150 Years: 150 Artifacts

Jeanette Elliott, Collections Relocations Assitant

The history of Canada spans far more than the 150 years that we celebrate with the 2017 Sesquicentennial. We are a country built by a diverse population, and shaped by extraordinary events set against a vast natural landscape. Our new exhibit celebrates the 150th birthday of our nation by telling the story of London and Middlesex County from 1820 to 1920 - a small and localized portion of Canada’s history. “150 Years: 150 Artifacts” features unique objects and images from our permanent collection that represent key people, stories and events which shaped that century of Canadian history.

One of the most imposing, and heaviest artifacts in the exhibit is London’s first fire bell. The 700 pound bronze bell was ordered from A. Good of Buffalo, New York, and arrived in London in 1848 after being on exhibit at the Buffalo New York fair. The maker’s mark is cast on the outer rim along with the name of London’s Mayor, S. Morrill, Esq. It is believed that the bell was later moved to the new City Hall around 1854, and is now in the Fanshawe Pioneer Village Permanent Collection.

Be sure to check out the “Great Local Ideas” exhibit case where you’ll find an amazing invention patented in 1921 by London business owner Robert Greene. The “Twin Trail” roadway system saw a section of gravel laid between two strips of concrete pavement with saw-tooth edges. The invention provided a road free from ruts for horse drawn wagons and smooth pavement for automobiles to travel upon. A demonstration site was originally installed on Alexander Street, and later on Springbank Drive.

What image comes to mind when you think of Canada? Perhaps it’s a maple leaf or a beaver, a hockey game or Canadian flag. Grab a scavenger hunt and try your hand at finding all the great Canadian imagery hiding in the cases. You’ll find a bit of everything in this exhibit; from skates and sleds to stoves and swimsuits, we’ve brought out some of the most interesting and unusual objects in our collection, all in honour of Canada’s birthday!

And just in case you were wondering, yes, there really are 150 artifacts on display - I counted every one!