In January 2021, the South Stormont Council considered the demolition of the Raisin River Historical Society building as an option for how they were going to deal with the building. Courtesy Photo

LONG SAULT – Township of South Stormont is looking into potential storage options for Cornwall Township Historical Society artifacts currently housed at the Raisin River Heritage Centre.

“The Cornwall Township Historical Society is concerned about the safety and condition of our artifacts that are located at the Heritage Centre in St. Andrews. In light of the fact that the future of the Heritage Centre is in doubt, we feel that the process of relocating the artifacts to a more suitable location should begin now,” Cornwall Township Historical Society president Don McIntosh said in an email to South Stormont.

The April 13 council meeting included a presentation from McIntosh to discuss the relocation of historical society artifacts. Council agreed that the artifacts need to be relocated to a safe, secure, and appropriate location as soon as possible.

McIntosh began his presentation by thanking the township for a $725 grant to the organization. He said the money is to be used to cover operating expenses, as well as to erect another historical flag in St. Andrews West that is to complement the village’s existing walking tour.

“The reason myself and the others are here tonight is to express our urgent concerns about the unsafe location of where our artifacts are currently being stored,” McIntosh said. “A little bit of a background now, the Raisin River Heritage Centre used to be the home of the Cornwall Township Historical Society until the building was condemned several years ago. There, we held our meetings and at times attracted several people interested in local history. We also opened during the summer for guided tours. On the second floor of the Heritage Centre, we operated a museum that housed local artifacts.”

McIntosh said an inventory of the artifacts was done in 1998, revealing the existence of more than 250 items. Each of the items was documented, including the names of those who donated the items.

“To say that some of these items are priceless is certainly not an exaggeration,” he said, detailing the origin and history of some of the items on display. “There’s a story behind each and every one of our artifacts.”

He reminded council that the Heritage Centre was vandalized roughly a year ago. At that time the showcases had been smashed and several artifacts had been broken or stolen.

“We all know that the future of the Heritage Centre is uncertain. What we are asking is that you make it a priority to remove the artifacts into a safe location, not wait until the future of the centre is decided but do it now,” he said. “We’re requesting somewhere where we have safe access to them with a potential for the possibility of a future display of the artifacts. We realize that there are ongoing discussions with the Upper Canada District School Board on the issue of an archive for Stormont County, but our artifacts are in jeopardy now. We can’t wait for that to happen. The most urgent important issue is a safe storage of our township’s precious historical artifacts that make up the history of this area. It would be a shame to lose them through neglect.”

Mayor Bryan McGillis invited director of parks and recreation Kevin Amelotte to speak to the issue. Amelotte said he’s been on site a few times since the vandalism and confirmed that several items were “ruined beyond repair.”

“I agree, it’s not a secure location for those artifacts. I’m not sure what the answer is or if council has suggestions on what to do moving forward,” Amelotte said. “We’re talking about even if there’s some type of secure storage, a heated storage unit for now, a secure location that the township can help this historical society until we find a permanent solution.”

Amelotte said the storage of artifacts is not his area of expertise. He welcomed suggestions from council and staff on how to proceed to ensure the remaining artifacts are protected. Currently, the artifacts are taking up a roughly 2,000-square-foot space, but this is with items on display. It was noted that stored items would take up much less space.

Deputy Mayor David Smith and Coun. Andrew Guindon agreed with the idea of finding a nearby safe and suitable storage facility. In addition to security from theft and fire, the issue of required temperature and air circulation for storing artifacts was also mentioned. It was noted that the current space at the museum has possibly never met the necessary storage conditions, and a storage facility ensuring safety from theft or fire would be an improvement.

“I think it would be appropriate if we took a look at two or three storage options in terms of location, as well as the facilities that they would have available in relation to heat, humidity, those kinds of things,” chief administrative officer Debi LucasSwitzer said. “Depending on the type of artifact, the style of artifact, whether it’s paper versus cloth versus hard surface wood, or metal, the requirements are all a little bit different. So, I think it would be appropriate for us to take a look at some options and then have the director of parks and recreation meet with Mr. McIntosh and members of his team and take a look to see, but I suspect one single unit isn’t going to be enough.”

McGillis said the township will do their best to find something as soon as possible, as this is a priority. When that happens, they will reach out to McIntosh for his opinion.