‘We’ve lost a lot of local history already,’ says Mayor Eric Duncan
IROQUOIS — A few years in the making, the new Dundas County Archives will be dedicated and opened for guided tours this afternoon.
The precursor ceremony takes place 1 p.m. at the Iroquois Civic Centre (1 Dundas Street), followed by tours of the actual Archives occupying rooms at 5 College Street (the former St. Cecilia Catholic School building also shared by doctors of the St. Lawrence Medical Clinic chain).
The Archives are a joint venture funded by the Township of North Dundas and the Municipality of South Dundas — and a longtime pursuit of outgoing North Dundas Mayor Eric Duncan, who was inspired by the establishment of the Glengarry County Archives in 2014.
“It’s been a pet project of mine,” says Duncan, adding it’s “scary and sad” the number of stories he’s heard during his political tenure from local families not having a place to donate historically significant items after the passing of, say, a grandparent or elderly aunt. Much has gone into the trash as a result.
“We’ve lost a lot of local history already.”
Duncan says today’s ceremony will include newly announced donations of vintage items to the collection by a few local families. “Thousands and thousands” of pieces — from agricultural society and municipal records to old photographs and variety of other mementoes from yesteryear in Dundas County — are now under the care of the Archives and contracted archivist Susan Robinson Peters. “She has great archival experience and knows a lot of history of the area,” the mayor says of her.
Both townships expect to contribute a combined $40,000 annually to keep the Archives in operation within several climate-controlled rooms at the former St. Cecilia School building — the former gymnasium and a handful of former classrooms. (Now owned by South Dundas, part of the building is also leased out to the St. Lawrence Medical Clinic chain.)
Duncan estimates that establishing the Archives cost somewhat more this year — approximately $50,000 to $60,000 — because of one-time costs like buying and installing shelving.
The taxpayer-funded Archives was also handed a pile of old newspapers from a local publisher this summer; Peters reports that she has properly re-boxed and organized the antique Chesterville Record editions, to be kept for posterity at the Iroquois facility.
Organizers hope to digitize the entire collection in the Archives one day, easing access for researchers in the future.
In the meantime, Duncan says the Archives should be open for regular hours in the New Year.