January 30, 2018 - The one million dollar exhibit and program centre has opened
at 460 Sunset Drive. Designed to hold both travelling and permanent exhibitions,
the centre's first exhibit features the medieval world.
The centre now provides about 3000 square feet of space, two-thirds of which will
be used for exhibit, programming and public meetings. This increases by over 25%
the space that was available for these functions on the fourth floor of 450 Sunset.
As well, the 13-foot ceilings allows for large graphics to be installed. The present
series features images of local railway stations from the Elgin County Archives.
The centre piece of the new facility is "Talbot's Castle" an imaginative creation
based on parts of Malahide Castle in Ireland where Col. Thomas Talbot was born.
Talbot - the man who settled most of a large swath of southwestern Ontario in the
early 19th century - lived in what he called 'Castle Malahide' in today's Dutton-Dunwich.
The castle – home to the Talbots for over 500 years - is located near Dublin and
is today a major tourist attraction. Beamed ceilings and a huge Gothic window from
the castle have been recreated here as a backdrop for the Talbot story. Graphics
include a 10-foot wide map of the Talbot Settlement stretching from Woodstock to
Windsor, a large hand-painted coat of arms and several assorted portraits standing
in for Talbot relatives.
Large rustic tables and benches have been created adding to the medieval castle
feel. These and the architectural fittings are the work of theatre set designers
and builders Eric Bunnell, Tony Sclafani, and Dariusz Korbiel, from Port Stanley.
The art work, including a 10-foot tall replica in colour of Robert the Bruce's funerary
brass, is by Lydia Lane, a medieval artist from St. Thomas.
The funerary brass relates to one of the activities visitors and their children
can participate in at the new centre: doing a brass rubbing of what are essentially
medieval tombstones. Visitors can also make a catapult and shoot at a model castle
or pound on a patterned die to make a coin. Visitors can also try on helmets, chain
mail and have a photo taken in the stocks.
Some of these activities accompany the first of the centre's travelling exhibits
– Once Upon a Time. The exhibit is on loan from the Bruce County Museum and provides
a comprehensive overview of the medieval era in Europe from 500 to 1500 AD. The
show features a number of detailed models of cathedrals and other buildings. The
Centre has added a number of artifacts from the permanent collection representing
the variety of tools in use when this area was settled whose direct antecedents
can be found in medieval times. Some, like the flail – a key harvesting tool in
the settler period - could mean either the threshing tool in medieval times or a
mace-like weapon of war. The travelling exhibit will close at the end of April,
however the Centre's Medieval School Program will continue to be offered. The next
show, slated to open on May 12th, celebrates the 200th anniversary of the arrival
of the Scots in Elgin County.
Feb 19th - Family Day - the Centre will host Medieval Day – the first of several
special event days. The Centre will welcome members of the Essex Medieval Heritage
Society displaying armour and an expert on brass rubbings. Visitors will be able
to do their own brass rubbing, try on chain mail and a helmet and get a photo in
It was also intended that the centre be the first stop in a visitor's exploration
of the small towns, attractions and heritage sites elsewhere in the county. A guide
brochure to other attractions is available at the site and the gift shop – still
under development – will hold specialty products such as soap and lavender and various
art works, all from local sources.
The allocation of new money to the federal government's Cultural Spaces grant program
jump started the revised planning for the new heritage centre and ground was broken
in late spring of last year.
The former exhibit space at 450 Sunset will continue to house artifact receiving
and conservation and will also provide additional storage space for the permanent
collection and for the county archives which is also located in that building.
The new Centre is open Tuesday to Thursday from 11 to 7 and on Fridays and Saturdays
from 10 until 4.