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This woman is curating a passion for Collingwood’s history

People of Collingwood: Susan Warner, museum supervisor at the Collingwood Museum
2019-03-06 POCWarner JO-001
Susan Warner, museum supervisor at the Collingwood Museum. Jessica Owen/CollingwoodToday

Twenty years of sifting through Collingwood’s history has been a labour of love for a local museum employee.

For this week’s edition of People of Collingwood we sat down with Susan Warner, museum supervisor at the Collingwood Museum.

Q: Have you always lived in Collingwood?

A: I moved to Collingwood – this is going to tell my age – in 1967 when I was 12 years old.

Q: What brought your family here?

A: My Nan was living here. My mom brought me and my brother to live in Collingwood.

Q: What kinds of changes have you seen in town since 1967?

A: There are a lot of changes. It’s all been for the good.

We went through the closing of The Shipyard. Tourism was always in the background, but that was brought more forward. People have come up here to ski or for the water over the years. Now it’s just more dominant and expanded with the mountain.

The museum started here in Collingwood in 1904 under the banner of The Huron Institute, in the basement of the library.

There’s been a lot of changes. It’s expanded with new businesses, some come and some gone.

It’s been very interesting.

Q: Have you always had an interest in history?

A: When I was high school, my interest was in bookkeeping. History was something I acquired through my mother. I found Collingwood history to be very interesting.

I did some researching on my own about Collingwood’s history while I was doing my bookkeeping. Once I finished that part, it was time for a change.

I came here to the museum for a work placement in 1998. When an opening became available in 1999, I took it.

So, 20 years. It’s been a good 20 years. There’s been a lot of changes in the museum.

Right now we’ve done Phase 1 (boat building and woodworking) and Phase 2 (The Huron Institute) of our gallery change. We’re hoping to move on with Phase 3 (marine, rail and local history).

We’ll also be doing some work with our Indigenous collection.

The people are also very interesting. There are long family lines that have opened up businesses and lived here.

Q: Which ones?

A: The Trotts. At one time, they had a funeral home here, and they had Trott’s Furniture.

I’m hoping to see if that’s part of what we can do with this Phase 3 part. It’s not been started yet, so it’s going to be a work-in-progress.

Q: What parts of Collingwood’s history do you find especially interesting?

A: I started off with Reflections: Collingwood, An Historical Anthology, which is a book you can get at the library because it’s no longer in publication. It was written by Barbara Arp. She was a previous museum curator here. It’s one of our good resource tools.

All of Collingwood’s history is unique. (laughs)

There’s really interesting parts about the wooden boat building. There’s parts about the Shipyard itself. There’s parts about the families and their local businesses. I have too many artifacts and images that I (consider) my favourites. (laughs)

Collingwood is... I like being here.

There’s so many different aspects of it.

Q: Why do you think history is so important?

A: It lets us step back into the past.

I believe we wouldn’t be where we are if it wasn’t for who was here and what they did.

They built what we have. Even my generation has built what we have, it’s just been passed on from generation to generation.

Q: You’ve been here for more than 20 years. When you look back over those 20 years, what lessons have you learned? What things have you seen?

A: We’re always willing to share how we look after the collection.

There are small things people can do (to preserve) their own collections.

For example, with their photographs. If you’re going to hang them up on the wall, don’t hang them so the sun is directly on them. There are proper conservation items you can purchase to look after them.

Q: What are some things you really like about your job?

A: I like the interaction with people.

I like that we’re able to provide educational programs to the younger generation. I like that we can give them that history.

Q: Are there any misconceptions about your job you’d like to correct?

A: We’re not stuck in the closet with all the dusty old things.

We do more than that.

Q: What does the future hold for you? For the museum?

A: I hope the museum is going to be here forever.

Collingwood has an amazing history and the collecting they’ve done since 1904 is great.

David Williams started the Collingwood Museum. His picture is up on the wall. He catalogued a lot of the artifacts. I believe he had three volumes written up and published. There’s not a lot of (museums) that have that.

I will work here until I make the decision (to not anymore). I’ve been around a long time. I enjoy coming into work. I can sit down in the morning with a to-do list of 10 things I’d like to get accomplished and walk out without having been able to accomplish those things, but been able to accomplish many other things of value.

We may have someone who comes in and just shares a history with us. That’s of great value.

It’s the connection with the community that we strive to work on.

For our feature People of Collingwood, we’ll be speaking with interesting people who are either from or are contributing to the Collingwood community in some way. This feature will run on CollingwoodToday every Saturday. If you’d like to nominate or suggest someone to be featured in People of Collingwood, email jessica@villagemedia.ca.


Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 11 years of experience to her role as regional reporter for Village Media, primarily covering County of Simcoe matters, education and features
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