Artificial collections are a unique facet of archival work. These collections exist when documents are collected by one or more persons; most often the original order and provenance are lost (sometimes purposefully, sometimes not). To learn more about original order and provenance, view my post, Organizing my First Archival Fonds.
I began working at the Centre for Canadian Historical Horticultural Studies at Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) in the summer of 2017. The Centre has a rich archive full of historical documents chronicling the history of Canadian horticulture. One portion of this collection has fonds with provenance and an original order. These collections were organized according to the Rules of Archival Description (RAD) by RBG's volunteer archivist, Marie Minaker. These collections include famous plant hybridizer Isabella Preston’s documents, as well as Bob Keith’s CBC radio scripts from his popular garden show. Several RBG volunteers organize and care for 30,000 trade seed catalogues, which make up the next portion of the collection. The last segment consists of documents sorted by subject heading in boxes and filing cabinets. Ina Vrugtman, RBG’s first librarian/archivist spent countless hours passionately collecting information about Canadian horticulture. These subject files provide information about prominent horticulturists, gardens, experimental farms, school programs, pesticides, garden pests, etc.
One of my major tasks has been making a project out of the artificial collection and organizing it in accordance (as much as possible) with RAD. I spent the first month of my job reading documents in the boxes and cabinets. Familiarizing myself with the documents gave me a crash course on Canadian horticultural history, allowing me to place individual documents in a larger context; it also revealed the extensive amount of information contained in our holdings. Afterward, I decided to organize a collection on Canadian Horticultural Education, given that we had numerous documents on this topic. Erin Aults, RBG’s Librarian and Archives Specialist, and Dr. David Galbraith, Head of the Science Department, suggested that I also organize a collection on horticultural societies. garden clubs, and flower societies.
*All photographs are courtesy of the Centre for Canadian Historical Horticultural Studies
I had never worked with an artificial collection before. Pulling documents from established folders meant disrupting the order that Ina had filled them in. Was it an archivally sound practice to break up an artificial collection? Since Ina was the person who put it together, would that mean she was the creator of this large collection? How would I re-arrange an already arranged collection? Did it matter that this material came from various unknown sources, rather than having one or more distinct donors? With all of these questions in mind I set to work. Erin and I poured over archival books and articles, asked lots of questions, and tried to create a system that worked. Ultimately we decided that researchers' access to our documents was the most important goal. Organizing documents in a logical, self-contained collection and uploading them online was going to be very useful to our users (and will hopefully attract new ones, too). Providing access is one of the most important steps an archive can do. If people do not know about the documents, then how will they be able to use them? Providing access to these collections became the driving force behind my work. Thus RAD became a guideline, rather than a rule. I adhered to it where I could but also acknowledged that my collection was not going to fit its model perfectly.
I pulled documents from boxes and folders to add to my new, artificial collection. Now, all of these documents are in one place and have a finding aid which easily points researchers to their location. The individual documents now relate directly to the others in the collection. In other words, if researchers want to study the history of Canadian horticulture, all the documents are in one place. They can compare how, for example, the history of the Ontario Agricultural College’s beginnings were similar or different to that of the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture.
We had many interesting documents in the library serials, including horticultural society yearbooks, flower show programmes, and plant lists. Erin and I decided that some of these documents, some dating back to the early 20th century, should be seen as archival materials, rather than library materials. The difference is in how they are stored and preserved. I pulled large amounts of materials out of the serials shelves and placed them in acid-free folders, and then into acid-free boxes. Moving anything in a library or archives requires that that information be recorded. I consulted RBG’s library catalogue and added the new location to the notes, making it clear where the material is now stored.
As discussed earlier, these documents did not have a provenance or original order. I did my best to place documents in an order that could benefit researchers. In the case of the horticultural societies, I organized the series of societies alphabetically, and within those series documents were organized chronologically.The finding aids were then uploaded to Archeion, the Archives Association of Ontario’s public database of its members' collections.
The Completed Project
All of the projects turned out wonderfully. I arranged and described them, and then uploaded them online. If you are a researcher interested in learning more about the documents in the collections, please check out the finding aids of: Canadian horticultural societies collection; Canadian horticultural education collection; Canadian flower societies collection; and/or Canadian garden clubs collection. Each collection outlines very important parts of Canadian horticultural history. There are only a few scholars who have written about the history of gardening and horticulture in Canada, meaning that there are a plethora of original articles and books just waiting to be written!
HortiCULTURE: Artifacts from the Archives of the Centre of Canadian Historical Horticultural Studies and Royal Botanical Gardens
Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) recently hosted the Hamilton Museum Educators group for a museums and technology conference. As part of the program, staff put together an exhibit to showcase two archives at RBG: the Centre for Canadian Historical Horticultural Studies (CCHHS) and RBG's institutional archives.
CCHHS collects and preserves literature, documents, and artifacts relevant to the history of horticulture in Canada. The topic of horticulture is broad in scope; it includes any resource relating to horticultural plants and their development and use in Canada. The archive has many important scientific documents on topics such as phenology and plant hybridization. Popular writings, pamphlets and brochures, government reports, seed catalogues, and correspondence, photographs, slides, among other ephemera, also make up the collection. There are also personal papers of many successful horticulturists, like Isabella Preston and Art Drysdale. CCHHS' records tell us a lot about Canadian plants and landscapes and how they have changed over time. They also offer us a larger view of societal changes in Canada.
Royal Botanical Gardens' archives keeps administrative records of the institution which includes historical samples of past stationary, plaques, china, photographs, and even drapes. This archives also has important papers of past employees including published papers, correspondence, and other intellectual works. Records of past events, corporate publications, and 80 years of photographs that capture the staff, gardens, and landscape make up a significant part of the collection.
Erin Aults, RBG's Knowledge Resource Management Specialist, and I worked to put the exhibit together. Marie Minaker, RBG's volunteer archivist, suggested artifacts from RBG's archives to include. Artifacts were grouped into five categories: Canadian horticultural education, women in botany, historic seed catalogues, ephemera, and other special collections.
All photographs are courtesy of CCHHS.
Recently, the museum received a kind donation from the Estate of Joyce Cunningham, consisting of five beaded items dating to the 1910s. Born in 1928, Joyce was a long-time Atikokan resident who loved gardening, preserving, crocheting and feeding Whiskey Jacks. Her husband, Harold, was a heavy equipment operator who worked the shovel at Caland Mine. Joyce inherited these beautiful beaded pieces from her mother, Erie Hann, who immigrated to Thunder Bay from England in 1901. Born in 1899, Erie would have been well-versed in several types of domestic work, including beading and embroidery. Her grandson, Bruce, and grand-daughter-in-law, Nancy, state that Erie made the 1914 keepsake pillow seen below, and also believe that she hand-crafted the other pieces as well.
Beaded clothing and accessories have been an art form practiced for thousands of years by individuals from various cultures around the world. Delicately beaded handbags became popular in the Victorian era, making glass beads a major part of domestic textile art. Beading and embroidery played a central role in the daily lives of middle class women and their female children. They spent countless hours embroidering their purses as a way to attract prospective mates. Purses like the one seen in the photographs above can be viewed as a wearable sampler that allowed women to showcase their domestic abilities. The 1847 Quarterly Review stated that, "dress becomes a sort of symbolic language - a kind of personal glossary...[and] every woman walks around with a placard on which her leading qualities are advertised."
In the later decades of the 1800s beaded purses saw a decline in popularity, only to see a resurgence again at the beginning of the 20th century. The keepsake pillow seen here was decorated with the date 1914, showing that the popularity for this aesthetic returned at this time. During the First World War, beading continued to be a fashion trend. In 1914, The Times fashion columnist reported that “these bead bags carry us straight back fifty years to the days of hoop skirts and muslin tuckers, lace mitts and pantalettes…” Perhaps the volatility and uncertainty of this period left women with a longing for the past, and beaded items satisfied their need for the golden age.
 Informal Interview with Bruce and Nancy Cunningham, June 13, 2017.
 Random History. Fashion is in the Bag: A History of Handbags. http://www.randomhistory.com/2008/10/01_handbag.html, (accessed June 13, 2017)
 Helene E Roberts. "The Exquisite Slave: The Role of Clothing in the Making of the Victorian Woman," Sings: The Role of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 2, no. 3., 1977., 554.
 Hoag Levins. Beaded Bags and Industrial History: Six Hundred Years of Glittering Commerce, 2005, historiccamdencounty.com/ccnews98.shtml. (accessed June 13, 2017)
What was Quetico Centre?
Quetico Centre was an residential adult education centre in Northwestern Ontario, located approximately 26km east of Atikokan. In 1958, the Eva Lake Planning Committee purchased the Quetico Conference and Training Centre property from the Department of Lands and Forests. Shortly after, Cliff McIntosh was appointed director of the Centre. He worked with H.E. “Bud” Thomas, formerly the Regional Officer within the Community Programs Branch of the Department of Education of Thunder Bay, to bring the idea of a residential adult education centre into fruition. Quetico Centre quickly became a meeting place attracting people from the region and surrounding area to partake in art courses, outdoor programs, heavy equipment training and craft classes. The Centre's philosophy was based on the belief that learning was a life-long pursuit that informed daily life as well as fostered community development. It successfully brought many educational opportunities to individuals in Northwestern Ontario, other interested Canadians as well as some Americans.
Quetico Centre Programming
Life at Quetico Centre
For the exhibit I created a ten page booklet that placed Quetico Centre into the larger adult education narrative. Rather than take a chronological approach, the booklet discussed how the Centre borrowed from the progressive and folk school traditions to create a successful teaching institution. As a parting gift, this booklet was given out to all guests who came to the opening. Additional copies are now sold at the museum's gift shop.
There were several reasons why I chose to have the museum's staff mimic the 1983 photograph seen above. For one, I thought that it was be a fun addition to the gallery space, especially since Joan is holding the book in both photographs. Second, I wanted to show guests that Quetico Centre's story is constantly evolving, with this exhibit being another chapter in its history. Third, curating an exhibit involves many hours of hard, unseen work and I wanted to put faces to those involved in the creation of the displays/opening event. I was tasked with curating the exhibit, which meant I researched, wrote labels, chose photographs, and assisted with exhibit design and event planning. I was also in charge of marketing, meaning that I recorded a radio ad, wrote a newspaper article, and (with the help from our volunteer Jim Blunderfield) handed out posters to local businesses. Lois provided feedback and assistance throughout the project. She also played a large role in planning the event. Nancy aided with exhibit design, cutting labels, mounting titles and helping to set up the room for display. Joan helped me select images, read the labels to ensure the information was correct and provided insight into Quetico Centre's history.
Creating the Fonds
The Quetico Centre archival fonds is kept in the museum's community room, the same room the exhibit was set up in. I decided to use this as an opportunity to educate the public about basic archival principles. I took "before" pictures of the collection to juxtapose against the nicely organized final product.
The day was a success, with 40 people attending the opening. It is always great to watch an idea become a tangible thing- and I am glad that I was able to share Quetico Centre's story with the local community.
Last winter I organized an archival fonds consisting of forty years of documentation produced by Quetico Centre, a conference and education centre in Northwestern Ontario. This was a joint project for Athabasca University and the Atikokan Centennial Museum. This post describes my experiences organizing the project- my first attempt to create a fonds. Archival work requires both practical and theoretical knowledge to ensure that the documents are well cared for and properly organized. I ensured that all materials were handled in a way that complied with conservation and collection standards; however, this post will focus on the theoretical framework I used to complete the project.
Creating the Fonds
The Quetico Centre Fonds project was completed in compliance with RAD, a standardized process of arranging and describing documentary heritage used in archival science. This method uses the principles of provenance, original order, and respect des fonds to dictate how documents are arranged. Provenance refers to the individual, family or corporate/administrative body that produced the materials being archived. In this case, Quetico Centre was a corporation that produced the documentation. Original order and respect des fonds are important archival considerations which state that documents must be kept in the order in which their creator originally kept them. This method of arrangement provides a context used for better understanding the documents' meaning, both individually and in relation to the others in the collection. Throughout the project the original order of the documents, if it could be established, was kept. For instance, the board of director materials were kept in the order in which Quetico Centre administrators originally filed them. However, it is not always possible/most beneficial to keep the original order. For example, there was a box of various newsletters where it was apparent that an order was never established; they were just thrown together. In this instance, to better assist researchers, I decided to create an order, putting each newsletter in chronological order. This way the evolution of the Centre could be traced through the examination of developments over time.
Prior to arranging materials, I examined how the archival field had evolved over time to determine how archivists ascribed meaning to documents. This decision was particularly important because, in some cases, I had to make decisions about which materials to keep and which ones to discard. The Atikokan Centennial Museum has limited storage space, thus not all materials could be kept (a decision which was reached by the Curator, myself and our donors.)
Hans Boom, in his article, "Society and the Formation of a Documentary Heritage: Issues in the Appraisal of Archival Studies," shed light on this complex matter. His article outlined archival historiography and displayed how the field has evolved by showing the attempted creation of guidelines for accepting and rejecting archival documentation. The earliest assumptions were that a decision about what was to be kept or thrown away could be made on a case-by-case basis. As the need for archives increased, this was no longer a viable solution. Scholars attempted to create formal guidelines for creating a documentary heritage. Wilhelm Rohr, for example, introduced a hierarchical gradation, meaning that the producers of documentation were placed on a hierarchical scale in order to determine the value of the documents. Meinert took this idea a step further by stating that only the creator of the document could give it meaning. Meanwhile, Fritz Zimmerman proposed that the value of archival documentation is derived from human interest and need; therefore, human demand gives documents their value. Boom argued that this could not be possible because it would be too difficult to predict what historians would want to use in the future. According to Boom, there has not been a suitable answer to the problem of how to properly form a documentary heritage. He provided his own solution, stating that the value of a document can only be determined by a comprehensive view of society. In other words, archivists cannot use contemporary value systems to judge documentation. Rather, they need to adopt the value systems of the time period in question to properly determine what documents to accept or reject.
I decided to use Hans Boom’s theory as the foundation of my project. To accomplish this, I read several books about education during the time period in which Quetico Centre operated, as well as books about Northern Ontario education. This research helped to place Quetico Centre’s history within the larger adult education narrative, as well as geographic place. I also read local history books which provided me with nuanced details about the Centre’s operations. This information gave me a better understanding of the Centre’s values and philosophies.
The information acquired from these readings provided me a context in which to judge the collection's documentation. I felt more confident in making decisions about which documents to keep. For example, several pamphlets discussing adult education in Mexico were disposed of. The information in these pamphlets may have influenced Quetico Centre’s philosophy; however, they were never alluded to in any of its Director's speeches or writings. There were several other pamphlets that included information on broader adult education topics that seemed to be more pertinent to the collection. It should be noted that all documentation, before its removal was checked with one of the collection's donors (the Director's widow). She provided her opinion about the materials and verified if their removal seemed appropriate. This practice was done out of respect for our donor, who lived the history we were organizing and was an invaluable resource throughout the project.
After organizing the fonds I created a finding aid. The aid's purpose was to assist both researchers and museum staff by providing easy access to the collection. RAD-compliant descriptions were used to ensure an easy to use, standardized document was produced. These descriptions help users gain a better idea of what the collection encompasses so that they can make decisions about what documents will be useful for their research. The fonds's description gives documents context by providing historical details about Quetico Centre's establishment, its key players and educational vision. Good descriptions mean that researchers can search for documents in a more independent manner. Thus, museum staff can spend less time helping the researcher, and more time on other museum duties, like cataloguing.
To further assist future researchers I created several documents to accompany the finding aid, including: a time line of important dates, biographies of people involved with the Centre’s activities, and a booklet entitled, Quetico Centre: Learning Through Discovery. This booklet places the Centre within the context of adult education in Canada. It will be sold to visitors in the museum's gift shop and handed out at the Quetico Centre exhibit opening in June.
The Final Product: Images and Finding Aid
I feel that the project was a success. I can say with absolute certainty that I have a new appreciation for the amount of work archivists undertake to organize collections. It consists of many hours of unseen and rigorous labour. As a researcher I feel I have a better appreciation of the work involved.
If you are a researcher interested in Canadian adult education, education in northern Ontario, or Atikokan history, check out the finding aid below.
Jean Dryden and Kent M. Haworth. Developing Descriptive Standards: A Call to Action. Occasional Paper No. 1. Ottawa: Bureau of Canadian Archivists, 1987, 1-15., 1.
 Wendy M. Duff and Marlene Van Ballegooie. “The Foundations of RAD.” In RAD Revealed: A Basic Primer on the Rules for Archival Description. Canadian Council of Archives, 2001., 2.
 Ibid., 3.
 Hans Boom. “Society and the Formation of a Documentary Heritage: Issues in the Appraisal of Archival Science.” Archivaria 24, 1987., 90.
 Ibid., 95-96.
 Ibid., 91.
 Wendy M. Duff and Marlene Van Ballegooie. “The Foundations of RAD.” In RAD Revealed: A Basic Primer on the Rules for Archival Description. Canadian Council of Archives, 2001, 2.
We live in a web of ideas, a fabric of our own making.
-Joseph Chilton Pearce
This May, the Atikokan Centennial Museum is putting on a colourful exhibition, History in Stitches: Fabric Arts Throughout the Years, in collaboration with the Pictograph Gallery's exhibit, Wild Things ...We Quilt Everything. Both of these displays are created to showcase the vibrant quilting and fibre arts community in Atikokan. The museum's exhibit encompasses many unique pieces, including: doilies, various types of quilts, the Atikokan Tartan, crocheted placemats, children's clothing, wall hangings and a beautiful hooked rug. The museum wants to make this exhibit accessible to the wider community and other Canadians by creating a virtual exhibit. For the purposes of this online exhibit several of the quilts and the town's official tartan will be the primary focus of discussion. Please stop in to the museum to view the other exceptional artifacts on display.
The museum's staff has worked hard over the past month to prepare the gallery space for public viewing. Our Curator, Lois Fenton, has collected local artifacts and stories. Heather Hosick, founder of the Atikokan Quilter's Guild, happily shared many important insights into the town's quilting community. Laila Goranson and Wanda Bigwood, who helped to create the Fix-It Club quilt, also sat down with us to share their stories. The Museum's Assistant, Nancy Kozlovic, and volunteer, Jim Clark, worked tirelessly at exhibit design, ensuring the gallery space looked great. With their efforts many of the quilts on display were dramatically hung from the ceiling. Our volunteer, Joan McIntosh, lent creative vision to the space. My role was to photograph the artifacts for the blog as well as to provide a broader discussion of quilting for context. Many of the views expressed here are the ways in which I interpreted the artifacts and only offer a small glimpse (a sneak peek, if you will) of the material presented in the physical exhibit.
It is also important to acknowledge the many people who loaned artifacts for use in the museum's exhibit. Nancy Fotheringham kindly loaned many family pieces including, quilts, doilies, placemats, a knitting bag, knitting patterns and children's clothing. Dr. Walter Kristjanson allowed us to borrow his beautiful quilt, which was given to him for his retirement from the Atikokan General Hospital in 1991. Jim Blunderfield loaned an exquisite quilt and matching pillow that belonged to Evelyn Ashford, a head nurse who also received a quilt for retiring from the hospital. All of these contributions will be acknowledged in the photographs' captions.
Poster image featuring artifacts used in the exhibit. The bag, place mat, and cream coloured doily were loaned by Nancy Fotheringham. The multi-coloured doily belonged to Evelyn Ashford. Log cabin quilt block, circa 1887, 1967.1.1, Atikokan Centennial Museum. Wooden crochet hooks, 2017.2.1 & 2017.2.2, Atikokan Centennial Museum.
A Rich Artistic Tradition
For a small, isolated Northwestern Ontario town, Atikokan has a large and rich artistic tradition. This tradition was inspired by two important factors: the natural beauty of the surrounding environment, and necessity. Because of the town's location, two hours from any other population centre, its citizens learned to become self-reliant. This meant creating many articles, like quilts and clothing, for themselves and their families. For many women, these activities became important because they allowed for creative expression, an opportunity for social interaction, and meant that their families stayed warm and well clothed.
In addition to the town's quilting community, there are many other exceptional artists including painters, carvers and weavers. In 1981 Atikokan Reeve, Dennis Brown commissioned Irma Hicks and Jack Fraser to create Atikokan's tartan. A vibrant piece, the colours used in its creation represent many important aspects of the town's history and identity.
Blue recalls the blue skies and lakes so prevalent in Northwestern Ontario.
Red is symbolic of the Canadian National Railway which gave Atikokan its raison d'etre when the community was designated a Divisional Point at the turn of the century.
Green for the dominant conifers that blanket the area, and commemorates the logging industry.
Gold stands for gold mining which once drew prospectors and miners to the area and for the autumn colours which blaze throughout the forests.
Rusty Brown is a reminder of Steep Rock Iron Mines and Caland Ore Company which brought prosperity to the community.
Grey symbolizes the presence of the ageless rocks of the Canadian Shield.
White is a symbol of the winter snow that provides livelihood and recreation for so many.
The above information was copied from an Atikokan Centennial Museum label created by Lois Fenton and adapted from Jeanne Georgeson's Atikokan Progress article.
Through the generosity of local resident Don Meany the tartan was formally registered by the Scottish Tartan Society on June 14, 1999. This approval authenticated that there were no other tartans that followed its particular thread count and design. They described this thread count as follows: white (4), green (6), mid brown (6), maroon (6), light grey (6), light blue (28), and yellow (12). The tartan now hangs permanently on display at the Atikokan Centennial Museum as a silent reminder of the town's multi-faceted and vibrant history.
A Brief History of Quilting
Quilting has been performed by women for hundreds of years. Patterns first appeared in publications in the 1830s; however, it was not until the 1880s that printed patterns became mainstream. This phenomenon occurred because with better technology printing techniques became better and cheaper, which allowed for a greater dispersion of materials. Later, in the 1920s, many newspapers began to offer quilting columns dedicated to the craft. It was also popular among friends to share patterns with one another. During the Depression era many women continued to make their own quilts, rather than buy more expensive, pre-fabricated models from department stores. Quilts have gone through trends, much like anything else. For instance, the "crazy quilt" became a popular design in the late 1800s. These quilts were fashioned from fine silks, velvets, brocades and fine embellishments before falling out of fashion with urban women. This technique was used long after by women from rural communities because it allowed them to use many different scraps from worn out clothing. Fine silks and velvets gave way to cotton and wool materials. Crazy quilts became less about aesthetics; instead, they became more about a practical use of materials. Below is a beautiful example of a crazy quilt made by Anna Rawn in 1957. The names of her family members were tenderly stitched into the asymmetrically cut and sewn fabric. Anna cut pieces from old clothing and stitched them together in order to create an extra layer of warmth for her family.
A Language that Speaks Through Fabric
Quilts act as storytellers, depicting important community narratives spoken through the many voices of those who helped piece them together. Seen this way, quilts tell the stories of both the individuals who helped create them and the community in which they were made. Allison Carey, English professor at Marshall University, states that "quilts have a language that transcends national boundaries but also has a distinct local meaning communicated by fabrics, patterns and colours." Scholar Elaine Hedges also speaks to this when she states that quilting is both an "individual and collective art" where "no other art has ever brought together so many people."
The quilts on display at the Atikokan Centennial Museum were all hand-stitched, offering examples of earlier quilting techniques. In 1999, in time for Atikokan's 100th anniversary, two beautiful quilts were crafted, one by the Birch Studio Quilters and the other by the Fix-It Club Quilters. Both of these quilts captured imagery specific to Atikokan and were made using traditional methods. Many women contributed to the quilts, each bringing something of herself as a means for creating a community symbol. To offer an example, in the quilt below, created by Birch Studio Quilters, a large blue heron is noticeable in the centre right. This square was made by Sandra Nash. The imagery undoubtedly speaks to the wildlife of the region, but it also speaks to the fact that Sandra and her husband were birdwatchers. Likewise, the patch that depicts logging was created by Tanis Hampshire, who chose this subject matter because her husband worked in the bush. In these cases, it was women who decided what were important Atikokan symbols to include in the quilt's narrative. Quilts like these offer a great look at the town's history and identity as seen through the eyes of women.
The above quilt was made by: Karin Arif, Marilyn Barber, Eunice Hamilton, Shirley and Allan Cain, Maryann Couch, Ida Docking, Mary Elder, Tanis Hampshire, Heather Hosick, Lorena Jaman, Barb Kwasnicia, Sandra Nash, Teresa Larson, Janette Payne, Louise Sawchuk, Sally Speck, Chris Spilchuk, Lynn Enge, Linda Jung, and Barb Wiens.
The quilt below, created by the Fix-It Club, shares several similarities to that of the Birch Studio Quilt, namely the mining, logging and nature imagery. One of the differences is that these women also created patches that depicted architecture from Atikokan's rich pioneering past. For instance, the Pioneer Hotel is visible in the top left corner. This hotel was built by Tom Rawn, the man credited with being the town's founder. Atikokan originated as a Divisional Point on the Canadian National railway between Fort Frances and Thunder Bay; after this hotel was built in 1900 people began to settle in the area. Atikokan's first school and jail house (which were the same building, due to building scarcity at the time) and the first train station were also included in the quilt. Like the Birch Studio quilt, this colourful piece speaks to how its creators saw the town and its surrounding area.
The above quilt was made by Bev and Laila Goranson, Claraine Cavner, Wanda Bigwood, Diane McKay, Adeline McCormick, Linda Geurts, Ila Quinn, Beaulah Larocque, Anne Humphrey, Grace Chamber and Josephine Hart.
The museum's staff had the pleasure of speaking with Laila Goranson and Wanda Bigwood, two of the quilt's creators. Wanda recounted that she made the jail house patch and that she learned about the history of this building from Anna Rawn. When asked about the quilt's brown trim, Wanda jokingly recalled that "years ago [Atikokan] was dirty, dirty, dirty" and that "on her first day in town she told her husband that she did not want to stay." When asked what changed her mind she said that "the community was so inviting." At that time, many young people moved to Atikokan and this contributed to a rich social scene. Wanda has called Atikokan home ever since. Laila told us that many of the quilt's squares were made from her husband Leo's drawings. She recalled that the women got together once a week to work on the quilt, but that many of them also worked on their own quilting projects at home.
Quilts capture many different types of stories. Below is a quilt that belonged to Evelyn Ashford, head nurse at the Atikokan General Hospital. It was given to her by hospital staff upon her retirement in 1984. The squares can be seen as a storyboard depicting important moments in Evelyn's life. She was an avid curler, a fact represented in a number of the quilt's squares. She was also a graduate of St. Joseph's Nursing School in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1951, an achievement also captured. These and other squares, including the nurse's needle, recount Evelyn's greatest achievements and varied interests.
Like Evelyn, Dr. Kristjanson was also given a quilt for his retirement from the hospital in 1992. He practiced medicine and served the community for over 40 years. When he started his career in 1951 he worked at Atikokan's newly built Red Cross Hospital. At that time there was no highway linking Atikokan to larger city centres. He stated that "we did have the train, and in a few cases we commandeered it to take patients to Thunder Bay." There are many interesting features of Dr. Kristjanson's quilt. The stork carrying the baby speaks to the many newborns that he helped deliver, which he has estimated to be 1,900 over the course of his career. This was an even more impressive feat considering that Atikokan had the highest birth rate in Canada in the 1950s. Many of the quilt's patches speak to his abilities as a doctor, while others showcase his interests.
The museum feels very fortunate to be able to exhibit many beautiful quilts as well as other exceptional fibre arts. These pieces speak vividly about Atikokan's history, capturing many aspects that make it unique. We invite you to come visit both the museum and the Pictograph Gallery's exhibit. The museum's opening reception will be held on May 4 from 1-4pm. This is a white glove affair; fancy hats are encouraged. Tea and dainties will be served and we look forward to seeing you!
 The Scottish Tartan Society, Atikokan Tartan Certificate, June 14, 1999, on display at the Atikokan Centennial Museum.
 Allison Carey. Patterns: Continuity for Generations of Quilters. Phi Kappa Phi Forum, Winter 2015., 18.
 The International Quilt Study Center and Museum/ University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The Idea of Fairyland, http://www.quiltstudy.org/exhibitions/online_exhibitions/Fairyland/crazy_quil70.html (accessed April 18, 2017)
 Allison Carey. Patterns: Continuity for Generations of Quilters., 18.
 Elaine Hedger. Quilts and Women's Culture. Radical Teacher, No. 100 (Fall 2014), 12.
 Laila Goranson and Wanda Bigwood, Informal interview with Atikokan Centennial Museum Staff, April 25, 2017
 Carol Stanley. "Dr. Walter Kristjanson Honoured for 35 Years of Community Service," Atikokan Progress, December 3, 1986.
 Allan A. Viita. A History of Atikokan: 75th Anniversary Edition, 90.
The Atikokan Centennial Museum has a wonderful exhibit space dedicated to Indigenous history. As this region has a rich Indigenous history dating back 9,000 years, there are many different types of artifacts on display. To offer a few examples, we have hung three beautifully decorated tikinagans in our gallery space. These artifacts are a traditional handicraft made by Ojibway women. Mothers originally used tikinagans as a swaddling cradle to carry their babies. The museum also displays various tools from the Basil Montague Battley Collection. One notable tool is a copper hook that was said (by the donor) to have originated in the western United States. If this story is true, it demonstrates how vast the trading networks were; however, this assertion has never been verified by the museum. Another artifact to note is the regalia loaned to the museum by Jaret Veran, a local Métis man, who danced in the opening ceremonies of the 2010 winter Olympics. These artifacts, and the other objects in the collection, remind visitors that Atikokan's story did not begin with European contact. Since putting up the exhibit, the museum has made efforts to partner with the Atikokan Native Friendship Centre (ANFC). With their assistance, the museum hopes to make the gallery a place that properly represents Indigenous stories in the narratives presented.
Jaret Veran wore this regalia to dance at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics. The regalia was made by members of his family: Jack Veran, Allison Durand, Evelyn Veran and Linda Fogg. The artwork seen here was done by Linda Fogg. On loan to the Atikokan Centennial Museum by Jaret Veran.
My primary job at the museum has been digitizing the collection. I mainly work with photographs. As I have digitized the records, I have noticed that there were many wonderful photographs of the local Indigenous population in our records. I thought that including photographs in our displays would be a great way to give the space a more human element, giving a face to the community. Moreover, since the museum has limited documentation of the local Indigenous population, our Curator, Lois and I thought that it would be great to have the community help us identify some of the people in these photographs. This idea was partly inspired by the project naming initiative undertaken by Library and Archives Canada.
I recently read an article entitled, "Shadows and Sacred Geography: First Nations History-Making from an Alberta Perspective," which stated that Indigenous photographs "represent personal and emotional memories for them and through them a First Nations viewer may come face to face with past relatives for the first time. Archival photographs constitute for some Native people their earliest, possibly only 'family albums.'"" This idea served as my inspiration. Although I knew that the authors were not talking about an album in the literal sense, I thought that making an album was a great idea. I pulled together all of the photographs I have found thus far (31 in total), and Lois took my scans to get printed. Copies were used in the album to ensure the protection of the originals (which I can say are safety nestled back in their archival boxes.)
I knew what my goals were with this project, but I was not sure the best way to execute it. Lois suggested that I put a page in with every photograph so that people could write information down. This was a good suggestion because it could help us acquire more information, which would undoubtedly result in a more encompassing collection, and it was a way for people to interact with the material we present. I had a fun arts and crafts afternoon putting the project together.
The album turned out great, and it now accompanies our Indigenous history exhibit. In addition, Lois plans on bringing the album to a drop-in session at the ANFC. We hope that this project will allow us to make a greater connection to the local Indigenous population. We will be thrilled to include any information learned about the photographs in our accession records. Our collection is not all-encompassing, but we work hard to make it as inclusive as possible.
 Michael Ross and Reg Crowshoe. Shadows and Sacred Geography: First Nations History-Making from an Alberta Perspective. In Making Histories in Museums. Edited by Gaynor Kavanagh. London and New York: Leicester University Press, 1996., 245.
In 1968 the Atikokan Centennial Museum received a donation of military artifacts from Florence Ransom. One of these artifacts was a Next of Kin War Memorial Plaque featuring the name of her husband, Reginald Ransom. During World War I over 1,000,000 of these plaques were issued to family members in commemoration of those who died in service.
In 2014 our Curator, Lois Fenton, researched Reginald Ransom and the 52nd Battalion he fought with. She noticed that his attestation papers named his next of kin as his mother, Susan. This information showed that Florence and Reginald were married while he was fighting overseas.
Sadly, Reginald Ransom never came home. He died serving our country on February 24th, 1917.
This information made us wonder, how did his new English bride end up living in Atikokan, Ontario?
Reginald became good friends with army mate John Alexander ("Sandy") Johnston. Before his death, he made Sandy promise to take care of Florence if anything should happen to him. Sandy stayed true to his word. The rest of this story will unfold throughout this exhibit as the lives of these two veterans are recounted.
This exhibit was originally put together as a special presentation for the Atikokan cadets, who were getting ready for a trip to Vimy Ridge. The displays were temporary, kept up for only two days. Aside from the cadets, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 145 members were also invited to explore the exhibit space. Due to the exhibit's short duration, we thought that a virtual exhibit was a great way to share these veterans' stories with the local community and other Canadians.
This virtual exhibit is an Atikokan Centennial Museum project. As it is hosted on my private blog, I feel that it is important to acknowledge the people who helped put it together. The local history was researched by Lois Fenton and Sandy Johnston's daughter, Nancy Fotheringham. Nancy kindly loaned many of the objects seen in this blog and this is acknowledged in the photographs' captions. I was responsible for giving the artifacts context through discussions of a broader military history. I also scanned and photographed all of the artifacts. The information presented has been fact-checked by military and medical historian Dr. Adam Montgomery.
Sandy Johnston (1889-1965)
Sandy was born in 1889 in Dresden, Ontario. Like many men of his period, he had different vocations throughout his life. He was mechanically and mathematically inclined, spending time in Detroit learning the mechanics of the new car industry. As a young man he also moved to Port Arthur (present day Thunder Bay) to work as an accountant in the lumber camps. In 1915, shortly after the war erupted, he volunteered for service as a Private in the 52nd battalion. That December, the battalion left for England, and by 1916 he was stationed in France.
The 52nd Battalion was part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). The CEF was "the collective name given to the military structure created in 1914 in which some 620,000 Canadians served overseas during World War I." This Force did not include the Canadians who served in the navy, merchant marine, or the Royal Air Force. In other words, the CEF was "Canada's wartime army overseas." In total, 260 numbered CEF battalions were formed during the war.
Sandy worked within the Canadian Signal Corp, laying and maintaining communication lines. In 1916 he was promoted to Signalling Sergeant. 
Easter weekend of 1917 saw one of Canada's most iconic battles, Vimy Ridge. "Weeks of planning, map-studying and platoon tactics rehearsal climaxed when 15,000 soldiers charged into heavy German machine gun fire, behind a wall of precisely placed Canadian artillery shells." The troops stormed up the ridge, a task which had previously caused 150,000 French and British casualties, and were successful in dislodging the Germans from their strongholds. But this victory did not come without a loss. After three days of fighting 3,598 Canadian troops were dead and 7,000 were wounded. This event was the first time that all divisions of the CEF fought together, and this included Sandy Johnston.
It was also discovered that Sandy fought in the Battle of Passchendaele. In October of 1917 the 52nd Battalion led the 3rd division attack. An October 22, 1917 Battalion War Diary entry stated that he "went forward in busses (sic) to look at the new front line." This information was verified by John Easson, a retired major, after he corresponded with Nancy.
Sandy was awarded the Military Medal for the maintenance of communications while under enemy fire at Vimy Ridge. His award was listed in the London Gazette, 9 July 1917.
Sandy was awarded two other medals for his service, the first being the Allied Victory Medal. Approximately 5.7 million of these medals were issued during the Great War. To be a recipient "an individual had to have entered a theatre of war (an area of active fighting), not just served overseas." The rainbow ribbon represents the combined colours of the Allied nations. The front of the medal depicts a winged classic figure, an image that represents freedom. The back of the medal reads, "The Great War for Civilisation 1914-1919." Each allied nation issued a medal of a similar design, similar wording, and identical ribbon.
The second medal was the British War Medal. Approximately 6.4 million of these medals were issued by the British government to those who had represented the British and Imperial Forces at any point of the war.
Before the end of the war, Sandy was commissioned as an officer in the Royal Flying Corp (which later became the Royal Air Force.) Nancy stated that her father "was given the chance to get a commission and learn to fly because of his bravery in the field at Vimy for which he received a Military Medal." Obtaining a position in the Air Force was seen as prestigious, as the task required more skill and innate physical characteristics such as good eyesight. Becoming an air pilot also meant an escape from the trenches. Nancy expressed that, "it was a chance [for her father] to escape with honour." His first flight was in August of 1918; his last was in January 1919.
Reginald Ransom (1887-1916)
Reginald Ransom was born on July 22, 1887 in London, England. His attestation papers stated that he was from O'Connor, Ontario and that he identified as a labourer. He joined the 52nd Battalion in Port Arthur on February 18, 1916.
As mentioned above, Reginald was a casualty of the Great War. Lois states that when, "reading the battalion's war record one feels the impending doom, the great carnage of war, the timeline to his death." He was buried at Petit-Vimy British Cemetery in France.
Florence Ransom (1888-1967)
Reginald's wife, Florence, moved to Canada under Sandy Johnston's care after the war. He provided her employment; she managed his general store in Atikokan for nine years. At this time, the store bought and sold furs in the fur trade. In an Atikokan Progress newspaper article, she fondly recalled her delight in the Indigenous population bringing in furs, stating that it "was a colourful occasion to see them trading their furs far into the night." At this time Atikokan was a very small, remote community with a population of 300. It was so small, in fact, that she recalled there being only two stores. Even after she stopped managing Sandy's store, Florence remained close to the Johnston family for many years.
Florence remained a widow for the rest of her life. She was very active in Legion activities, and it can be assumed that this was a way to honour her late husband. Below, among other notable artifacts, note her Certificate of Merit, awarded to her by the Ladies Auxiliary of the 145 Legion branch.
Sandy Johnston Post WWI
After the war, Sandy spent a year working as a demobilization officer in Port Arthur. He then became owner of the McKenzie Inn, east of Thunder Bay. As alluded to above, in 1925 he moved to Atikokan, where he purchased a general store from the town's founder, Tom Rawn. In addition to buying and selling furs, he acted as the postmaster for the community until 1947. He continued his military service later in life. During the Second World War he served as a recruiting officer for the Port Arthur area. After that endeavour he owned and operated the Imperial Oil Agency in Atikokan until his retirement in 1953. On top of his other great achievements, Sandy also served as reeve of Atikokan for five years, 1956-1960.
Throughout his life, Sandy maintained a strong interest in the Canadian Legion, Atikokan Branch No. 145. In fact, he served as its president from 1941 to 1948. The Legion offered a place for returning veterans to come together to discuss their shared experiences.
Sandy married Myrtle Rawn and they had three daughters: Judy and twins Nancy and Patricia. Although he had a rich post-war life, injuries to his feet were a silent reminder of what he had endured.
A museum label of Atikokan's World War I Veterans. This information was taken from an Atikokan War Veterans database created by Adam Montgomery & Stephanie Bellissimo on behalf of the Atikokan Centennial Museum. All Atikokan war veterans' gravestones with visible military markings were photographed and compiled into a list. This list is not conclusive. If a veteran chose not to have any military insignia on their stones, or if they were buried outside of Atikokan, their information was not included. If you have someone to add, please let us know! Leave a comment below. Include the person's name, corp, rank, birth and death dates (if known) and we will update our records.
This exhibit commemorates the 100th anniversary of the battle at Vimy Ridge and the sacrifices that individuals, communities and the nation made for our freedom. Commemoration is important; however, events like these should not just be remembered on anniversaries. It is important to take a moment every now and then to acknowledge the ever-enduring strength of the human spirit to fight for what is believed to be right. Many of these men paid the ultimate sacrifice for their convictions. Reginald's inscription of "death before dishonor" inside his Bible (seen above) speaks to this. We are eternally grateful for these men's brave actions. They will always be remembered.
 The Next of Kin Memorial Plaque & Scroll. http://www.greatwar.co.uk/memorials/memorial-plaque.htm (accessed February 27, 2017)
 Information gathered from Sandy Johnston's military records, form R-122, Reg'l No 438593.
 J.L. Granatstein and Dean Oliver. The Oxford Companion to Canadian Military History (Oxford University Press, 2011), 85.
 Philip J. Haythornthwaite. The World War One Source Book (London : Arms and Armour, 1992) 159.
 Ibid., 159.
 Information gathered from Sandy Johnston's military records, form R-122, Reg'l No 438593.
 Canadian Geographic and the Walrus, The Story of Canada in 150 Objects: Collector's Edition, 2017., 14.
 War Diary, 52nd Battalion, Army Form C. 2118., October 22, 1917.
 Philip J. Haythornthwaite. The World War One Source Book, 161.
 Unknown author, Service Chevrons, http://www.canadiansoldiers.com/insignia/service.htm (accessed February 27, 2017)
 Imperial War Museums. British World War One Service Medals, http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/first-world-war-service-medals (accessed February 17, 2017)
 Information recorded in Sandy Johnston's Flight Training Manual.
 Commonwealth War Grave Commission, Reginald Joseph Ransom, http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/531249/RANSOM,%20REGINALD%20JOSEPH (accessed February 27, 017)
 Atikokan Progress. Roles as Early Shopkeeper Here Recalled by Mrs. Flo Ransome, date unknown. [throughout the records Ransom was either spelled "Ransome" or "Ransom." The Museum has chosen to use "Ransom" as this is how the name is spelled on official records.
 Atikokan Progress. J.A. Johnston Obituary, May 13, 1965.
Wassy and Eddie Trudeau's Love Story Expressed Through Documentary Heritage and Material Culture: A Virtual Exhibit
P.E. "Eddie" and Wassy Trudeau (née Zdan) were married on June 26th 1948, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Throughout their marriage Eddie worked as a Bridge and Buildings Foreman for the Canadian National Railway (CNR.) Due to the nature of his work, the couple moved throughout the Port Arthur Division of the CNR until they settled in Atikokan. Before her marriage, Wassy worked as a school teacher. In Atikokan she performed office work at the General Motors and Ford dealerships.
A biography written about the couple by an unknown source described Eddie as a man who "loved his career and was a committed God fearing man and a loving husband..." Eddie and Wassy were married for forty-two years.
Wassy had a creative spirit. She enjoyed crocheting, knitting, embroidery, sewing and tailoring and crafts. Eddie "enjoyed being a critic of Wassy's knitting and crochet work" and encouraged her to showcase her work at local fairs. It should be noted that one of her afghans was valued at $1000 at an exhibition in 1986. She also made her wedding dress and veil seen in the photographs above.
The couple was stylish, as demonstrated by the hats above. Can you picture them going out for a night on the town?
Eddie traveled throughout Northwestern Ontario for his work. The envelopes addressed to "Mrs. P.E. Trudeau" seen above were stamped in Winnipeg and Sioux Lookout. Eddie never missed giving Wassy an anniversary, birthday or Valentine's Day card, even while away from home.
When reading Eddie's cards it seems he was a man of little words. However, the card's messages and artwork were filled with beautiful sentiments. The cards shown in this online exhibit make up only a small fraction of the cards that Eddie sent his wife; preserved by the Atikokan Museum.
There are many ways to analyze the sentiments of commercialized cards.
To offer an example, scholar Emily West explains that the ready-made statements suggest that people's emotions are universal, and that "the industry can meet the nation's social expression needs by customizing these core insights."
But for many, the meaning of greeting cards comes more from the time spent picking them out, rather than what they say. West states that "much of [the card's] communicative power comes from how they index the time and effort, both emotional and physical, of the sender who must leave their home, enter the marketplace, select the 'right' card, fill it out and mail it."
The sentiments that Eddie chose to express to his wife through greeting cards were very heartfelt. Giving cards to Wassy was something that appeared to be very important to him, so he most likely spent time trying to find the 'right' one to capture how he felt.
Wassy kept all of the cards given to her throughout the years, showing her sentimental nature. Of the cards that make up this collection, only a select few were from Wassy to her husband. This could be either because she did not send him as many cards, or for whatever reason those cards were not kept.
The card below sent from Wassy showcases her sense of humour.
Eddie gave his wife many cards throughout their marriage. The last one in the collection is from 1989, a year before his passing.
These artifacts represent a beautiful Atikokan love story, now captured in time for future generations to enjoy.
Happy Valentine's Day from the Atikokan Centennial Museum.
Ps. don't forget to spend time picking out beautiful cards for your partner, as they might end up in the museum one day!
 Biography of Wassy and Eddie Trudeau, Ed Brasseur Collection 2016.30.40.6, Atikokan Centennial Museum
 West, Emily. "Mass Producing the Personal: The Greeting Card Industry's Approach to Commercial Sentiment." Popular Communication. 2008, Vol. 6 Issue 4, 231-247., 231.
 West, Emily. "Expressing the Self through Greeting Card Sentiment." International Journal of Cultural Studies. 2010, Vol. 13 Issue 5, 451-469, 453.
At the beginning of the summer I created a scavenger hunt encouraging children to run through the museum's hallways hunting for artifacts and historical tidbits. To find the answers, they had to look at artifacts, museum labels, and throughout the display cases. The questions covered a broad range of information asking them to look at many different aspects of Atikokan's history.
This scavenger hunt was created for older children. A simpler version was created by our summer student that asked younger children to match artifacts to images.
To spread the word, I wrote a newspaper article (featured in the Atikokan Progress), handed out fliers for local businesses to post, and advertised on facebook. The response we received was great. Throughout the summer we had dozens of young historians-in-training scouring the museum looking for the answers. From the enthusiasm they expressed, I think they had as much fun partaking in the hunt as I did in making it.
Can you find all of the answers??
An answer sheet was provided so that more information about local, regional and national history could be learned.
Did you know:
Want to learn more neat facts? Check out the answer sheet below.