A picture of early downtown Ridgetown,  with carriages parked infront of buildings

What is a museum?

A museum is a permanent institution in the service of society, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates, and exhibits the tangible evidence of a people and their environment.

Any institution that collects, conserves, researches, and exhibits objects of lasting interest or value for the purpose of study, education, and enjoyment can be defined as a museum.

Collecting/acquisition is a crucial role of a museum since it is a starting point for all the other functions of a museum. 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.

An antique golden oil lampOntario 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 Ridge House Museum has been established primarily to collect and preserve original/period artifacts that can be incorporated in the interpretation of the lifestyle of a middle class family representative of the original occupants of “Ridge House”’ in 1875. It will also collect artifacts and archival material from other time periods that have direct historic significance to Ridgetown and the surrounding community.

Some artifacts’ historical significance may be self evident such as an early crock with a Ridgetown merchant’s name on it. 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 Ridgetown, 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 Ridge House 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 Ridge House Museum.