ORILLIA MUSEUM OF ART AND HISTORY
Inspired by the saying, “if the walls could talk,” the Orillia Museum of Art and History (OMAH) is opening a new exhibit in the historic jail cells, located in the basement of the Sir Sam Steele Memorial Building.
The exhibit launch, which includes guided tours, coincides with OMAH’s participation in Doors Open Simcoe County on Saturday, Aug. 26.
The family-friendly exhibit shares stories of the building’s history and its occupants, with a focus on the Orillia Police Service (active circa 1885 to 1996). It includes a large display of artifacts loaned and donated by former members of the Orillia Police Service and their families. Additionally, there are interactive activities for all ages including cell-fies, code-breaking and fingerprinting.
The exhibit was designed and developed by Amy Henderson, a student of Georgian College’s museum and gallery studies program, who has been an intern at the museum since May. Amy says, “The one-year program is well balanced and multifaceted. In my experience, students gain a great respect and understanding of the considerations made by professionals who share and preserve art and artifacts. It has given me the confidence to undertake large projects in various departments of the field, whether it’s collections, curating, or researching.”
Amy invited retired police officers and members of their families to share stories and their experiences in police services. Mary Robertson and Anne Robertson Kallin, whose father, Nelson, was a longtime member of the Orillia Police Service, shared their detailed archive with Amy and they said, “Our dad and uncle were both members of the Orillia Police Service, and both worked out of the Sir Samuel Steele Memorial Building. We were honoured to be invited to participate in this project, and we were delighted to work with such a dedicated, competent and enthusiastic student intern who has made the idea of a permanent tribute to the Orillia police a reality. This project, which involved searching through our photo collection, has certainly provided us with a trip down memory lane. We want to express our deep appreciation to OMAH for its ongoing dedication to preserving our local history.”
Throughout the development phase, Amy was mindful that police services have not always been seen in a positive light by the community they serve. Amy was
encouraged to ensure the exhibit was objective and to emphasize that the role of policing in communities continues to evolve in order to best serve in a way that is empathetic and mindful of the impacts of the actions that officers make.
Following Doors Open Simcoe County, the exhibit will be open during OMAH’s regular hours of operation, Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and until 7 p.m. on Thursdays.