History can be repetitive, but how does it compare over time?
The Dufferin Museum (MoD) has launched a new main exhibition titled ‘Through the Looking Glass’, which allows visitors to explore how common daily events and events of the past compare to those of the present.
The exhibit consists of 21 unique subjects including weddings, farming, child care, film and television with displays of historical artifacts from Dufferin County. A “look here” feature resembles a magnifying glass so visitors can see specific items up close.
“When people hear that this is an exhibit every now and then, they’re going to look at artifacts and think about how things are different now, but the other part is that sometimes you realize how things haven’t changed that much, ”said Sarah Robinson, curator at the Department of Defense.
The “Through the Looking Glass” exhibit has been in preparation for the Dufferin Museum since 2019 and was slated to open in April 2020. While working on reconfiguring the interactive components of the exhibit, the museum added two new exhibits to the location of the COVID-19 pandemic and the historic Black Lives Matter Steps.
“It’s amazing what can happen in two years and as things move forward we have decided that we also need to change a few things with us,” said Robinson.
In the midst of a global pandemic, the Department of Defense begins the exhibit with an exhibit focusing on the history of pandemics; specifically the Spanish flu of 1918. The display notes comparisons of the restrictions with the closure of schools, churches, libraries, and all public meetings in 1918 and 2020. Medical artifacts reading “chloroform lozenges,” “gasoline Medicinal Cinnamon Concentrate “drug growth show.
Advancing through the exhibit, a mental health exhibit shows how treatment has changed over the decades. A retrospective look at century-old prison records indicates that “insanity” is a cause of imprisonment.
“We were not prepared from the start as a county to deal with mental health as we now believe,” said Laura Camilleri, archivist for the Department of Defense. “We had a prison, which unfortunately used more of our local social services. ”
One display that Robinson says she likes to give as an example of a comparison of yesterday and today, is communication. Displayed with an old rotary phone, it says it gives a visual understanding of the technological advancements that now allow us to have phones in our pockets.
While the “Through the Looking Glass” exhibit explores a wide range of topics, each one has been chosen based on the curiosities of past visitors. Robinson said she has taken note over the years, as visitors enter the Department of Defense, of what they find interesting in the story.
Based on these interests and the artifacts that the local museum has in its collection, each display case was put together.
“The majority of our collection is donated by members of the community and each year we receive hundreds of artifact donations to our archival and artifact collection,” said Robinson. “Our mandate is that the artifact must be linked to the history of Dufferin County. What makes the exhibition are the stories linked to the artefacts.
The Dufferin Museum recently reopened its doors to the public and is taking the tours to learn more about the history of the community.
The exhibition “Through the Looking Glass” is expected to remain the main exhibition of the Ministry of Defense until the end of 2023.