By Archibald Campbell, Hon. Curator of the Perth Museum, 1936.
Transcribed by Charles Dobie from an original typescript which was recently donated to the Perth Museum.
J.G. Harvey, K.C.
Notary Public, etc.
410 Somerset Building
Nov. 3, 1936.
Mr. GEO. PARK,
471 Polson Avenue,
Dear Mr. Park:-
Mr. Archibald M. Campbell, Hon. Curator, Perth Museum Inc., of Perth, Ontario, has asked me to place before the Lanark Oldtimers Association here the enclosed with reference to the Perth Museum, Inc.
(signed) J. G. Harvey, K.C.
THE ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE “PERTH MUSEUM INC.”
The nucleus of what is now considered by leading museum authorities to be the best museum in its class (Town, Municipal or Local) in Canada, consists of minerals and rocks, which I pulled together in 1925. Some time after that, I conceived the idea of developing an all-round or general museum, as my service to my birthplace. However, as funds were not available to pay for display cases necessary for further expansion, nothing more was accomplished (outside of some “spade work”) until 1930, since which date the writer has given, absolutely gratis, practically his whole time to this work.
Mrs. J.A. Stewart, O.B.E., started me off with a generous contribution of $500.00 — which paid for three bird cases (with plate glass fronts) and several second-hand show-cases and stands, for additional minerals. Naturally, during the present long-drawn-out depression, it has been difficult to secure funds for the necessary equipment, but, considering the parlous times through which we have passed and the incidental difficulties of financing such an undertaking in a town of this size, I have been remarkably successful in carrying through my plans, and am now on the last lap. If all goes well, I hope to be ready for a formal opening in November, possibly with His Excellency, Lord Tweedsmuir, officiating.
Following Mrs. Stewart‘s gift, $1,500 or more worth of cases came to me from outside Perth (including three oak cases which had been built for the Royal Mint, and paid for by the British Government), others were paid for locally, and, a year ago (during my three months’ stay in the Great War Memorial Hospital) a draft came from the Carnegie Corporation of New York which had been recommended by its Canadian Advisory Committee to assist this one-man effort to establish a Canadian Museum which might serve as a model for others in its class. I might explain that Sir Henry A. Miers, former head of the Department of Mineralogy at Oxford University, Principal of London University, Vice-Chancellor of Manchester University, successively, President of the British Museums Association, famous mineralogist and museum authority, and who had been chosen by the Carneigie Corporation to make a survey of the museums of the British Empire, inspected our little institution in August, 1931, and in the ensuing Report, made six references to the Perth Museum, while in the Directory which accompanied it, within nine lines of as much space was given to it as to the National Museum of Canada. And, Sir Henry has not lost his interest in this little Canadian Museum, for, in his last letter to me, he said:- “I am glad to hear that you re-organised the Museum Constitution, and have got it duly incorporated. You seem to have got things into such a state that the museum will not[sic] take a very important place among Canadian institutions”. However, as I had not anticipated recent general gifts of material from the Royal Ontario Museum and from the heirs of Dr. Charles Mair, $600. or so additional had to be found for additional cases to house these exhibits (of which more anon), and to pay for extra lighting and the framing of two score or more pictures, plans, documents, etc., relating to the history and development of Perth and this district, and including Mr. Merrill Danison‘s gift of a $1,000 canvas by F.M. Bell-Smith, depicting the famous Mazinaw Rock (one of the most remarkable scenic features of this Province).
A year ago last March, we (to satisfy the Carnegie Corporation) secured the incorporation of the Perth Museum, formed the Perth Museum Association (with the usual Officers, Members, and Life Members), and arranged for associate Honorary Curators — to assist me, when necessary, and one of whom would succeed me as Honorary Curator and Secretary when I dropped out of the picture. The nominal membership fee is fifty cents (although one dollar or more is usually given) while a Life Membership costs $25.00.
During my recent visit to Toronto, the Hon. Charles McCrea, S.H. Logan (General Manager of the Canadian Bank of Commerce), H.R. Bain (son of the late Dr. Hugh U. Bain, of Prince Albert, Sask., nephew of the late Mr. Justice John Bain, of your city (Winnipeg), and grandson of the Rev. Dr. William Bain, second pastor of St. Andrew’s Church, Perth), Melville Hart (son of the founder of S.R. Hart & Co., and grandson of John Hart, Sr., of Perth), and Walter L. McKinnon (native of Perth and head of the Toronto bond house bearing his name) agreed to become Life Members. Previous Life Members included Hon. Mr. Justice J.A. Hope and Mrs. R.F. Segsworth, of Toronto; Sire Edward R. Peacock (born in the Presbyterian Manse, Almonte), of London England; Brig.-Gen. Frank Stephen Meighen; George A. Campbell, K.C., (my cousin), and the Bell Telephone Company of Canada (through its Senior Vice-President, Mr. J.E. Macpherson), of Montreal; Dr. T.H. Leggett, of Ottawa; John R. Douglas, and Misses Constance M. Dawes, Helen C. Hall and Lillian Waddell, of Perth.
Prior to the last illness and death of the late Col. W. G. Bell, he wrote me about the pleasure which he had in attending meetings of your Lanark County Old Timers organization, which enabled him to keep in touch with the town and county where he was born. In replying to cousin Willis, I asked him to see if your organization could not be persuaded to show a practical interest in the place of their birth or origin, by contributing a case to its Museum — costing $100 or more. However, Col. Bell‘s death prevented his taking any action. So, I am going to take the liberty of asking if you would be good enough to move in this matter, and acertain if your live organization could not come to our assistance at this juncture. The picture framing which I referred to will cost $75.00 or so, and a case for mammals about the same. All such gifts are credited to the donors by means of brass plates. If only $50.00 could be raised, half of this could go to the framing of the Mazinaw Rock painting and the balance to pay for a Life Membership. If nothing more can be done, we would like very much to have your organization as a Life Member.
However, I must give you some idea as to what has been accomplished towards building up our museum, and its scope.
McGill University (where I studied my geology under Sir William Dawson) gave me 154 mineral specimens, 170 stuffed and mounted birds, the historic Montreal Natural History Society collections of corals (the third largest in the Dominion, and to which the Royal Ontario Museum of Zoology contributed over 35 additional specimens), shells (the fourth largest in Canada, embracing 1,847 species of marine, fresh water and land shells), and other natural history material. The National Museum of Canada assembled 130 birds, and the Geological Survey of Canada over 200 mineral specimens and a small but comprehensive collection of fossils. The Royal Ontario Museum of Mineralogy filled gaps in our Mineral collection, which, with the collection of upper Canada’s first amateur mineralogist and geologist, Dr. James Wilson, of Perth (who was a medical graduate of Edinburgh University, practised his profession in the Perth district from 1821 until 1869), was a personal friend of Sir William Logan, founder and first director of the Geological Survey of Canada, and the discoverer of sundry new minerals (e.g. wilsonite and perthite) and of the oldest known traces of animal life in our rocks (climatihnites wilsoni), hundreds of specimens from my private collection, and many from other sources, constitutes the ninth largest museum assemblage in this country. International Nickel, Chromium Corporation, and the Aluminum Co. of America furnished suites of specimens of their respective ores, rocks and products. The Forest Products Laboratories of Canada supplied specially prepared specimens of practically all our Canadian woods. The Federal and Ontario Archives presented material to our Historical Section (which promises to be one of the best collections representing local or regional history in the Great Dominion), while the great American Museum of Natural History, of New York, sent me a bust of a Sioux Indian, photographs taken by Dr. Miner on the ocean bottom, depicting coral reefs off the Bahaman coast, others relating to prehistoric man, publications, etc. I am trying to collect as many as possible of the implements, tools, utensils, and personal belongings of the pioneers of the Perth Military Settlement, the Lanark Military Settlement, and the famous old Bathurst District — to ensure their preservation, for the edification of this and succeeding generations. Mrs. Henry M. Ami, of Ottawa, presented the second-best collection in Canada of the prehistoric Cliff Dwellers’ pottery of the American Southwest (valued at over $1,500, and in memory of her internationally known husband, the late Dr. Ami) and material relating to prehistoric man from the excavations in the Dordogne region of Southern France, which Dr. Ami was directing at the time of his death. Another unique exhibit consists of the remarkable collection of Western Plains Indian material made by the late Dr. Charles Mair, founder of the Canadian School of Nature Poetry, first Canadian dramatist of distinction (author of “Tecumseh“), historian of our West, hero of the Red River Rising of 1869-70, participator in the 1885 expedition to quell the second Riel Rebellion, and leading authority on the native races of Western Canada. This has been valued by experts at $5,000, but could not be duplicated at any price. We also have the nucleus of a good collection of relics of Ontario Indians, which is to be augumented by a fine assemblage coming from an estate. Scores of other gifts came from individual mining companies, etc. Then as a result of my recent enjoyable and profitable visit to Toronto, the Royal Ontario Museum of Zoology is presenting fifty or more stuffed and mounted birds, to fill gaps in our existing collection of over 300 specimens, as well as a number of mammals.
Before closing, I might say that the late Dr. Charles N. Bell, the McIntyre family (including the late P.C. and Dr. W.H.), and Mrs. Thos. Hart (wife of the late Rev. Dr. Thomas Hart, of the original staff of Manitoba College, and who was a daughter of my mother’s uncle, Judge J.C. Malloch, of Perth) were among my relatives who settled in Winnipeg. In the fall of 1912, I spent two happy months at the Royal Alexandra Hotel, along with a junior partner of an important London financial house, in connection with a western development scheme which would have entailed an expenditure in your Province of about three million dollars. It took considerable negotiations with both Provincial and Federal governments, but we were ready to proceed when the Great War came on and queered the whole proposition. I had taken such a fancy to Winnipeg and the west that I had been anticipating the pleasure of spending much time out there in connection with the direction of the enterprise. Prior to the War, I had averaged four months each year for a number of years in connection with mining business in London, England. Prior to going into private practice (as a mining geologist and explorer), I was connected with the Geological Survey for many years.
Sgd. “A.M. Campbell“
(Hon. Curator, PERTH MUSEUM)