LETTERS: Setting the record straight on the ‘Last Net Shed’

A little bit of historical context on a treasure that has endured for more than 50 years

EDITOR’S NOTE: Following last week’s Summer Pages article ‘Last Net Shed in Meldrum Bay a museum of maritime memories and boomtown days,’ August 8, Page 4A, the president of the Meldrum Bay Historical Society, Liz Durham, wrote to clarify her role in the community that founded the Net Shed Museum. The Expositor regrets any confusion caused by the incorrect date in the article for the beginning of Ms Durham’s involvement in the Society and the Net Shed Museum.

To the Expositor:

We really appreciate the article in The Expositor about the Net Shed Museum. Unfortunately, there was some confusion on a couple of points concerning my involvement with the museum.

I have not been involved with the museum since its beginning (I was still in Quebec teaching in ‘67!) but I have been involved since its restoration and rebirth. I came on board in 1991 when I was asked to take on the Historical Society when the society itself was staggering.  

The  museum building was falling apart, with leaking and sagging roof, floor shoved up by a huge log forced under the southeast corner by ice, and cedar shingles on the east wall shriveled and curled, letting weather into the building—flurries of the insulating sawdust dusted everything when an east wind blew. 

With [husband] Fred’s support, I called a meeting here at the house, and restarted the Historical Society. I made sure a financial windfall was safely invested so interest could fund operating costs, and wrote a grant application for a federal grant to repair and rebuild the aging Net Shed. There was then far more support from the federal and Ontario governments for local cultural institutions than there is now.

I oversaw the six weeks of work by the crew I hired—three winter-unemployed West-Enders. We were lucky to get Todd Secord, a qualified construction carpenter, who brought power tools, which we ran via a power cord across the road, protected by planks on either side. Interior roof trusses were built and a steel roof installed. The east wall was rebuilt and was re-shingled with new cedar shakes. 

We instituted the changes and upgrades which the Ontario museums advisor, Dr. John Carter, suggested, including painting the interior with white latex paint to prevent the migration of acids from the untreated cedar planking to artifacts hung on the wall. 

Also with Dr. Carter’s advice, the entire collection was curated and artifacts were displayed in an organized manner, not just piled as in an attic. Further grants have brought funds for summer student staff and a Community Heritage Quilt.

The museum celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, while I have been involved, to a greater and lesser degree, only for the past 27 years. 

For the last several years, the museum has been ably directed by Dawn Marie Wickett, who lives, handily, right across the road in the house where her husband’s great grandparents Joseph and Josephine Millman lived during the peak operation time of the net shed. Dawn Marie now handles all grant applications online.

I am now an artifact myself—my grant applications were all handwritten, and involved a great amount of personal contact with federal and provincial civil servants. 

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Durham

Meldrum Bay