St. Marys Museum as it looked in 1902.
The Castle in the Bush
The community museum for the Town of St. Marys is located in a lovely old home sitting on a hilltop in a park at 177 Church Street South. It was constructed from locally quarried limestone in 1854. When George Tracy, an early settler to St. Marys, built it for his family, it was by far the largest home in the small village of log shanties. Almost immediately, it was nicknamed the Castle in the Bush. It has been the location of the St. Marys Museum since 1959.
Visitors interested in 19th-century construction are welcome to visit at any time throughout the year. They will see exhibits and materials on local history and can also explore the interior of the house itself. Although it has not been restored to any fixed historic period, it contains a great number of original features from 1854: pine flooring, four fireplaces, plaster crown moldings, high ceilings and strange sets of small rooms off larger chambers.
Community archives opened in 2006.
Local history research
A popular feature of the St. Marys Museum is the area for research into local history. A new wing for this community archives was opened in June 2006. The addition to the north of the original building is completely accessible and is well used by researchers throughout the year.
As well as municipal records, census indexes, listings for area cemeteries, local marriage, birth and death records, maps, photographs, family and community histories, this archives features St. Marys newspapers dating back to 1857. The newspaper archival materials were officially donated to the Museum in March 2007 by their last private owner. In recognition, the research area has been named: R. Lorne Eedy Archives.
Friends of the Museum
Curator Amy Cubberley with two oils by E.E. Munro, part of the recent exhibit “Picture Perfect.”
Tours, events, visits reflect steady growth
At the Friends of the St. Marys Museum’s Annual General Meeting on March 23, staff members presented an overview of the Museum’s projects and activities since the 2014 AGM. There was particular interest in Bethany Kearsley’s demonstration of Past Perfect – collections management software that tracks artifacts according to classification, specific names, location, condition, donor information and much more. Bethany’s goal is to enter the Museum’s entire collection using this program. She has completed almost 1,000 entries but admits there are many, many more to enter. Past Perfect can also be used to track and record archival collections. Manager Trisha McKibbin reported an increase in all areas of attendance: events hosted, outreach, museum tours and visitors to the archives.
New grad enjoys variety of roles
Curator and Archives Assistant Amy Cubberley recently graduated with a Diploma in Cultural Resource Management and a Professional Specialization in Collections Management from the University of Victoria (Continuing Studies). She also has a BA in Geography and History from the University of Western Ontario. Amy was featured in the management program’s recent newsletter. She was asked to describe a typical work day. Her answer reveals the variety of responsibilities in a small community museum:
“Every day at my job is different, which is part of the reason why I love it so much! Visitor traffic is slower at this time of year which allows for much of the ‘behind the scenes’ work to get done. During the winter months, much of my time is spent installing exhibits, accessioning artifact donations, planning and promoting events and programs, writing grant applications and responding to research requests. We have a large team of dedicated volunteers so part of each day is spent overseeing their projects. In the spring, summer and fall, much more of my time is spent leading tours and field trips, implementing special events, overseeing the summer staff and leading outreach programming. As a municipal employee, I also have the opportunity to work collaboratively with other municipal departments, such as planning joint field trip programs with the St. Marys Public Library.”
Ken Telfer’s seminar presentation on early hotels and taverns in the St. Marys area, “Set ’em Up, Barkeep,” has already been offered three times – twice in January and once in February. There is one more opportunity to attend this popular seminar on Saturday, April 25, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. in the End Zone at the Pyramid Recreation Centre. There will be good seats for everyone, but pre-registration would still be appreciated. To register, call the Museum at 519-284-3556.
Show your support for the St. Marys Museum. Buy a membership during your next visit or download a membership form.