Preserving and Celebrating Memories for 50 Years

Like most communities the Peterborough area was (and still is) home to a variety of dairies and creameries. Photo: PMA: 981.29

The Link, Summer 2017
| by Joanne Culley |

The year 2017 marks not only the 150th anniversary of Canada but also the 50th anniversary of the Peterborough Museum and Archives which originated as a Centennial project in 1967.

“Peterborough citizens formed a committee to gather together the various collections that had been scattered throughout the city, in the former Carnegie Library, now the north wing of City Hall, and elsewhere to construct a permanent home for the area’s artifacts and collections,” says Jon Oldham, Programming Assistant.

The mandate of the museum is to ‘Preserve and celebrate the collective memories of our community in its stories, images and traces of the people and the land.’ To mark this significant milestone, the museum is staging a special exhibit entitled Made in Canada, Really! which will feature objects that were manufactured in Peterborough from the 19th century to the present, highlighting Peterborough’s industrial age.

“…bringing Peterborough to the world and the world to Peterborough.” – Jon Oldham

The Calcutt Brewery operated in Ashburnham/East City from the 1860s until the 1930s closing only for 1916 during prohibition. Photo: PMA: 989.14.38

“There will be objects big and small forming the collection, including a Pioneer chainsaw, the four-millionth General Electric motor, a bottle from Calcutt Brewery, artifacts from Quaker Oats, Fisher Gauge, Brinton Carpet, Westclox, Ovaltine, Moncrief’s Dairy and more,” continues Oldham. “There will be a cross-section of the kinds of objects that were produced in Peterborough, along with some surprises. And of course there will be stories about the objects, interpretive text and photographs.”

The Made in Canada, Really! exhibit will have its official grand opening on Sunday, July 2 as part of the city’s heritage-themed day and the culmination of the four-day Canada 150 celebrations. The open house will feature a behind-the-scenes tour of the new storage facility, music, food, crafts and activities, along with festivities at the Trent-Severn Waterway’s Visitor Centre.

Since its inception in 1967 the museum has undergone many improvements and expansions, the most recent being the new 9,000 sq. ft. stand-alone storage facility which was completed in 2015. At three times the size of the previous storage space the building has improved shelving, improved access and proper environmental controls to securely store and manage the museum’s extensive collections.

“At any given time just one per cent of our collection is on display, with 99 per cent in storage,” says Oldham. “The new storage facility allows more workspace for museum personnel and researchers to access the artifacts and develop exhibits. Now all the museum’s collections are stored on-site: archives and artifacts, including photographs from the Parks Studio and the Balsillie Collection of Roy Studio images.”

Throughout the year the museum offers many family-friendly activities such as Heritage Hunts, Play as You Go and Jellybean’s Backpacks, with activities that encourage kids to have fun while exploring the museum. There are often drop-in craft programs on Sunday afternoons.

The museum has a unique, collaborative partnership with Fleming College’s Museum Management and Curatorship program, the only one of its kind in Canada. Fleming students develop and stage exhibitions, learn preservation techniques and more as part of their studies in an on-site classroom.

Other exhibits coming up this year include ‘Voices from the Engraver’ courtesy of the Currency Museum in Ottawa, October 8 to December 10 and ‘Northern Owls,’ a travelling exhibit from Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, December 17, 2017 to April 9, 2018.

“The museum tells stories by bringing Peterborough to the world and the world to Peterborough,” says Oldham.

Admission is free to the museum which is open year-round Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm and Saturday and Sunday, 12 to 5 pm. On Sunday, July 2 the museum will be open from 9 am to 5 pm for the special 50th Anniversary event.

The Peterborough Museum & Archives is located in scenic Ashburnham Memorial Park, on the side of Armour Hill, at 300 Hunter Street East. For more information, please call 705-743-5180 or visit