London

Restoring the Banting House Flame of Hope for diabetics around the world

Efforts are underway at the Banting National Historic Site in London to restore the Flame of Hope that was snuffed out by vandals in June.

The flame was extinguished by vandals in mid-June

The Flame of Hope at the Banting House in London, Ont. was snuffed out by vandals on June 13, 2020. (Travis Dolynny/CBC)

Efforts are underway at the Banting National Historic Site in London to restore the Flame of Hope that was snuffed out by vandals on June 13.

The flame, which was lit by the late Queen Mother in 1989, is an international symbol of the battle against diabetes.

Grant Maltman, the curator of the museum, said crews had begun an assessment of what it will take to repair the damaged equipment Thursday.

"They literally vacuumed a whole shop bag of junk from the bowl and the burner area, and the initial assessment is we're going to need to replace a sensor, we're going to replace an igniter, but they're not going to know for sure until they get a full crew in to take a look at the entire mechanism itself," he said.

Efforts are being made to have the Flame of Hope restored and re-lit before October. (Travis Dolynny/CBC)

Maltman said the bowl was just full of junk.

"It was stuffed with metal, with paper, with wood, pieces of tin. There was part of a lock-latch inside, some drug paraphernalia. Whatever you could throw in there, that's what was done."

Grant Maltman is the curator of the Banting National Historic Site in London, Ont. (Gary Ennett/CBC)

No one knows who vandalized the flame or why, and Maltman says it's unlikely they ever will.

"We don't have cameras on site. It was dark and our security lighting in that section of the square isn't that bright. So this is one of those unresolved incidents."

But Maltman is grateful for the strong public response to a financial campaign to replace the flame and improve security at the site. 

The museum set out to raise $20,000 and has achieved 95 per cent of its goal.

"We've built a campaign around not only rekindling the flame but also a little preventative maintenance to ensure that something like this doesn't happen again."

Donations pour in from around the world

And the contributions haven't just come from Londoners.

"We've had gifts from around the world coming in to support this, which … it has been very heartening."

Maltman said they hope to have the flame restored by October when the museum will mark the 100th anniversary of Sir Frederick Banting's co-discovery of insulin and its therapeutic potential.

The plan is to do a "soft rekindling" as soon as possible and then a formal outdoor ceremony in the fall for an official re-lighting of the flame.

The Flame of Hope was lit in 1989. (Supplied by Banting House)

The vandalism came during an already challenging year for Banting House with the COVID-19 pandemic preventing people from visiting the museum.

Like many other institutions, they were forced to move all of their exhibits online.

An intern from Western University's history department helped transform the museum's website and rebuilt its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, Maltman said.

A statue of Sir Frederick Banting at the Banting House in London, Ont. Banting was involved in the discovery of insulin. (Travis Dolynny/CBC)

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