TITLE: To be determined [an exhibition on black history in Guelph and Wellington
COORDINATORS: Guelph Museums Staff (Laurence Grant, Bev Dietrich, Tali Laurenson,
Val Harrison) and Wellington County Museum and Archives Staff (Bonnie Callen and
…), Rose Heffernan
CONTRACT RESEARCHER: Rose Heffernan
COMMUNITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE: Melba Jewell, Mary McLean and others to be
determined. The advisory committee will have the opportunity to comment on the
drafts of the project as they are developed, meet with staff and the researcher,
review draft exhibition education program content and evaluate the end result.
DATES: Guelph Civic -January 20 – January 20 April 6, 1997
Wellington CM&A to be determined
Web Site – 1997; further dates to be determined
COSTS: See attached budget
DESCRIPTION: This project will investigate the audiovisual resources available on the
Guelph and the Guelph and Wellington County black communities and use these
resources in mounting an exhibition whose subject matter will be the history of this
community in the 19th and 20th centuries. These resources consist of personal and
institutional documents, photographs, oral histories, newspaper articles and genealogies
that trace the founding of black communities by Loyalists and escaped slaves in early
19th century Wellington County. The documentation of this history is an important
prelude to understanding the black community’s development in the 20th century.
Twentieth century history is characterized by further immigration from the Caribbean
and from Africa. The exhibition and education programs will exist in the conventional
sense and will also be available on-line through the World Wide Web.
Project themes consist of immigration and adaptation to Canadian society in a mid-size
Canadian surrounding county, relations with the broader social fabric and other ethnocultural
communities. The project will be grounded historically on the immigration that Occurred as a
consequence of the American Revolution and at the time of the Underground Railroad.
Thematic links to other ethnocultural communities include immigration and adaptation to a
new society, cultural influences on that society and its dominant social groups (and vice versa)
and strategies for cultural survival in the 20th century.
COLLECTIONS AND RESOURCES: Extant papers and photographs of the Lawson, Jewell and other
families, the British Methodist Episcopal Church (BME) Toronto archives,. materials at Guelph
and Wellington County Museums, the Municipal and University of Guelph Archives, provide information on the
19th communities. Twentieth century documentary sources include oral century founding of
histories with former ministers and members of the BME Church, church records, census data,
photographs, etc. Although present institutional collections may be small, there is an opportunity through this project to copy photographs, conduct oral histories and secure access to other materials in order to ensure appropriate representation in public collections for future
use in exhibitions and by researchers.
RATIONALE: Black history has been more thoroughly researched in larger centers, but remains
relatively unknown in smaller cities such as Guelph. Contemporary reactions of dominant social
groups often focus on negative images. There is a need, not just to demonstrate the historical
existence of a black community in Guelph and Wellington County, but to show the positive
aspects of black culture. The black community(ies) has been selected as a partner in this project
because so little has been written on this group and the cultural memory of older members is
The proposed project will enhance the museums’ communication of this history in part through
the existing broad audience for museum programs and also through making the exhibition
available on the Web. Information will consequently be available to schools, other institutions
and a national and international audience. possible connections include Other students can
make a research contribution as part of their required whose O.A.C. independent
studies, a high-school developed play on black history and other Internet possibilities.
PROJECT PROCESS AND TIMELINES: See attached
CONSERVATION: The museums will provide guidance to members of the public for their private
collections, will copy documents and photographs with permission and provide collections care
for any materials loaned or donated according to their written conservation policies.
PUBLIC PROGRAM OBJECTIVES: To inform the public of a little known aspect of Guelph and
Wellington County history, education programs that will communicate project content to a to
develop variety of grade levels and to develop special events related to project content.
GIFT SHOP PRODUCT: It may be possible to develop materials for the museum gift shop that
will communicate elements of the project goals.
MEDIA APPEAL: This little known aspect of Guelph and Wellington County history should appeal
to area newspapers and radio stations as well as possibly to regional television, museum and