By Emily Beliveau, Digital Project Assistant
Twenty-five years ago, on 30 September 1989, the newly redeveloped Huron County Museum officially opened to the public. Just a few years earlier, the fate of the Museum was in question after part of the main building was closed due to structural problems. Seven years later, the Huron County Museum was reborn for a new era with the completion of a $4 million dollar renovation delivered on time and on budget.
Originally housed in the 1856 Central Schoolhouse building, the museum first opened to the public in 1951. From there its footprint gradually grew as other buildings were constructed to house additional exhibits, most notably the 1913 CPR shunting locomotive purchased in 1958.
In the photo below, you can see the locomotive in its permanent home covered by orange tarpaulins while the new museum building goes up around it. The train is now the central feature of the History Hall gallery, a streetscape of town life from around Huron County in the early 1900s. The redevelopment gave the museum the ability to showcase old and new by building a modern facility around the schoolhouse–itself a historic artefact.
From the museum’s Archives, here is a rare glimpse of the empty upper hallway in the schoolhouse while it was being restored as well as a view of the exhibits before redevelopment. The redeveloped museum purposely retained some of the character of our original curator’s displays while also using modern display techniques to tell the story of Huron County.
If you visit the museum today, you will find a mix of old favorites and new things to discover. You can still turn the handles on Mr. Neill’s wooden models, see the two-headed calves and ring the train bell, but you can also learn something new from a temporary exhibit or do something new at a special event. Twenty-five years later, our new building might not be so new anymore, but it serves us well as we continue to share the evolving history of Huron County in new and old ways.