South Dumfries Historical Society
President’s Report for 2009
The South Dumfries Historical Society was founded in 2003, and we have grown to become an important and active part of our community. We work to promote both our local history and history in general through year-round events and activities and the operation of our community museum.
Board of Directors: As always, we have been blessed with a hard-working group of volunteer directors: Betty Ames, Cliff Jones, David Judd, David Simpson, and Gwen Hunter. Thanks are due to all for their efforts and dedication over the past year, and especially to those who are leaving the Board this year.
Speaker Series: David Simpson continues to find speakers to inform, entertain, and challenge us through our Speaker Series. Mavis Grey and John Clarke are kind enough to carry on with the task of calling members to inform them of events. Our appreciation also goes out the Firefighters and the County for the use of the Fire Hall for meetings.
Museum: The Museum continues to be open most Saturdays from 11 to 2, with extended hours for special events. This year we hosted the Brant Historical Society when they had their Volunteer Appreciation evening, and a special tour was given to young people from Crossing All Bridges Learning Centre. The Museum was one of the host sites for Doors Open Brant this year, attracting 80 visitors from near and far. Total visitation for the year was 443.
Membership: This year, we had 35 paid memberships. Please encourage your family, friends, and neighbours to join so that we can continue to protect, preserve, and promote our history.
Education: This year, we arranged for Kevin Sylvester, an award-winning author of sports books for children, to do a day’s programme at St. George-Germans School, followed by an evening speaking session. As well, we provided financial support to the school’s GEMfest programme, which brings arts and history educators to the school.
Partnerships: David Simpson has been our rep at meetings of the Brant Museums and Galleries Association, which facilitates communication between local sites. He has also been a member of the Brant Heritage Committee.
County Support: The County of Brant continues to provide the Society with a Heritage Grant, although the amount has been reduced compared to previous years. This has been an across-the-board decrease. We are also fortunate to receive in-kind funding with our facility in the Memorial Hall. County staff has also been extremely helpful when it comes to special arrangements for community events.
Joyce Wehrstein Memorial Fund: Thanks to the generous donations from family and friends, we have a balance of $755.00 in a special fund in Joyce’s memory. We will be meeting with John in April to determine the best use for the money.
Jane’s Walk: This year, the Society hosted the first Jane’s Walk of St. George. Inspired by Jane Jacob’s, a Toronto advocate of the “living city”, the walk is intended to inform people about the past and present of their community and how it works, and to inspire them to consider the future. This year’s walk consisted of about 60 people, a very pleasant surprise! Plans are underway for this year’s Jane’s Walk – mark May 2nd on your calendars.
Canada Day: July 1, 2003 was the first public event for the SDHS, and it continues to be our biggest event of the year. From a few speeches and a museum open house, it has grown into a community-wide event that everyone can enjoy. There were a number of changes this year. With the change of venue for the Firefighters’ fireworks display to King William Park, the construction at the Arena, and the canceling of the County’s Canada Day grant, we scaled back plans and concentrated on festivities on Main St. With a generous donation from the Speelziek family, we were able to Maintain a full day of activities for all. Thanks to all of our volunteers and helpers, especially the merchants of Main St.
Fall Antique Fair & Sale: After 6 years of running this fine show, the state of the economy and its effect on the antiques trade, coupled with the construction at the arena, caused us to cancel the show for 2009. This gave everyone a much-needed break, and let our volunteers and helpers go to the Fair instead! We haven’t yet decided what the status of this year’s show is.
Remembrance Day: The Society again sponsored a wreath for the Remembrance Day cenotaph ceremony co-ordinated by the Legion. We also held our second Veterans’ Memorial Dinner, which looks like it will become an annual event. The evening celebrated the upcoming centennial of the Canadian Navy, with a speaker from the Naval Reserves and a military-themed sing-along.
Memorial Hall and Old School: Both of these building have been declared surplus by the County, in anticipation that the ownership and operation of the buildings will be assumed by local community organizations. To this end, the Society arranged for the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario to do a preliminary assessment of both buildings. In general, while both structures do have some inherent flaws due to their age, they are in reasonably good shape. In July, we held an Open House in the Upper Hall, and later in the summer, the Cobblestone Festival used the venue for part of their one act play series with much success, which we hope will continue this year.
An ad hoc group of interested people, tentatively called the South Dumfries Heritage Trust, has been set up to investigate the feasibility of operating one or both of the buildings. Both David Simpson and I are part of the group. We have expressed our interest to the County, and a business plan is currently being developed with the assistance of Enterprise Brant. Progress is slow, but this is not something that should be leapt into without some very careful planning and study. Please see David or myself if you would like to contribute in any way.
Volunteers: The heart of any successful community organization is its volunteers. Nothing that we do would be possible without the support and efforts of our dedicated volunteers. Whether it’s been all year long or for an hour or two, we greatly appreciate all that you have done to help put our plans into action. We are always looking for new ideas, new perspectives, and new energy. If you can help out, please contact any board member or drop by the museum. Thank you all!
Clifford T. Jones
Monday, March 29, 2010