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Dufferin County Museum & Archives to close its doors during renovations

December 7, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

Dufferin County Museum & Archives (DCMA) will close its doors to the public later this month as staff prepares for the facility’s first major renovation since its opening in 1994.

Covering most of the local museum’s second floor, the $150,000 project will pave the way for a “state of the art” permanent exhibit highlighting DCMA’s crown jewel – Corn Flower glassware. To be located on the mezzanine overlooking the main level of the museum, the exhibit will be the “biggest and best” collection of Corn Flower glassware anywhere in the world. All of the costs will be paid for through a Canada 150 Infrastructure grant.

The facility will close its doors on Dec. 18 and is hoping to re-open sometime in the spring. This will mark the first time the museum has been closed for a prolonged period since its opening.

DCMA General Manager Darrell Keenie noted this was “probably the biggest thing to happen to the museum” since its opening. Discussing the planned upgrades, he says he can’t wait to see the brand new Corn Flower exhibit upon its opening next year.

“Corn Flower truly is a national success story in Canada… And their founder was born and raised right here in Dufferin County,” Mr. Keenie told the Citizen. “While the story of the company may have taken place elsewhere, it has its roots right here in the community so we claim it as our own.”

Since it started collecting Corn Flower glassware in 1999, DCMA has amassed the largest public collection in the world, boasting over 2,500 individual pieces. Since the company ceased producing its trademark glass in the 1980s, Corn Flower is today considered one of the most highly sought collectible antique franchises in Canada.

Founded by W.J. Hughes in 1914, Corn Flower, known and recognized for its popular floral patterns, grew from very humble beginnings. Starting up in the basement of his Toronto home, Mr. Hughes had confidence in his work, confidence that saw him become one of the province’s premiere glass stylists. His legacy was carried on by his daughter Lois and her husband, Pete Kaysar, who ran the company successfully up until the 1980s.

Now, DCMA Curator Sarah Robinson has been tasked with doing justice to one of the region’s biggest success stories. Working on the exhibit since January, Ms. Robinson is confident that this collection will blow the community away upon its opening.

“This will be an aesthetically beautiful exhibit, it truly will be a state of the art spreading befitting of the Corn Flower name,” Ms. Robinson said. “The story of Corn Flower itself tugs at the heartstrings a little bit, because W.J. came from such humble beginnings. His mother passed away when he was young and he was raised by his father alongside his siblings, so there wasn’t a lot of money.”

She added, “He knew he had to make something of himself, so went down to Toronto, started working for a glass manufacturer down there and took that concept and really turned it into his own product. I think that’s what is very charming about the story. He was this small-town, Dufferin County farm boy who went down to the big city and made something of himself. This exhibit, I hope, is going to capture that perfectly and will tell the complete story of this great, great company.”

While the bulk of the Canada 150 funds has been set aside for the Corn Flower exhibit, Mr. Keenie noted money will be spent elsewhere, too, in an attempt to “freshen things up” at DCMA.

“Once we started to see the calibre, quality and beauty this Corn Flower exhibit will bring, we went back and started to take stock of the entire visitor experience, from the very moment people turn onto our driveway,” Mr. Keenie said. “We’re going to be out in the grounds, putting up signs for all of our features around the site. We’ll be freshening things up on the inside too – it’s an exciting time for everyone with ties to DCMA.”

In what she called a “sneak peek”, Ms. Robinson noted the money had also allowed her to pursue a new exhibit she hopes to roll out later in 2018 focusing on prohibition in Dufferin County.

“That’s going to be a really big deal and we’re so excited about that. We’ll be doing that in partnership with Central Counties Tourism,” Ms. Robinson said. “There’s a lot of history here in Dufferin County with bootleggers, so taking a look at that era … It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

All in all, construction is expected to take approximately six months. Mr. Keenie hopes to have the facility and, more importantly, the new Corn Flower exhibit open to the public by the time DCMA hosts its annual Corn Flower Festival in June.

For the time being, the museum still has a couple more events before it shuts down on Dec. 18. The extremely popular Holiday Treasures craft show and sale runs until Dec. 17, while Christmas Concert in the Church, taking place in the historic Corbetton Church, is pencilled in for Dec. 16, running from 2 to 4 p.m.

“These are two long-standing festive events we’ve run here at the museum for a really long time, so we’re excited to be able to host these before we close,” Ms. Robinson noted.

Other annual events, such as DCMA’s Family Day festivities will continue, just not at the museum’s grounds. The Family Day skate with Aaron Downey will be hosted at the Centre Dufferin District Recreation Complex on Feb. 19. Mr. Keenie pointed out that DCMA’s archivist will be out in the community on a weekly basis, making stops at libraries in Orangeville, Shelburne and Grand Valley, while different educational programs will also continue out in the community. Staff will still be at work inside the museum, so someone will still be around for calls requesting information.

In summarizing, Ms. Robinson says she sees this renovation as an opportunity for the museum to refresh and renew in the hopes of attracting even more people through its doors in the future.

“In my opinion, this museum is beautiful, has always been beautiful and I think anyone in the community that has visited our site will agree with that,” Ms. Robinson said. “Anyone who comes through our front doors, if they haven’t been here before, are shocked and surprised by what we have. So, I think for a museum that I didn’t think could get any more beautiful, any more stunning or any more impressive, we’re taking things to the next level. I’m excited to share that with the community. This is going to be an incredibly impressive facility upon our reopening.”

For more information on Dufferin County Museum & Archives, visit dufferinmuseum.com.

         

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