The drywall divider between the public and the construction area of the new Community Archives has now been removed, allowing people on the second floor of Belleville Public Library to see into the new Archives reading room for the first time. Our reception desk has been built and IT connections are in the process of being hooked up. Work on packing up the archives in our current space is under way and we are looking forward to formally opening our doors in the new building in April.
As 2015 comes to a close, I would like to thank all of the volunteers and students who have contributed to the work of the Community Archives this year. The Archives volunteers alone have contributed some 4,000 hours of work in sorting, boxing, listing and digitizing records. We have helped more than 300 visitors discover more about our community’s past and have answered over 450 telephone calls this year.
Our Young Canada Works summer students, Heather Malcolm and Nicholas VanExan, worked hard on a variety of processing jobs, including the Historical Society’s Textual Records series and Gerry Boyce’s records. They also added a number of descriptions to Ontario’s online archival network, Archeion. In the Fall, Loyalist co-op student Sydney Welch was busy digitizing some of our glass lantern slides and negatives, many of which are now available on Flickr.
In the first three months of 2016 we will be moving the archives into our new location in the Belleville Public Library. With over 2,500 boxes and volumes to shift, this is going to be a major undertaking and there will be periods in that time where the Community Archives will be closed to the public as we prepare materials for the move. We ask for your patience in this transition period: if you are planning a research trip, please leave it until after March, when we will be in our new space and better able to assist you!
In the meantime, I would like to wish you a peaceful and happy holiday season and leave you with this postcard, sent by ‘sister Lillie’ of Port Stanley to Duncan Morrison of Tweed in December 1910.
Amanda Hill (Acting Archivist)
The storage areas of the new Community Archives’ space are now complete and the shelving is being constructed. This picture shows the first vault (what used to be the Canadiana Room in the Belleville Public Library) where the floor for the shelves is complete and the outer walls of the shelving have been built:
Below is the second vault, where the rails for the mobile shelves had been installed yesterday, with the raised wooden floor waiting to be put into place.
The building project is currently on time and on budget and we hope to be moving the Community Archives into this space early in 2016.
A new additions to the Archives’ collections this month is this photograph, found by members of the Woodley family in the basement of the former McKeown’s Drugstore at 271 Front Street, Belleville. It was donated by Betty Lavallee.
The display was promoting products as part of ‘Rexall Week’. On show were a range of Rexall products, including: Liver Salts, Rubbing Oil, Baby Laxative, Rexall Orderlies, Celery & Iron Tonic, Beef Iron & Wine (made from the best predigested beef, concentrated iron and imported wines), Cherry Bark cough remedy, and Dyspepsia Tablets. The photo was taken by Belleville photographer Robert McCormick in around 1920.
McKeown’s store was at this location from around 1915 to the 1960s. John Spottiswood McKeown was born in Belleville in 1871. He was the son of John McKeown senior (a boot and shoe merchant) and Mary Bullen. He married Caroline (Carrie) Lingham on October 5th, 1898 and they had one daughter, Helen, born in 1901. In 1921 the family were living at 16 Alexander Street, Belleville, with a maid called Florence Parks.
With work beginning on the Bay Bridge Road construction project last week, in this post we take a look at former projects relating to the bridges across the Bay of Quinte between Hastings and Prince Edward counties.
Nick and Helma Mika’s 1982 book Bridge on the Bay of Quinte is a good source of information on the history of the Bay crossings, from the horse-powered ferries of the early nineteenth century to the first bridge, which was opened in 1891.
This bridge was described in The Belleville Daily Sun of May 31st, 1895 as
one of the engineering and mechanical triumphs of the age…It is the longest highway bridge in Canada, and the longest bridge of any sort in the Province of Ontario.
This photograph, taken from the Rossmore side of the Bay in 1910 shows the swing bridge part in action:
The first bridge was a toll bridge until 1920, when the Province of Ontario, the City of Belleville and the County of Prince Edward paid $85,000 to purchase the bridge from the owners, the Belleville Prince Edward Bridge Company. In the winter of 1927-28 the steel trusses of the bridge were replaced with a rock causeway, with the exception of the swing section near Rossmore and a channel toward the Belleville end.
This photograph from The Intelligencer negatives held at the Community Archives shows the old bridge in 1982, looking down at it from its replacement when it was under construction:
Work is continuing on the Community Archives’ new home within Belleville Public Library. In August the reading room area looked like this:
Today, the interior walls are taking shape:
Two months ago the larger of the two vaults on the second floor was more of a space than a room:
Now it is looking like a place that might be useful for storing archives in the not-too-distant future!
…the Archives received these turkeys this week. They are part of a collection of lantern slides which were used to teach Agriculture and Science classes at Belleville Collegiate Institute and Vocational School, probably in the 1920s.
The slides were rescued from destruction by Mike Mills, a teacher at BCIVS in the 1970s and were donated to the Archives this week by Mike and his wife, Sue (who also taught at the school).
There are over 200 slides in total, and co-op student Sydney Welch has taken on the task of cleaning and scanning them so that we can share them more widely. Sydney completed the scanning of the Poultry set of slides this week and they are now available through the Archives’ Flickr account.
These 49 slides were produced by the Province of Ontario Picture Bureau for use in schools. Some of the poultry slides appear to have been signed by the artists: “A.D. Schilling” and “LS”. While some of the slides have suffered damage over the years, the poultry ones in particular are in very good condition.
One of the things archivists get exercised about is the importance of ‘original order’. This is the idea that the arrangement of records by their creator has significance to our understanding of the records themselves. Wherever possible, archivists will try to determine the original order of materials in their care.
A recent accession (2015-55) presented something of a puzzle in this respect. It is a scrapbook from the First World War, of newspaper clippings and other memorabilia which had been pasted into a printed book. The binding of the book had partially come apart and the early pages of the scrapbook had been jumbled into no particular order, with clippings dated 1917 mixed with those from 1916.
The book which the compiler had used for the scrapbook was Richardson’s New Method for the Piano-Forte, originally published in 1859 by Nathan Richardson.
Examination of the scrapbook revealed that its owner was Alice Deacon, born in Belleville on September 27th, 1899 to Daniel Deacon and his wife Catherine (née Dugan). During the First World War, the Deacons were living at 107 Station Street, Belleville. They were Roman Catholics and Alice was probably a student at St. Michael’s Academy on Church Street, Belleville, which opened in 1907.
Alice had three older brothers: James, Frederick and Francis (Frank). Frank joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force on March 23rd, 1916 in Belleville and it may have been this event which triggered Alice’s interest in the war. Frank’s service record is available from Library and Archives Canada.
The scrapbook mainly comprises cuttings from The Intelligencer during the war, where Alice carefully recorded references to Belleville boys overseas, sometimes annotating the clippings with her own observations about whether a man returned to the front, or which school he had attended.
Alongside the newspaper extracts are other, more personal items, such as postcards, theatre programmes, calling cards, invitations and even ticket stubs. This page illustrates some of the variety:
Here we find an invitation, two pressed flowers “from ruins of a French village, May 1917” and a picture labelled “off a box of chocolates Jim gave me for my birthday, 1916”.
In between Alice’s pastings, we can see some of the text of Nathan Richardson’s book. This was the key to re-creating Alice’s original order. Some of the pages still had visible page numbers, although most did not, but the majority had at least some words and phrases. The book has been digitized by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is available online through the Internet Archive. This digital copy has proved extremely useful in discovering the original order of the scrapbook. Using the Internet Archives’ searching facility, we were able to locate the identifiable words and match them to the page numbers of the original book. Once all the pages were identified, it was a simple matter to put them into the order they would have been in when the book was intact.
Alice’s brother Frank came home safely from the war and was demobilized on May 23rd, 1919. Alice worked as a stenographer and bookkeeper in Belleville until 1929, when she married Leo Houlihan in St. Michael’s Church. She then left Belleville to live with Leo in Lindsay, Ontario. She died in 1955 and was buried in the Our Lady of Mercy Roman Catholic cemetery in Sarnia, Ontario.
Her scrapbook arrived back in Belleville by mail, sixty years after Alice’s death. We are grateful to the anonymous donor for sharing with us this glimpse into life in the city during the First World War, through the eyes of a teenage girl.
The hall was built in 1873 as the administrative centre for the township of Thurlow, now part of the City of Belleville. Gerry Boyce has found the following snippet recording the progress of the building in the Daily Intelligencer of August 26th, 1873:
TOWN AND VICINITY
The Township Clerk of Thurlow writes us that the new Town Hall in that Township is rapidly approaching completion, and that the work is very substantial and neat, and gives very general satisfaction.
The shield-shaped plaque on the front of the building notes that it was built by J.A. Northcott. John Northcott was born in Lapford, Devon, England in around 1805. He was a carpenter who came to Canada in 1853 and settled in Belleville, where he entered into partnership in with fellow Devonian, Walter Alford. They worked on a number of houses and other buildings in the town up to 1876, when Northcott retired. He died on December 26th, 1881 and the Daily Intelligencer obituary noted that he
was a true type of the better order of Englishman – outspoken, independent, yet concealing a heart as tender as that of a woman under a bluff exterior, and withal as honest as the day.
With amalgamation of the City of Belleville and the Township of Thurlow on January 1st, 1998, the building became available for use as the headquarters of the Hastings County Historical Society.
A plan of the building was drawn up in October 1998 by Gerry and Susie Boyce, with the help of Carson Cross. This item has recently been donated to the Community Archives as part of the extensive Gerry Boyce fonds it carries an intriguing section labelled ‘Mystery Area’.
Gerry tells us that this area was identified by the difference in measurements between the inside and outside walls of the building. Belleville’s Mayor of the time, Mary-Anne Sills, used a hammer to open up the wall and investigate the space. Blue duct tape remains on the wall as evidence of her handiwork.
This is not the first time that the internal walls of the building have been under attack: in February 1961 the wall of the vault was broken through by burglars looking for cash in the vault. The Ontario Intelligencer reported on the crime on February 7th, with photographs of the damage caused.
Ironically, the robbers could have saved themselves some work, as the vault was not locked at the time. Nor did it contain any cash, according to the Intelligencer’s report.
From an archivist’s point of view, it soon becomes apparent that the old building is far from ideal as a store for the unique materials which have been collected over the years by the Hastings County Historical Society. Signs around the place alert the occupants to some of the hazards:
The other key problem with the building is the space available to the Community Archives: the building has no barrier-free access and the shelves are all full-to-overflowing. We are not quite as knee-deep in records as the clerk was in 1961, but it feels like it, sometimes. In September we had to empty the former Irish Hall of records when that building was sold. Our colleagues at the Lennox and Addington Museum and Archives came to the rescue, taking in over 50 boxes of material temporarily until we can move them into the new purpose-built archival storage in the Belleville Public Library.
The move will be of tremendous benefit to the collections and to those who make use of the materials. The next few months are going to be very exciting!
This morning the progress on the Community Archives’ new home in Belleville Public Library became visible from the outside of the building, as concrete for the new floors was poured through the third-floor window of what will become one of three archive storage vaults.
Below is a view taken from the second floor of the library last month, looking up towards that same window. Here the new floor of the third-floor vault was still under construction. The larger of the two second-floor vaults can be seen on the left.
It’s exciting to see the new space coming into shape. We’ll keep you updated on the project’s progress here and hope to welcome you into our new location in 2016!