Spring Break Giveaway

We want to celebrate spring and April Break by giving away a basket full of goodies! Buy a family membership from Thursday, April 1 until midnight on Sunday, April 11 and you’ll automatically be entered to win!

We will notify the winner on Monday, April 12 and arrange for contactless pick up or drop off.

Family memberships are currently discounted from $50 to $20 and include reciprocal admission to other museums in the Niagara region. For more on membership benefits visit: https://www.wellandmuseum.ca/membership/

Thank you for supporting the Welland Museum – and good luck!

Black History Month

To begin our celebration and commemoration of #BlackHistoryMonth we want to take a moment to reflect on the difficulty many people faced when making the historic and dangerous journey to our community. The Welland Museum’s travelling exhibit, “Passage to Freedom: Secrets of the Underground Railroad,” explores some of those journeys. Normally our exhibit is on loan to other museums for their visitors to enjoy but this year, like everything else, it has stayed in Welland and we are able to feature some of it virtually for the community.

The Underground Railroad was an informal network of people who assisted slaves escaping to Northern States and Canada, where they would be “free”. The term “underground” was used due to the network’s secret status, while “railroad” referred to the use of cheap rates given by railroad workers, or the necessity of hiding individuals in freight or cargo trains to move across country. The people who assisted in the Underground Railroad, known as “conductors,” gave food, shelter, directions, or transport to those needing help. This involved helping slaves travel in wooden crates, hide in attics and small spaces, and navigate crossing swamps or other dangerous terrain. Often the conductors were located in Canada where they could organize travel and safe houses from a distance. Although many conductors’ identities were kept secret, some gained high profile attention. A few are well known names locally – such as Harriet Tubman, who lived in St. Catharines for most of the decade before the start of the Civil War and helped encourage growth of the Black community in the area.

Anti-Slavery societies helped those who reached Canada start their new lives. The Refugee Slaves’ Friends Society was founded by the first mayor of St. Catharines, Elias Smith Adams, in 1852. The Society’s goal was to offer financial, housing and employment assistance to fugitives who arrived in the area. Many Black settlements grew in Niagara after the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law in the United States, which legally allowed bounty hunters to scour the Northern States and return runaway slaves to their owners. However, the fresh start in Canada was not freedom from racial persecution, and discrimination ultimately led to racial segregation among communities here in Canada. White militia units set fire to residences in Black communities in St. Catharines, and many businesses attempted to employ bans on Black people using their services. When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, many of these communities shrank as their inhabitants returned to the United States to fight with the Northern Union.

There is a notable piece of local information contained in the story of the Underground Railroad. James “Jim” Richard Wilson was a resident of Welland County who came to Canada through Detroit in 1864. He was born to slave parents on a plantation near Korent, Missouri on December 25, 1821. At the age of 10, Mr. Wilson was sold at auction for $500 to a wealthy family. He was then sold to a particularly cruel family at the age of 25. He attempted to escape this family and head to Illinois but was captured and brought back to Missouri where he was severly punished. Thirteen years of hardened labour convinced him to try again at great risk to his life. He made his way onto a Mississippi steamboat, and escaped through the Northern lines during the Civil War. Mr. Wilson joined the community of Welland and was married at the McCabe house. He worked in a variety of jobs, including on a scow in the Welland River. He passed away in his home on Church Street on March 22, 1930 at the age of 108, survived by two sons and a daughter. He was described in an article in The Welland – Port Colborne Evening Tribune dated March 22, 1930 as “Welland county’s most picturesque figure for more than 40 years.”

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is held every February 2nd and has been occurring for centuries in different ways. Its date is significant as it falls between winter solstice and spring equinox. The traditions can be traced back to the Celts, as Imbolc, and later evolved into Candlemas by Christians. As the years went on different legends developed, and German immigrants brought it to Pennsylvania. Determining the end of winter was often an important prospect for farmers looking for information about the season ahead. There are thoughts that Candlemas brought traditions of looking at the pattern of bears – whether they would emerge from their dens or continue hibernation.

The first Groundhog Day as we know it occurred on February 2, 1887 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. This name might sound familiar as it is the home of Punxsutawney Phil, a famous groundhog who emerges from his den, and with help from the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, determines if he is afraid of his shadow or not. If he is scared back into his den by seeing his shadow due to a sunny day, there will be six more weeks of winter. If it is overcast and he is not scared of his shadow, there will be an early spring. Claims of Punxsutawney Phil’s success have been addressed by National weather networks, with both the National Climatic Data Center and the Canadian Weather Service weighing in on his success rate. Other groundhogs have better track records.

In Ontario, the most notable groundhog is Wiarton Willie, who resides in Wiarton in Bruce County. Willie’s history began in the 1980s – long after the tradition of Groundhog Day had been started in the area. The first Wiarton Groundhog Day event started in 1956, and was a great party between some of the locals. Willie’s success rate is also debated upon. What seems earnest is that cold clear sky days mark continuing winter, while wet overcast days mark the coming of spring. This year will mark the 65th annual Wiarton Willie Festival, and if you want to follow along with Willie’s virtual predictions this year you can: https://www.facebook.com/wiartonwillieofficial   

Robbie Burns Day

Today is Robbie Burns Day! Maybe you’ve heard of Burns Night or Burns Supper? Scottish Canadians in particular may be familiar with the event and the man who inspired the events held on this day every year. Born in Scotland on January 25, 1759, Robert Burns would become a well-known poet. He wrote a large collection of works and became a cultural icon in Scotland, earning the nickname “National Bard”. Burns Night celebrates the life and poetry of Burns by encouraging suppers in his honour. These were started by Burns’ friends after his death in 1801 and the tradition has been carried on ever since. These suppers usually include haggis, Scotch whisky, and readings of Burns’ poems.

In honour of this celebration, we are sharing a unique archive from our collection. This typed piece of the poem “February” is from a larger collection titled “The Lyric Year” by Wilson MacDonald, which featured poems related to each month of the year. MacDonald was a poet born in Cheapside (now Haldimand) in 1880. He managed to make a career out of poetry by touring Canada and the Northern United States, charging reading fees and selling his books at readings. His poetry was not taught in schools, so MacDonald travelled to high schools and offered to do readings for free. Due to his success, he was often compared to the famous “Bard of the Yukon”, Robert Service. Service, in turn, had been influenced by Robert Burns’ work.

If you want to learn more about how to celebrate your own Burns Night at home you can check out this website: https://www.scotland.org/events/burns-night

If you would like to read more poetry from Wilson MacDonald, including the full text of “The Lyric Year”, our friends in Haldimand County at the Wilson MacDonald Memorial School Museum have many of his works online: https://www.haldimandcounty.ca/heritage-culture/wilson-macdonald-memorial-school-museum/wilson-macdonalds-poetry/

Virtual Toy Tour

Day 3: Kenwood Bicycles

For #WishlistWednesday we are taking a look back at Kenwood Bicycles from the 1902 Sears, Roebuck Catalogue. The Kenwood Manufacturing Company, in existence from 1891-1908, was located at 153-255 South Canal Street in Chicago. Like many companies at the time, Kenwood looked to participate in the big bicycle boom at the turn of the century. Over 75 bicycle manufacturing companies in Chicago can be traced back to the 1890-1910 time period, including some like Schwinn that survived until 1992.

The 1902 Sears, Roebuck Catalogue featured both ladies’ and men’s Kenwood bicycles for the reasonable price of $10.95. The ladies’ bike featured a lower crossbar so skirts could be easily lifted over and out of the way. In addition, the chain and back tire had a fender and cover to protect skirts from getting caught. The men’s bicycle featured handlebars below the crossbar, whereas the ladies’ bicycle had handlebars above the crossbar. The advertisement in the Sears, Roebuck catalogue was a full page and promised a money back guarantee if you were not satisfied with your bicycle. The advertisement also highlighted that when buying the bike you would receive a tool bag filled with items needed to maintain it.

The Sears, Roebuck Catalogue had a large selection of bicycle parts which could be purchased individually to maintain your bicycle. Tires and seats were common repairs, with a large variety offered to purchase in the catalogue. More in depth add-ons were available, such as horns and whistles, attachable tool bags, locks, gas lamps, and trouser guards.

Day 2: Howdy Doody

Children from the 1950s may remember the Howdy Doody television show, which ran from 1947 – 1960. It aired on the NBC network in the United States and was one of the first NBC shows to broadcast in colour. The show’s host, Buffalo Bob Smith, created the voice of Howdy Doody while working as a radio announcer. As the positive response of the character grew, an idea for a television show began to take shape. A puppeteer was hired to create a Howdy Doody puppet and the stage was set as a western town.

The show’s “peanut gallery” made the show especially popular among children. A live audience of approximately 40 children sat on bleachers on the stage during filming. The show began with Buffalo Bob asking the peanut gallery, “Say kids, what time is it?” to which the kids would yell, “It’s Howdy Doody time!” There were jingles and a theme song which the audience also participated in.

Howdy Doody himself is a freckle-faced, western dressed, marionette puppet who went through different appearances during the television program’s run. Many of the original Howdy Doody puppets can be found in private collections or museums around North America. Howdy Doody dolls and marionettes began to be mass produced in the 1950s. The image above features a 1952 Howdy Doody marionette manufactured by Peter Puppet Playthings, Inc. based in New York. Howdy Doody lives in his original box here at the Welland Museum, with operating instructions, and a pamphlet on other puppets that were available for purchase from the company. He was last on display in 2017, during our Canada 150 exhibit.

Day 1: Teddy Bears & Catalogues

Earlier this week we shared a teddy bear advertisement from the 1910s Sears, Roebuck Catalogue for our #WishlistWednesday feature. As the advertisement says, teddy bears “have come to stay more popular than ever”. Stuffed bears have had many invention claims over the years, in a variety of countries around the world but the teddy bear specifically became wildly popular in the early 1900s.

The name “teddy” is in honour of the United States President at the time, Theodore Roosevelt. A political cartoon ran in The Washington Post in 1902 which illustrated President Roosevelt’s refusal to shoot a tethered bear during a hunting trip. Morris Michtom, a shop owner in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, saw the political cartoon and created a tiny stuffed bear which he then sent to Roosevelt. He asked permission to use Roosevelt’s name and, once received, placed the bear in his shop window. The bear became immediately popular in North America and led to Michtom founding the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co. in 1907. If the incident had happened to any other president at any other time, we may be calling them Georgie bears or William bears.

Toys like teddy bears could be ordered from the Sears, Roebuck Catalogue, as shown from the advertisement on Wednesday. The catalogues could be purchased for 50 cents, and once you found an item you wished to buy, you would mail the company the money for the item with a description of what you were buying. The price of teddy bears in the 1910 Sears, Robebuck Catalogue was based on the height of the bear. For those living far from stores or shops, purchasing from a catalogue was one of the only ways of getting manufactured goods.

Businesses were able to use similar ordering catalogues to order goods for customers. In this 1958 Rosbergs advertisement, placing your order over the phone and using lay-away plans were both options for shopping. Rosbergs was listed in the 1937 City Directory at 72-86 East Main Street. Stores had access to the inventory they had on location, but could also order in a variety of products.


#GivingTuesday kicked off our month-long Beyond the Exhibits campaign. We hope you will help us by donating to keep our archives running smoothly. We are offering a special incentive to help you better picture what we do beyond the exhibits at the museum. For every $500 in donations we receive in December 2020, we will hold a random draw and choose two donors to receive a special behind the scenes tour of our archives in early 2021.

We can’t take care of our collection without you. Please consider donating today to help us continue to care for our community’s history.

There are over 30,000 items in our collection but we can’t display many of our key pieces because of their condition. For example, we have a large number of Frances Turnbull’s art pieces though some are not framed for display. Her artwork varies in size and each of the larger pieces could cost over $200 to frame. Without your support, we are unable to present an exhibit of her work.

With a collection that is constantly growing, and a building that has limited shelving, we have a need for more storage. Purchasing new shelving, that meets specific museum standards, will give us better access to our collection so we can easily use those items for new exhibits.

During our visitor closure we have enjoyed digitally sharing information from our collection in our virtual tours. Did you know we can also fulfil research requests from the public? These services have a small fee but we need further monetary donations to make sure the research materials are always properly stored and to purchase more materials to give us a broader understanding of our community.

Thank you for your support.

Canada Summer Jobs Program

The Welland Museum gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Government of Canada through their Canada Summer Jobs program. The program has allowed the Welland Museum to employ two summer students, who assisted with collections management duties in the archives and a bilingual interpreter and programmer.

New Gift Shop!

That’s right! The Welland Museum’s gift shop has been revamped! We have new items to choose from, many of them unique; you won’t come by these things very easily elsewhere! The staff and the board members at the museum have been working hard to make this happen, especially Lise Giroux, the current Bilingual Visitor Services Officer.

Our spectacular items are perfect for the holiday season as gifts, or any other time of the year! However, we also have holiday themed items if you are looking to do some decorating! For example: Christmas themed napkins, unique Christmas card bundles, beautiful LED tree decorations, bedazzled t-lite holders, fun and sophisticated travel mugs, bags, and magnets. Though, what I am most excited to announce is our old fashioned candy shop portion of our gift shop! We have an entire counter dedicated to candy such as Airheads, Old-style taffy, Harry Potter treats, pop rocks, and much more!

We assure you that everything is reasonably priced. Come on in and take a look. Merry Christmas!

-Alacia Michaud (Welland Museum Blogger).

Version française:

La boutique de cadeaux du Musée de Welland a été modifiée! Nous avons un nouvel inventaire pas mal unique; vous ne trouverez pas d'objets comme celle au musée très facilement ailleurs. Le personnel et les membres du conseil d'administration du musée ont travaillé fort pour modifier la boutique de cadeau, en particulier Lise Giroux, l'agente bilingue des services aux visiteurs.

Nos objets spectaculaires sont parfaits comme cadeaux durant le temps des fêtes, ou n'importe quel autre moment de l'année. Cependant, nous avons également des objets à thème de Noël! Par exemple, on a des serviettes à thème de Noël, paquets de cartes de Noël, de belles décorations d'arbres, des tasses de voyages amusants et sophistiquées, des sacs et aimants. Par contre, ce que je suis le plus excité à annoncer est notre section de bonbons. Nous avons un comptoir entier dédié aux bonbons tels qu'Airheads, Taffy, des bonbons à thème Harry Potter, Pop Rocks et bien plus encore!

Nous vous assurons que tout est à un prix raisonnable. Venez nous rendre visite! Joyeux Noël!

-Alacia Michaud (Blogueuse du Musée de Welland).

Why Museums are Moving Away from a Solely Heritage Focus.

Recently, I was discussing an interesting topic with fellow museum employees. We were talking about our recent events and a new exhibit arriving in the New Year. During this conversation, something was brought up and I couldn’t help but share it with all of you. Museums have always had a large focus on heritage more than anything else. Why shouldn’t they? Heritage is a large part of history and museums want to represent their community and nation throughout history. The issue is that we have been focusing on that and nothing but that for a bit too long now. There are other aspects in history that museums can focus on, such as culture and how it has evolved throughout history. That is what many museums have decided to go for now; the history of culture, per see. For example, the Welland Museum’s recent First Fridays event is something more culturally inclined. The museum is also looking at adding more artwork from local artists to its collection. That being said, this transition can explain why the museum is trying to go by a new title. Instead of the “Welland Historical Museum”, we simply call it the “Welland Museum” as seen in our new logo.

That however, doesn’t explain why museums are making this transition. The answer can vary from institution to institution, but mostly it has to do with wanting to shake things up a bit to make museums interesting to a larger audience. I can say for a fact that many teenagers are more interested in history projects revolving around culture and their analysis of the culture than history projects revolving around factual information on a specific event. For example, many students would rather do a project on First Nation communities and do a critical analysis of how historical events helped shape their culture and point of views than do a project solely based on factual and objective information surrounding the historical events that the First Nation communities participated in.

Considering that museums want to add more culture in their exhibits and programs, that doesn’t mean that they are going to disregard heritage. A mixture of culture and heritage in museums would be rather nice, in my opinion. Even a bit of art maybe, which is exactly what the Welland Museum is aiming for! Now, I have an interesting question for you all. If you had a say in what could go in museums, what would you chose? Come on in and let us hear your opinion!

-Alacia Michaud (Welland Museum Blogger).

Version française:

À venir le 30 Octobre.





Exciting News!

Let’s talk about the rest of the year, shall we? With autumn rolling in, school starting for people of all ages, and the holiday season only months away once again, what activities could people do for fun? Eventually going to beaches won’t be an option and taking a few summer vacation weeks may no longer be viable for you. Before the big rush season of the year starts, what could you do for fun? You may be bored of the same routine. You don’t have to be! I’m so excited to share some great news with you.

If you are reading this, then you have probably been to the Welland Museum or at least heard of it. Behind the scenes in the Welland Museum, we have many dedicated and passionate people from various backgrounds and walks of life who want to see more happen and want the museum to be more involved in the community. In fact, in museums all over the region and all over the world, there are dedicated and passionate people working behind the scenes to make museums better! At the Welland Museum, these people include volunteers, staff members, and the Board of Management.

Recently, through the efforts of these hard workers, the Welland Museum has planned a few new and exciting events coming up that are targeted towards an age demographic that can often be overlooked when it comes to institutions such as museums; adults, people aged 19+. Many museums have programs and events that are aimed towards children or teenagers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but why not try something else? Something for the grown-ups?

Look no further! I’d like to introduce you to our PaintNite+ Beers&Beards and First Fridays events!

Let’s talk about PaintNite+Beers&Beards for a bit. What is PaintNite+Beers&Beards? It’s an awesome fundraising event that will take place at the Welland Museum (140 King Street, Welland) on Friday, November 18th at 7:00 PM. Guests have two options once they arrive at the museum: Spend the evening painting and making a masterpiece while enjoying some food and drinks, or spend the evening “Movember” style by taste testing beers and shopping around for some beard grooming products with proceeds going Movember and the Welland Museum Fundraising Campaign to make the museum and it’s programs/exhibits more accessible and interactive by integrating Ipads, for example! Tickets are 45$ per event (PaintNite or Beers+Beards). If you would like to purchase tickets or learn more, please go to: https://www.paintnite.com/events/1116523.html https://ca.movember.com/events/view/id/J8dL

Now, what about this “First Fridays” you heard me mention earlier? First Fridays is a program offered through MONA (Museums of Niagara Association). The museums in the Niagara Region each get a themed event where food, live music, and activities will be held! This helps break the stigma that museum are “boring”. Consider it culture after hours! The Welland Museum’s First FrIdays event will take place on October 7th, 2016 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM with the theme of the event being “Night of the Dead” a twist on the traditional latin holiday “Day of the Dead”. There will be a food and cash bar by the delicious Smokin’ Buddha with Latin Dance demonstrations, music, and great partnerships with BLX Studio and The Art Space to integrate some creativity and art! Tickets are 10$ in advance or 12$ at the door and will take place at the museum. There are other First Friday events taking place after “Night of the Dead”. To find out more, go to www.firstfridaysniagara.ca

More information on these events will be posted throughout the next few months, so be sure to stay updated on any important news from the museum by following our social media or joining our emailing list.





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-Alacia Michaud
Welland Museum blogger.

(Version française):

*French version coming soon!

*Version française à venir bientôt!