A Beautiful New Mural in Aylmer

August 24, 2021

We are so excited to welcome a beautiful addition to downtown Aylmer!

In November of 2020 the Museum received a large donation from the Estate of Donna Vera Evans Bushell, including the funds to commission a large mural in Aylmer’s downtown. When we began planning the concept of the mural, we worked with students at East Elgin Secondary School to determine what they would like to see in their community, as we not only wanted to focus on the past, but the future of the community as well (not to mention there is already a beautiful mural depicting Aylmer’s past on the side of the McTaggart Armstrong Dewar & Owen building!). The students had one overwhelming message they wanted to convey: one of diversity and inclusivity to represent everyone in their community. The artist Meaghan Claire Kehoe (if anyone is interested in learning more about her work – she’s amazing! www.meaghanclairekehoe.com) worked closely with the students to develop this design.

We’re blown away by Meaghan’s talent and we’re so happy to have a mural that makes everyone feel welcome and accepted in our community! We want to thank everyone for their kind words, positive feedback, and for making Meaghan feel welcome while she was here!

The mural is located on John Street South, on the south wall of the Groovy Moon (20 John St. S.), next to the Old Town Hall Library.

The above photograph, and the first and third photograph below are courtesy of Mel’s Photography (Instagram @mels_photography_20). The last image is a photograph from our collection of the mural’s location ca. 1925.


Take Action Today for Investment in Ontario Museums

June 18, 2021

The OMA released the following open letter to Doug Ford and Lisa MacLeod on June 7ᵗʰ, 2021:

The Ontario Museum Association (OMA), as a representative of the more than 700 museums,
galleries, and heritage sites in the province, is calling on the government to invest in Ontario’s
museums so they can survive the pandemic and fully contribute to the province’s recovery and
vitality.
Further to the recent media release about the allocation of annual operating funding to Ontario’s
166 ‘Community Museums’ through the Community Museum Operating Grant (CMOG)
program (“Ontario Investing in Community Museums”, June 1, 2021), we call on the government
to act on the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs to
“bolster the Community Museum Operating Grant Program” (October 2020) ; a longstanding
request of the OMA and Ontario museums.
This recommendation is supported by Ontarians; 88% of Ontarians agree that arts and cultural
activities, like museums, are important to local economic well-being.
Currently, only 25% of Ontario’s museums (166) receive operating funding from the CMOG
program. The amount of funding in the program has been stagnant for over ten years and
prevents museums from fulfilling their potential and their expanded roles in their communities.
The underfunded program is not meeting the needs of our communities and the museums that
serve them. This underfunding exacerbated the pandemic’s impacts on museums, placing them
and Ontario’s heritage at risk. Furthermore, to date, the provincial pandemic relief programs are
not reaching the majority of museums due to a competitive and protracted grants process.
Municipal museums and the smallest volunteer-run museums are specifically excluded.
We call on you to take urgent action to invest in Ontario museums and increase operating funding to
$15million (an increase of $10.1million) to reach more than 300 community museums across the
province at a level of support averaging 15% of museums’ operating budgets.
Ontario invests up to 50% of the operating budgets of our outstanding provincial museums and
agencies to a total of more than $90million, recognising the vital role that operating funding plays in
their contributions to Ontario’s economy and vitality.
Operating funding supports the key museum functions and is essential to the stability and success of the
sector.
With this recommended investment, 150 more community museums—excluded for years from the
closed CMOG program—can better serve Ontarians in every city, town, rural, and Northern
community and better reflect the diversity of the province. These new, innovative, and achieving
community museums, like all museums in Ontario, are significant economic and social contributors.
For every dollar spent on their operations Ontario’s museums have a return-on-investment of $3.70,
contributing an estimated $1.6 billion in economic benefits each year to this province. These benefits
come in the form of education, community and social connections, and tourism. Museum visits have
measurable impacts on student achievement in reading, math, science, and critical thinking, and strong
museums support a strong educational system.
Over the past year, museums have continued to adapt to serve their communities, and engage
volunteers, seniors, and youth where possible. Our province’s museums will continue as important parts
of economic, tourism and social recovery if they are empowered to fill that role.
Now is the time to ensure that Ontario’s museums across the province can once again welcome back
visitors with authentic and unique experiences as we safely and gradually reopen to the world.

Read the Open Letter here: http://bit.ly/OMA-Open-Letter

On The Residential School Complex

May 31, 2021

Content warning: this post discusses the abuse and wrongful death of children.

Update: 24/6/21
We are outraged by the discovery of 751 unmarked graves at the former Marieval Residential School. We send our sincere sympathy to the Cowessess First Nation, survivors of the Residential School, and the relatives of the children lost. We urge our followers to donate to the organizations below. The Indian Residential School Survivors Family Crisis Line is available to survivors at 1-866-925-4419.

The remains of 215 Indigenous children were discovered at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School of Kamloops, British Columbia. Our hearts go out to the families of the lost children, to survivors of residential schools nationwide, and to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Band. If you would like to support the survivors of this multi-generational trauma, we encourage our followers to donate to The Indian Residential School Survivors Society of British Columbia at irsss.ca/donate, and to Atlohsa Family Healing Services of London at atlohsa.com/donate/.
Did you know that there were over 130 residential schools in operation in Canada between the 1870s and 1996? An estimated 150,000 children went through the residential school system, and an estimated 6,000 children died in these schools (though records are incomplete and incorrect). The closest residential school to Aylmer and Malahide was the Mount Elgin Industrial Institute, less than 50km westward.
Read more about Canadian colonialism, residential schools, and the Mount Elgin Industrial Institute below.

Canadian Colonialism

Colonizer Jacques Cartier claimed North America for France in 1534 CE, beginning a flood of European settlers into what we now know as Canada. Diseases such as smallpox, influenza, and tuberculosis had existed in Europe for millennia; Europeans were able to build an immunity to these diseases, but also carried them. Indigenous communities had no such immunity and lost upwards of thousands of people when colonizers brought these diseases overseas. Through war and threats of violence, colonizers forced Indigenous communities off their land. With reduced access to this land and therefore food sources, starvation followed. These factors combined with others (such as the weaponization of poverty) led to the loss of 80 to 98 percent of the population of First Nations in the Americas prior to colonization. This constitutes the genocide of the First Nations of the Americas.

Residential Schools (1831-1996)

These were a network of church and government-run institutions designed to assimilate First Nations children into Euro-Canadian culture and strip them of their own culture. Children were often taken from their families to live at and attend these schools. They were given Euro-Canadian names, and any instance of a child using his or her actual name or speaking a language other than English would be punished. Altogether, over 150,000 children went through the residential school system. The last school (Gordon Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan) closed in 1996. Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered an apology to former students in 2008, as well as monetary compensation (averaging at only $26,000 each) provided individuals agreed to relinquish his or her right to seek legal action against the Canadian government. Residential schools were created to perpetrate ethnocide: a component of genocide that seeks to exterminate a nation’s culture.

Mount Elgin Industrial Institute (1851-1946)

Mount Elgin Industrial Institute, c. 1909. Image courtesy of the Residential School Archive Project of the United Church Archives.

The closest residential school to Aylmer was in Muncey, ON (bordering the Munsee-Delaware and Oneida territories), less than 50km away. The Institute averaged 1950 students each year. The Council of the Chippewa Nation of the Thames reported in 1943 that the children were served spoiled food, had little to no access to medical care or appropriate winter clothing, and faced multiple types of abuse. The buildings were closed due to poor upkeep in 1946; the Indian Affairs’ superintendent of Welfare and Training described them as “the most dilapidated structures [he had] ever inspected”.

Every Child Matters graphic design by the Orange Shirt Society. Photograph of Mount Elgin Industrial from the Residential School Archives Project of The United Church of Canada Archives.
We encourage members of First Nations communities to reach out with any corrections or concerns regarding this post.