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This week was volunteer appreciation week.  Museum Strathroy-Caradoc has a number of dedicated volunteers working with the collection and below are their stories.

I started volunteering to work at the Strathroy Museum in September of 2014. As of March 31, 2016 I have 326 hours of community service. My work involves taking pictures of items and logging them into the computer (into PastPerfect) with a brief description of each item. I currently work Tuesday and Thursday afternoon each week. As I did not grow up in the area I find it interesting to learn more about the history of Strathroy Caradoc.

The RS Williams glass negative collection covers the years of approximately 1901-1905 and were discovered above Bosson’s Pharmacy.  As a recent retiree, I have been cleaning, identifying, recording and digitizing the negatives two mornings a week since October 2015. The tasks give me an insight into the names, clothes and customs of one hundred years ago. I have been fortunate to see the original glass negative of a picture of my maternal grandmother and her sisters from 1901. Preserving the Collection and assisting the Museum Strathroy-Caradoc is an excellent volunteer opportunity

Each week I scan the old Age Dispatch negatives into PastPerfect (the museum database).  I then transcribe the captions from the actual hard copy of the newspapers into the database and create search terms and key words that will aid future researchers.  So far I have completed the newspapers from March and part of April of 1984 and will start on May very soon.

Below are some of the items that George, Paul and John have been working on

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My name is Britanny Benson and I am a co-op student at Strathroy District Collegiate Institute. I choose the museum because I have an interest in the preservation of artifacts. For the past three weeks, I have been working at the museum and completed various jobs. My first project was finding activities for the March Break programs, such as weaving paper fish, making a yarn sun, and using a paper bag to make an Easter basket. I also designed the promotional poster. I helped in the set-up of the current exhibit, “Quilts & Coverlets: Piecing Stories Together” and made the ID cards for the different quilt and loom related artifacts.

The week after March Break, I designed and put together the first of the “Hometown Heroes: Famous Canadians in Strathroy-Caradoc” displays on Stan Long. I choose items relating to Stan Long’s time as a member of the Strathroy Rockets hockey team. This project allowed me to be creative and gave me more experience with how a display is best set-up, even with only a few items. I have started designing next month’s display on Charlotte Rapley, as well. Although I’m unsure if this time will more or less difficult because there are more items that are associated with her, than there were for Stan Long.

Stan Long Display Case

Stan Long Display Case

I still look forward to completing the display because it is something I can learn from and be proud of once it is finished. Mostly, I look forward to working on cleaning the glass plate negatives that were found in Bosson’s Pharmacy in 2011. It will be interesting to see the pictures take shape a little bit at a time, like putting pieces of a puzzle together. I am having a lot of fun working at the museum and hope to learn as much I can.

Rinsing the glass plate negatives in distilled water.

This past Friday, our Collections Assistant Crystal and our summer Intern Jordan started the long process of deep-cleaning the 3000 + glass plate negatives associated with the R.S. Williams Negative Collection.  We started with a trial of ten negatives, making sure to test a wide variety in case smudging occured or the emulsion started to flake.

The negatives were put into three different baths, being soaked for 10-15 seconds in each.  Gloves were worn to prevent finger prints and other natural oils from getting on the negatives.

The drying process was the most time consuming, taking over 8 hours.  Due to the long drying time, we will only be able to fully clean and package approximately 20 negatives per day due to lack of space in our drying racks.

Some of the negatives had what looks like red marker on the top, identifying who was in the picture.  The writing was monitored carefully as the negatives were soaked as to prevent fading and loss of information.

The description of each negative was taken, including a photograph before being treated with the wet cleaning process.  These descriptions will help to form a preliminary index for the collection.

All ten trial negatives drying.

Here at Museum Strathroy-Caradoc we have had a very busy summer so far even though it seems like it just started!  We are working on two projects right now that have created much interest in the community.

Sir Arthur Currie Project:  As some of you already know, we were awarded a grant from the federal government in order to fund the creation of a travelling exhibit about one of Strathroy’s most famous natives, General Sir Arthur Currie.  This exhibit will highlight Currie’s life as he lived it in Strathroy, his efforts in World War One and his life in Montreal.  We are currently working with our partners to create a semblance of a “creeping barrage,” one of the military tactics for which Currie was reknowned.  A creeping barrage is an artillary barrage that slowly “creeps” up the field of  battle towards the enemy lines. The primary usage of the creeping barrage is to  create cover for the soon-to-be advancing soldiers rather then kill enemy  troops.  For a history of how the creeping barrage was used, click here!







R.S. Williams Collection: As mentioned previously in a blog posting in November, the R.S. Williams Collection was discovered above a local business in Strathroy, ON.  Since its discovery, we have received $1000 from the provincial government in order to help clean and properly store the negatives.  Using guides from the Canadian Conservation Institute, we will be cleaning and storing the first 1000 negatives.  Varying in size, these negatives will be cleaned using a 4-step process.  Using three wash tubs, the neagtives will be placed in three different solutions: distilled water, distilled water and ethanol, and distilled water and PhotoFlo.  The distilled water is used so that minerals from regular do not damage the emulsion on the glass.  The ethanol helps to remove any dirt or grime that has affixed itself to the emulsion and/or glass over the years.  Finally, the PhotoFlo helps to prevent streaking.  Once the negatives have been treated in all three formulas, they are placed vertically in a drying rack, being careful to lean only the glass side of the negative against the rack.  This whole process will take about 8 1/2 hours per negative.

A photography studio dating back to 1900 was discovered in the third-floor attic space above Bossons Pharmacy in Strathroy late last year, leading to an incredible donation to Museum Strathroy-Caradoc.

Negatives found on the 3rd floor of Bossons

Through the efforts of Louis Haan the contractor who discovered this treasure and building owner Laura Bossons nearly 3,000 glass-plate negatives have been saved ensuring an important piece of history is shared with the community.

The photography studio, run by Roger Sifton Williams, was in operation from 1900 until 1905 above Stepler’s Drug Store on Front Street (present-day Bossons Pharmacy). Williams was born in Strathroy in 1877 and, according to the 1901 Census, lived on Front Street with his wife Marion Maud Lucas.

During his short career as a photographer in Strathroy, R. S. Williams captured images of local residents and outdoor scenes. Many of the photo negatives are identified, making them valuable for genealogical and local history research.

Next steps include organizing, cleaning, cataloguing and storing these treasures so they are accessible to the public. The estimated cost of the project is $5,000, which includes the purchase of cleaning supplies and archival envelopes. A later phase of the project will include digitally reproducing the images so they are available to the public.

Photograph of Jessie Zavitz

Negative on light box

If you are interested in helping preserve these photographs for future generations please consider donating to Museum Strathroy-Caradoc and specify that you’d like the money to go toward the R. S. Williams Collection. All funds raised will go directly to purchasing supplies to clean and store the glass-plate negatives.

About the Museum

Museum Strathroy-Caradoc opened to the public in 1972. As a community museum we strive to preserve and tell the story of Strathroy-Caradoc, and inspire residents to explore and understand the community around them.

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