the McCurdy family. Much of the exhibit features material from the collection of Alvin McCurdy and dates back to the life of Nasa McCurdy Jr. and his ancestors.

The McCurdy family is very prominent locally, Whelan stated, and “their history is well known.”

Whelan also pointed out the McCurdy family has close ties to the museum with Mabel McCurdy being a cousin of museum co-founder Melvin “Mac” Simpson.

A travelling exhibit from the Archives of Ontario entitled “Family Ties - Ontario Turns 150” is on  display at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum through the end of March.

A travelling exhibit from the Archives of Ontario entitled “Family Ties – Ontario Turns 150” is on display at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum through the end of March.

“It’s a nice tie-in as well,” said Whelan.

The Amherstburg Freedom Museum has also put out additional pieces from its collection to accompany the “Family Ties – Ontario Turns 150” exhibit including carpenter’s tools that Nasa McCurdy Jr. may have used back in his day. There is also a copy of “The Globe” newspaper from July 1, 1867 on display.

The relationship between the Archives of Ontario and the Amherstburg Freedom Museum goes both ways, she pointed out, as an artifact from the local museum is part of an exhibit with the Archives of Ontario. Much of the materials and artifacts gathered over the years by Alvin McCurdy is featured by the Archives of Ontario.

Work on the current exhibit started under former curator/administrator Terran Fader, Whelan explained, but Whelan added she wanted to ensure the “Family Ties” exhibit was at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum for Black History Month. In fact, it not only runs throughout February but all of March as well.

The Amherstburg Freedom Museum, located at 277 King Street in Amherstburg, is offering $1 off admission per person to celebrate Black History Month. Admission is normally $7.50 per adult, $6.50 per student or senior with children five and under admitted free of charge.

In order to claim the discount, people need to know when the Nazrey African Methodist Episcopal Church National Historic Site of Canada was built and by whom, when tickets are purchased. This discount is only available in February and only if the correct response (in 1848 people fleeing American slavery built this church by hand to serve Amherstburg’s growing Black community) is given. The offer does not apply to tour groups, said Whelan.

Hours of operation are Tuesday-Friday 12-5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 1-5 p.m., and closed Mondays.

The link for the Black History Month events happening in Windsor-Essex is www.amherstburgfreedommuseum.org/black-history-month-2017.html.

The museum is also continuing to fundraise for a new cedar shake roof for the Nazrey AME Church. People can make donations directly to the museum or by visiting www.gofundme.com/repairhistoricsiteroof. Whelan said they hope to start work on the roof in the spring.