Billings museum seeks historic photos as it gears up for 2014 season

KAGAWONG—Visions of wedding bells and sepia prints are dancing in the heads of Old Mill Heritage Centre (Billings Museum) curator Rick Nelson and the members of the museum committee.

“I am always looking for pictures,” said Mr. Nelson in issuing the call for historic photographs of the Billings area. “We have a lot in our archives that haven’t been seen in a while, but it would be great to complement that with something new.”

He has found a treasure trove of old photographs in the Manitoulin History Facebook site hosted by Now and Then author Petra Wall. “But a lot of that stuff comes out of Little Current and Assiginack,” he said. “I am trying to frame things from Billings.”

While the family photos are of great interest, “sometimes it is what is in the background that is most interesting to other people,” said Mr. Nelson. “What it is they are standing in front of, old stores, an old mill or factory, that historical record shows how previous generations lived and worked.”

In addition to pictorial displays, the Old Mill Heritage Centre is once again hosting its very popular historical wedding gowns display for the third time.

Museum committee member Diane Fraser of Kagawong has been working diligently to put the finishing touches on this year’s display, building on the success that the display has seen in its last two outings.

“It has been very popular,” she said. “People have been thoroughly enjoying it.”

Ms. Fraser was drawn into the wedding gown display through her own family. “My mom was moving out of her house and I was helping her to get ready to move when I came across her wedding gown and asked her what she planned to do with it, “she recalled.

From there she began asking other people about their wedding gowns and if they would lend them to the museum for the season.

The oldest dress to go on display up until now is from 1911 and the display illustrates the changing (and durability) of wedding fashions through the past century on Manitoulin. “Often we have a picture of the bride and groom and the date of the wedding to go with the gown,” she said.

“This year’s theme is “Wedding Fashions Through the Decades” and we plan to have eight to nine different dresses on display,” she said. She described the wedding gown project as a labour of love. “It is very nice to talk to the people who own the wedding gowns as they look back on a very happy time in their lives,” she said. “It is also wonderful for their family and friends to be able to come and share the memories.”

The Old Mill Heritage Centre opens unofficially on the Victoria Day weekend when it opens for the weekends, but the seven-day a week schedule begins on July 1.