|Museum & Archives|
The Black Watch (RHR) of Canada Museum and Archives
The Regiment’s 150th anniversary year got off to fast and furious start for the Regimental Museum and Archives and our team. The museum redevelopment project, about which you have read so much in these pages in past issues, has finally begun in earnest. After years of paperwork and bureaucracy, Phase One of the project finally began with contractors starting work in February and finishing by the end of March. The wall that separated the weapons room from the main area of the museum has now been completely removed and a more circular flow is now possible for future visitors. Our team is now hard at work reorganizing the displays to create a more narrative flow and working with our museum designer to update some of the display infrastructure. We are hoping to be able to re-open the regimental museum in the fall of 2012 in time for the November events in Montreal. Please be sure to visit us as soon as possible once we re-open as we will be closing the museum again in 2013 to undertake Phase Two of the project which will include much more ambitious structural renovations as well as the completion of the display modernization.
The hard work of Ms. Cynthia Jones, our Collections Manager, has continued throughout the first half of 2012 and we have caught up with more than 75% of the pending accessions, some of which had been awaiting their turn for formal processing since the 1990s. One very important new accession of note in the first half of 2012 is a life-sized oil portrait of LCpl Frederick Fisher, VC of the 13th Battalion, Royal Highlanders of Canada. As most readers will know, LCpl Fisher was the Regiment’s first Victoria Cross recipient during the Great War and was in fact the first Canadian-born soldier to be awarded the VC while serving with a Canadian Army unit. A machine gunner with his battalion, LCpl Fisher was awarded the VC posthumously for his actions during the 2nd Battle of Ypres in the spring of 1915. The painting, which was commissioned by the soldier’s family, was executed by noted Canadian painter George Horne Russell and was presented to Westmount High School, Fisher’s Alma Mater, by his mother. Most recently, the painting had been hanging in the school’s library. We are pleased to accept this most significant painting, on a one year loan with the possibility of renewal. It will most certainly become a central exhibit in the museum’s WWI gallery when we re-open this fall. We are grateful to Mr. Michael Cristofaro, Westmount High School’s principal, for taking the initiative to think of us and for organizing the loan.
Over and above the processing of accessions and the organizing of Phase One of the museum redevelopment project, we have kept extremely busy supporting various regimental functions such as the Highland Dinner in February and supporting various projects being undertaken from coast to coast to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Black Watch of Canada. One such project in which the Museum and Archives has been extremely implicated is the commemorative stamp being prepared by Canada Post. This stamp, which is scheduled for release this Fall, should be available at Canada Post outlets from countrywide. Of course, we have also continued to provide archival and research support to LCol Roman Jarymowycz, OMM, CD the author of the forthcoming updated Regimental History.
Furthermore, Mr. Earl Chapman, volunteer historian with the Regimental Museum and Archives, has been very hard at work finalizing another new publication titled Canada’s Black Watch, 1862-2012: Legacies of Gallantry and Service. This will be a coffee table style book that will look at nearly fifty of the most significant icons including paintings, statues, and other artefacts relating to the history of the Regiment both inside the Armoury and around Canada. It is expected that this book will be ready in time for a September 2012 release to coincide with the Regimental weekend being planned for that month.
Toward the end of May, the Organization of Military Museums of Canada held its annual Museum Studies program and as it was this year being hosted in Montreal, the Black Watch and in particular our Museum and Archives team was heavily involved. Roughly 100 museum curators and representatives—mostly from the Canadian Forces system—toured various museums in the Montreal area and attended a number of professional development lectures and meetings. The entire group was hosted for one evening at the Black Watch Armoury where they were treated to a very special evening of Highland hospitality in the Officers’ Mess—even the CO and RSM, the two most junior serving members present, passed stuff towards the end of the night! The keynote speaker that evening, LCol Jarymowycz spoke on the history of the Black Watch of Canada and the importance of preserving Regimental traditions more broadly and was given a standing ovation by the audience of nearly 100 military museologists. Feedback from our guests was extremely positive with a number of experts remarking on the depth of our Archives system, the artefact collection as well as the professionalism of our team.
While we had to say goodbye to PTE J. Cannard who had been with us on an On-The-Job-Training (OJT) program for several months, we welcomed back OCDT S. Plotkin in April and May. In his short time with us, OCDT Plotkin made further progress on an overhaul plan for the regimental archives as well as on a number of digitalization projects. We look forward to being able to implement his plan for the Archives in the near future and hopefully to welcoming him back on a part-time basis in the fall once his summer training is complete. Ms. Eliza Richardson, a McGill University history student who has been volunteering with us since the fall, has been engaged full-time for the summer months to help process backlogged requests for information as well as to assist with research projects in the context of the museum redevelopment project. We are all extremely excited to see what the next few months hold for us and we look forward to welcoming you to a renovated museum in the fall of 2012.