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New museum exhibit highlights society's work to save lighthouse

Nottawasaga Lighthouse Preservation Society worried a piece of history will be lost if the lighthouse can't be restored
Robert Square, vice-chair of the Nottawasaga Lighthouse Preservation Society, at the Collingwood Museum's newest Community Collectors Exhibit.

The Collingwood Museum’s Community Collectors series returned this month with a collection of artifacts on loan from the Nottawasaga Lighthouse Preservation Society (NLPS) to illuminate the history of the iconic Nottawasaga Lighthouse. 

One of six "Imperial Towers" built on the Great Lakes, the Nottawasaga Lighthouse has been an iconic local landmark for over 150 years. While its traditional role in guiding ships to safety is no longer required, the NLPS believes there is still a purpose for towers like the one on Collingwood's coast.

“It certainly is a major, major part of Collingwood that should be preserved and protected,” said Robert Square, vice-chair of the NLPS. “If people don’t step up to restore it and take care of it, it will fall down. And a major part of our history will be lost.”

Founded in 2015, the society is a volunteer-run, not-for-profit corporation and registered charity that is dedicated to the restoration, preservation and protection of the lighthouse. 

The museum has been hosting the Community Collectors series since 2018 to showcase private collections in a designated case at the museum, and museum staff wanted to collaborate with the NLPS to do a joint exhibit at the museum. The series has been on hiatus during the pandemic.

Items on display include a kerosene oil lamp, a handheld foghorn, and a replica of a gargoyle that once adorned the top of the light, as well as archival ledgers, letters, a collection of photographs, and drone footage of the lighthouse. 

“The Nottawasaga Island Lighthouse is such an amazing standing artifact of Collingwood’s history,” said Lindsay Cook, museum coordinator. “So to not only have the history of the lighthouse on display, but have some of the unique artifacts on loan to us to help bring it to life, is amazing."

As part of the exhibit, a Community Collectors’ Night will also take place at the museum on Aug. 24 at 7 p.m. The event will feature an informal meet and greet with NLPS members, museum staff and community members as well as a short presentation from Square on the current preservation efforts.

Shortly after its inception, the NLPS sought to protect the tower from degradation and, in 2016, wrapped its exterior in a weather-resistant material to prevent moisture from penetrating the lighthouse’s interior while the society took steps to obtain ownership of the structure and raise funds for its restoration. However, the transfer of ownership is a lengthy process, and Square had been cooperating with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Chippewas of Nawash on the land transfer for several years.

According to Square, the pandemic put a halt to a lot of the society’s preservation efforts, so he is hopeful that the exhibit will not only serve as a kick-off to more community involvement with the society, but also bring more awareness to their efforts.

“It’s a good way to promote the lighthouse and also promote the museum,” said Square. 

If all goes according to plan, Square hopes he will be able to give a special announcement at the Community Collectors’ Night about next steps of the restoration process. 

The exhibit will be on display until the end of October 2022.

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Maddie Johnson

About the Author: Maddie Johnson

Maddie Johnson is an early career journalist working in financial, small business, adventure and lifestyle reporting. She studied Journalism at the University of King's College, and worked in Halifax, Malta and Costa Rica before settling in Collingwood
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