What is a museum?
- “A permanent institution in the service of society…, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates, and exhibits the tangible evidence of a people and their environment.” – International Council of Museums
- "A building used for storing, preserving, and exhibiting objects considered to be of lasting historical, scientific, or cultural interest.” – Oxford Canadian Dictionary
The earliest museums in Canada were developed recognizing the educational value of the “object lesson”; the fact that people’s understanding of their past is most effectively communicated and developed by exposure to the artifacts themselves.
Ontario does not have a “provincial museum.” Unfortunately, even the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is not a museum of provincial history. The responsibility to collect and interpret our provincial history has been given to local communities and it is through the collection and interpretation of artifacts that our provincial history is told. The Chatham-Kent Museum has been established primarily to collect and preserve the material heritage significant to the development of the Municipality of Chatham-Kent and to use this material to present and promote the history of this community.
Some artifacts’ historical significance may be self evident such as an early crock with a Thamesville merchant’s name on it or a carriage with a Chatham manufacturer’s plaque attached. Other items are not so self evident because the story or provenance about that item is not so obvious. Consider an old tintype photograph of a man. With no identifying information on it, the photo has no historical significance to our area. If a donor, however, knows that this is their great great grandfather who was a pioneer settler in Dover Township, then the photo takes on great importance to our local history. These stories are often forgotten over the generations or lost when a piece is sold and it is these stories that museums are particularly interested in preserving. (Note: If you have old photos or other family heirlooms at home that you know the history of -write it down and keep it with the item. Even if you do not want to donate it to a museum, your few minutes of time will add great historical value to the item and will make it much more meaningful for future generations.)
Many donors have entrusted the Chatham-Kent Museum with their heirlooms and their stories; a trust that benefits our community and a trust that we greatly appreciate. For information on donations please contact the curator of the Chatham-Kent Museum.