KAGAWONG—It has been a crazy busy season at the Old Mill Heritage Centre and curator Rick Nelson could not be any happier. “We had a great season,” he said, noting that numbers are up considerably from last year and the season still has a couple of weeks to go.
“We close Thanksgiving Monday,” said Mr. Nelson, “so the end date on the Pearson Exhibit is October 8—that’s the last day you can see this amazing collection of mementos of one of Canada’s most important contributions to world peace.”
Lester Bowles Pearson was the MP for Algoma East from 1948 to 1968 and Canada’s 14th prime minster (1965-68), but he is also Canada’s only Nobel Peace Prize recipient, credited with pulling the world back from the brink of nuclear war during the Suez Crisis and the father of UN peacekeeping.
“The conservators will be showing up on October 11 to pack everything up, then Manitoulin Transport will be picking the material up and taking it back to Ottawa, where it will disappear into the vaults of the National Archives for who knows how long,” said Mr. Nelson.
The curator noted that the material, being associated with a political figure, is problematic for a lot of the national museums. “We can get away with it because he was our Member of Parliament, but of one of the national museums put on a display there would be someone calling them up and demanding that they do one on Stephen Harper, and then if they did that someone would want one on Jean Chretien,” he laughed. What about Jack Layton? “He never got to be prime minister, but probably. So it will have to be a university or some other organization to be able to display this stuff again, the museums really have handcuffs on for this kind of thing.”
The season was quite a whirlwind for the Old Mill Heritage Centre staff and the Billings Museum committee, noted Mr. Nelson. “There was the Pearson Exhibit, of course, but there was also a speaking series attached to that where we had TVO’s Steve Paikin talking about his new book on former Ontario Premier Bill Davis, as well as a panel discussion with Billings Mayor Austin Hunt facilitated by current Algoma Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha and a presentation by columnist Andrew Cohen who gave a fantastic synopsis of the life and times of Canada’s most famous person. “We capped that with the History Day in Kagawong, where we heard from Lester B.’s granddaughter Patricia Pearson and other family members,” recalled Mr. Nelson.
“That was really the icing on the cake, because one of the family members was so taken with Manitoulin Island and what they saw here when they came for a couple of days that they have already booked a cottage to come back and visit for a longer visit next year. They were delighted by the project.”
As to next year’s display, Mr. Nelson said they have just about got that figured out. “We are thinking a blacksmith display,” he said. “We have loads of blacksmith stuff in storage that doesn’t get out much, so 2018 will really be the first opportunity.”
Fall hours for the museum are 11 am to 4 pm Wednesday through Sunday. The GoFundMe account is still active raising money to help fund the exhibit and the museum is still fundraising to cover their expenses. “We hope that there could be a last-minute surge of donors,” said Mr. Nelson. “They can link the account by going to our website https://www.gofundme.com/lester-b-pearson-and-canadian-flag .”