Thunder Bay·Audio

Nipigon, Ont., museum hopes to catch stories about community history, before it's too late

Some of the most important parts of a community's history is passed down from generation to generation.

Museum hopes to capture stories of everyday life in northwestern Ontario

Betty Brill, the curator at the Nipigon Museum, is spearheading the Nipigon Narrations project, which will see memories of 50 people from the community recorded. (Jeff Walters/CBC)
Collecting the 'living history' of any community can be a challenge.Jeff Walters has the story about a project in Nipigon that hopes to record stories from around town, before they are gone forever. 6:57

Some of the most important parts of a community's history is passed down from generation to generation.

It's the stories of everyday life that the Nipigon Museum hopes to capture as part of its Nipigon Narrations project.

The project will see 50 people interviewed, with their stories of the past archived to get a feeling as to what life was like in the earlier days of Nipigon.

"The board sat down and did a brainstorming, and listed a bunch of people. And then we had an open house and people could put their own names in, or suggest people," said Betty Brill, the curator of the Nipigon Museum.

"There was a ton of stories that I didn't know," said Dee McCullay, a filmmaker who is putting together a digital video of the community, as well as the museum's exhibits.

"I thought I knew a lot of stuff about Nipigon, but when uncovering all this, there was a lot of, that I came across that I was like, 'that's pretty cool.'"

"I knew a few places here burned. I didn't know the whole Main Street burned though. Pretty much every building was gone. It's pretty neat." 

Brill said one example of a story of interest to the project is a teacher who moved to the town in 1959. Coming from England, by train, she really didn't know what to expect.

Brill said she was shocked when the train pulled away, and somebody told her the edge of town was the treeline. The newly hired teacher, who responded to an ad, said she had never experienced anything like it before.

Another challenge in running a small museum, Brill said, is people from the community often drop off photos, but exactly who is in those pictures, is unknown.

"We are doing show and tell, every two weeks, where I put out the photographs, where I don't know who it is, and these people will tell us who they are, if they know," said Brill.

"We've got over 10,000 photographs in the museum, so I put out maybe a hundred at a time. Sometimes I get 50 to 90 identified people."

About the Author

Jeff Walters

Reporter/Editor

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.

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