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New Pumphouse exhibit deep dives into 400 Years of Transportation in Kingston

Today is an exciting day for both the PumpHouse Steam Museum and museum enthusiasts, as a new temporary exhibit opens the museum’s doors for another season of educational fun for all ages. On the Move: 400 Years of Transportation in Kingston is a vibrant and informative experience, curated by Tom Riddolls and Jessika Tozer, which traces the development of transportation in Kingston over the last four centuries with historical objects, interactive displays, and informational panels.

Vibrant information panels made of recycled and reusable materials greet guests of the PumpHouse Museum, located on Ontario Street, for a new exhibition exploring 400 years of transportation in Kingston. Photo by Taylor Tye.

The On the Move exhibition provides a timeline of transportation methods since European settlement about 400 years ago. At the exhibit entrance, guests are greeted with a birch bark canoe from the McLaughlin collection made in the 1970s using traditional Anishinaabe methods. The tour shows the evolution in regional transport, with a highlight on collaborations between European settlers and Indigenous peoples to craft new forms of transportation. The exhibit includes a set of 300-year-old snowshoes, also from the McLaughlin collection, and a modified toboggan, which is created using both Indigenous sinew strapping and European metal bolts.

The various themes of the exhibit — personal, water, public, and trans-regional transportation — show the multi-faceted ingenuity behind modes of transport that we take for granted today.

This exhibit shines with eye-catching photos and articles from local archives, featuring street-car fare machines, a genuine antique plane propeller involved in a local non-fatal accident, and taxi-cab driver registries. With thousands of facts included in the exhibit about Kingston’s roadways and vehicles, every guest is likely to walk away having learned at least something new. Meanwhile, kids (and kids at heart) can have fun with the interactive stations, such as the honking display or the bus-fare station.

“We wanted something really bright and ‘poppy’ this year,” said Curator Jessika Tozer. “We wanted it to be really active with things you can touch to interact with, and to make it fun for all ages.”

Tozer commented on the layout of the exhibit, which is not necessarily linear. “We’re not trying to guide you in a specific way… basically the exhibit is like a transit map: It will take you to different spaces based on your interest. So, if you really only want to know about road building or airports, then it’s like a ‘choose your own adventure’ sort of thing.”

City traffic signs donated to the exhibit provide bright and exciting pops of colour for museum guests. Photo by Taylor Tye.

Tozer and Riddolls have been curating this exhibit for a year now since they were first given the assignment, which originally focused on the construction of bridges in Kingston. “It was hard to come up with an entire exhibit on just bridges and roads, so we expanded the idea to be more all-encompassing on the broader topic of transportation in this area as a whole,” said Riddolls. However, he did point out that a video display in the exhibit features some interesting facts about the Waabaan Crossing, such as a rainwater drainage system that removes chemical-infused water from the bridge without dumping it directly into the river below.

Riddolls made a point of emphasizing that he advocated for an entirely recyclable display format for this year’s exhibit. “In previous years, we would use vinyl, which is great because it’s cost-effective. But it’s not great for the environment because you use it once and throw it away. With this exhibit, we’ve opted for paper displays on re-usable signage and multidimensional flip-board displays that allow for more information to be included in an accessible manner.” Riddolls also noted that there are still a few pieces to be added to the exhibit, including signage with a history of ice roads and ferries in the region.

The exhibit is open to the public until November 26, 2022. Guests are encouraged to book their own tour with the curators to get a fully immersive and informative guide of the vast expanse of knowledge to be gained from On the Move.

For more information or to book your own tour, you can visit the PumpHouse Museum website here.

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