What is in the Museum Collection ?
Article by: 3572 F.J. Norman
In the past issues of e-Veritas, 5992 Jim Barrett, S124 Ron Haycock, 5300 Bob Thomas and Lena Beliveau, the Curator, have produced articles under the overall title of “How do You Fund a Museum ?”. These pieces provide some background to the building of a new Museum and Welcome Centre on the grounds of the College; the Chapters to date have covered the subjects of ‘We’re Building a Museum’; ‘Making the Case’ (including a synopsis of the Design Feasibility Study completed by Lord Cultural Resources); ’Friends and Family’ (highlighting the Friends of Point Frederick, the fundraisers, under the heading “Taking on a Big Task’ ); ‘Why do we need a new Building’; and most recently, ‘The Human Engine’. Two other articles have appeared in “Veritas” in the Summer and Winter 2016 issues, but in all of this material, we haven’t explicitly spoken of the Collections, of their breadth and depth, of what we have !
The basic Collection reflects the life of Cadets whilst attending the College and later as graduates, the Ex-Cadets: uniforms and their accoutrements; competitive trophies; drawing instruments and slide-rules; academic medals, subject prizes, and early graduation diplomas; sporting cups and medals; photographs of the Colleges, Cadets and their activities; books both authored by Ex-Cadets and about them; medals of valour and others indicating service to Canada at home and abroad; with many other objects. Included are some items from each of the Canadian Military Colleges, brought as the Cadets moved from one to another; they are key to an understanding of the history of that College system from its debut in 1948, and vital to the whole story.
The largest item held is the Fort Frederick Tower itself; the smallest, fish-bones excavated from Point Frederick from First Nations’ summer occupation, years before the coming of Europeans to the Kingston area.
Included within the special Collections are the:
- Arms and Armour Collection, with a range of objects as diverse as swords, spears and shields and some presentation pieces collected by early graduates on overseas service through more modern rifles, machine guns and the advanced weapons used in the wars of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, with recent additions from Afghanistan. Additionally, there is the large and priceless Douglas Collection (of some 365 items), presented by 249 Walter Douglas in 1938, obtained by him through purchase of the private Arms Collection of the late General Diaz, for many years President of Mexico and a friend of Douglas.
- Silver Collection, with items including presentation pieces (one a Lloyds’ Patriotic Fund Tankard presented to Lt Spillsbury, RN, who served with Cmdre Yeo at Kingston during the War of 1812); of Mess Silver with other gifts to the Mess and the College; and other commemorative pieces received over time. RMC holds 110 pieces of the Regimental Silver of the 1st Battalion, the Prince of Wales Leinster Regt (Royal Canadians), which were placed in trust with the Government of Canada in 1923, and brought to the College for safe-keeping shortly thereafter..
- Collection of Orders, Decorations and Medals, comprised of donated and purchased medals and sets of medals. The collection pays tribute to the Ex Cadets whose discipline, courage and leadership created the spirit and the reputation that RMC enjoys today. This broad Collection continues to grow, ranging from the Canada General Service Medal issued for service during the Fenian Raids of 1866-70 to South West Asia and Afghanistan at the start of the 21st Century. Additionally, there are two separate, named Collections donated to the College – the Jackman and Morton Collections, each of which has medals ranging from the Napoleonic Wars and ‘Queen Victoria’s Little Wars’ of the Nineteenth Century through to the Great War and Second World War.
- College Collection of Fine Art has original watercolours dating back to the Royal Naval Dockyard of the War of 1812; fine oil paintings of early days at the College, with Nineteenth and Twentieth Century portraits, busts and other pieces. In a different genre, there is a suite of 40 Dresden figurines showing British officers and other ranks in full dress (from the 1790s through to the early 1920s) presented in honour of Cadets who entered the College in 1912 and went to war in 1915.
- Recent acquisitions include the van Haastrecht Collection of 69 paintings (collected by No 7076 John van Haastrecht with some items still being added though gifts after his death in 2015); and an extensive Collection of 67 military figurines and reliefs made by Colonel Andy Gauthier over the years as presentation pieces used throughout the Canadian Forces, presented to the College by the Class of 1974.
- Growing Archival Collection of military ephemera, and of documentation directly related to, or in support of objects in the Collections, including copies of the Certificates of Graduation of the first eight Classes of Gentlemen Cadets; and
- Archeological material excavated from the site over the years by the Cataraqui Archeological Research Foundation (with other material recovered from the waters of Navy and Deadman’s Bays, the contiguous waters of Point Henry), complements the military items distributed about the Point today.
Collected by former Commandants, donated by Ex-Cadets and family members, and many others, the Collection has grown significantly over the years, and now numbers thousands of objects, a number of national importance, valued in the millions.
As with the earlier articles, (designed to inform, not to ask for money at this time), I would hope that this piece adds to your understanding of the treasures we own on behalf of all Canadians, and why we are just a little bit passionate about using them to tell the ‘Story of RMC’. In the New Year, we intend to move the process forward, with an initial ‘quiet’ fundraising campaign to start in January, and will keep you up to date with our progress. For those who have already sent advice and support, our thanks – as promised, we will reply to each of you.
With the Holiday Season fast approaching, the final purpose of this article is to wish you Season’s Greetings from the Heritage & Museum Committee of the College, and from the Friends of Point Frederick.