Chair lift offers new access to military museum

Photo: Gordon Lambie
By: 
Gordon Lambie
Staff Writer

A treasure-trove of Canadian military history that has been quietly sitting in the upper room of the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada Hut in Lennoxville just opened its doors to a whole new range of potential visitors. Known as the Murphy-Gordon Museum, after its creators Ron Murphy and Charles Gordon, the free museum has been open to the public since 1976 but has seen only a small trickle of occasional visitors, partly due to the fact that it is located at the top of a steep staircase and so unreachable to the elderly and those living with limited mobility.

All that changed on Tuesday morning as an official inauguration ceremony was held for the Hut’s new electric lift, which bridges the gap between the main floor and the second storey exhibit room.

“One of the things I noticed when I started working with the museum was that it was very difficult for veterans and for older people to come,” said local historian and volunteer museum curator Tim Belford. “We were very, very lucky to receive this chair from Community Aid, which they were not using.”

Belford explained that when the Lennoxville and District Community Aid moved out of the basement of the Lennoxville Masonic Hall in the Summer of 2014, they no longer needed the lift that had been installed on the stairs into that space. Knowing that the lift existed, unused, and that the market value of such a machine could exceed $3000, he asked Community Aid if the Hut could give the lift a new use and got a very positive response.

Though the volunteer curator said that the lift has actually been in place and operational for months now, the inauguration was planned as a way of saying thank-you to the groups who contributed to the project. Aside from the donation of the lift, the extension and repair work was paid for with contributions from Saint-Francois MNA Guy Hardy, the Allatt Family, and the Townshipper’s Research and Cultural Foundation.

Hardy, whose office contributed $1000 of the $1885 needed to set the lift up and extend it to the length of the new staircase, said that he was pleased to be able to increase the accessibility of the museum

“It’s a super project,” said Price, Price, underlining the generousity of the Allatt family. “The Allatts are very community minded people and they’re very pleased to be involved.”

Jane Loiselle, the President of the Townshipper’s Research and Cultural Foundation explained that, being married to Belford, she was not actually directly involved in the Foundation’s decision but said that she was nonetheless pleased with the end result.

“I hope more people will be able to come and visit,” Loiselle said.

Sylvie Gilbert-Fowlis, Director General of Community Aid, said she was happy to see the lift her organization no longer needed being put to good use, making particular note of the way that even in new hands it continues the work of the community organization in working to support the community’s seniors.

Belford said that anyone who wants to come see the museum can come by the Hut and ask for the key from the bartender. He also offers guided tours and said that the contact information needed to set one up is on the bulletin board by the front door of the building. Beyond that, however, the volunteer-run museum just doesn’t have the resources for staff or rapid renovations. Entry is free, but there is a donation box out to help cover the cost of small bits of preservation work here and there in the collection.

The volunteer curator said that he has been trying to bring in local school and scout groups to help the younger generations understand the importance of the nation’s military history, but added that while the museum has been very good at collecting items over the course of its lifetime, the next great adventure will be that of better explaining what each thing is without always having to keep someone around to do that.

Inspired by work recently done at the Eaton Corner Museum, Belford said he’s gotten approval to start work on an audio guide system to help bring out the many stories hidden away among the collection’s many pieces.

“I’ve always said that this museum is the best-kept secret in the Eastern Townships,” Belford said. “There are over 1,000 items that we have on display and I am working to have more people actually see it.”

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