Nearly every rural community has a museum. It’s easy to dismiss them as quaint, locally funded projects of cottage country and flyover towns. That’s because there’s a perception that if they aren’t the size and infamy of the Royal Ontario Museum, then it’s no big deal to pass them up. It’s an unfortunate misconception, and it couldn’t be farther from the truth.
For instance, at the Museum of Dufferin (MoD) the story of rural Dufferin County is brought to life in a state-of-the-art facility that encourages visitors to interact with the exhibits and programs.
“People are quite surprised when they visit,” says Nanci Malek, Events and Marketing Coordinator at the MoD. “It’s not a little country museum. It’s quite a high-class country museum.”
The MoD recently underwent significant renovations. Today, visitors enter a haven of open space with a clean, modern feel where its Corn Flower Glass Gallery is the centrepiece, which celebrates the Dufferin-born glasscutter William John Hughes whose tableware creations became a national brand.
“We have the largest collection of this glassware in the world, and the company started here in Dufferin County,” she explains. “It’s displayed in a beautiful, state-of-the-art glass gallery. It’s stunning.”
Other exhibits include Temperance and Temptation, which looks back at the prohibition era in the region, and True Grit, which honours community leaders past and present. There’s also an online exhibit on the MoD’s website detailing the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic dubbed, “Sufferin’ in Dufferin”.
In addition to historical artifacts, the museum also provides a number of educational and interactive programming throughout the year. Escape rooms, scavenger hunts, and other festivals draw crowds, and the MoD Talks series host national celebrities like former NHL player Terry O’Reilly, and CBC broadcaster George Stromboulopoulos. This year, MoD Talks welcomes long-standing Canadian radio broadcaster Michael Enright, and singer-songwriter Jim Cuddy from the band Blue Rodeo. Moreover, the museum will hold its first Prohibition Halloween Dinner Theatre with Canadian actress and comedian Mag Ruffman, which is an extension of its Temperance and Temptation exhibit.
Overall, the MoD ensures the local history that shaped Dufferin County is preserved in a way that remains relevant to people today.
“These are the stories that make you who you are,” Malek says. “It gives you an idea of what your ancestors went through. We are so lucky at this point in history to have the information and the stories. Some of these stories were never passed on, so that’s the beautiful thing about archive departments and collections. It is the land where people literally tilled the soil, cut the trees, and built the buildings. Folks have come over from the U.K. and started their lives anew here, and I have such respect for them and what they went through.”
To commemorate the innovative local minds of Dufferin County, MoD is launching its Tinker exhibit, which looks at all the inventions that community members have contributed to the world like the snowplough.
Visit the Museum of Dufferin at 936029 Airport Road in Mulmer. For more information, go to www.dufferinmuseum.com, or call (519) 941-1114.
By Katherine Ryalen