Volunteers of the Great Lakes Museum recognized with Historical Society Award

Photo via Great Lakes Museum.

The Volunteers of the Great Lakes Museum have been recognized by the Kingston Historical Society for their years of dedication to Kingston’s maritime history.

Dave Shurtleff, left, receives the 2023 Award from Peter Gower, vice-president of the Kingston Historical Society. Submitted photo.

At the Historical Society’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, Peter Gower, Vice-President of the Society presented the Kingston Historical Society’s 2023 Award to the volunteer group, represented by Dave Shurtleff.

The award acknowledges the hard work of the volunteers for more than 45 years, and makes special mention of the efforts put in over the past four years, with many changes and renovations taking place.

“In 1975, the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes was founded, and for 40 years it slowly expanded its activities, its contents and its recognition both in, and far beyond, Kingston. The Alexander Henry was its flagship,” the award reads.

The 2023 Award. Submitted photo.

“If we have been pleased with the work its volunteers did during the first 40 years, we have to be overwhelmed with gratitude for what they have accomplished in the past four years, putting the building, quite literally, into ship-shape condition, ready to receive visitors with new interpretative displays, a new ship, SS Keewatin, and more enthusiasm than could ever have been expected on the bleak day when they saw what had happened to their building. Knuckles may be grazed, and muscles weary, but they can be proud of what they have done for Kingston, for maritime history, and for themselves. Kingston Historical Society wishes to show its appreciation for the work of the Volunteers of the Great Lakes Museum by honouring them with its 2023 Award for their contribution to Kingston’s history.”

In 2016, the museum property was declared surplus by the federal government and sold to Jay Patry Enterprises. As previously reported, the sale included the museum building and 19th-century limestone dry dock, which are both designated national historic sites. However, in July 2016, a generous donation from an unnamed benefactor allowed the museum to buy back the land and eventually return to the historic property. In the interim, the museum was located at Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, while little to no work was done to maintain the original building and premises.

It wasn’t until June 2023 that the museum was able to curate a new exhibit, after the completion of a renovation project that included newly restored windows and doors. The restoration project was funded by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and William James Henderson Foundation.

Recently, and with much fanfare, the Edwardian-era ship the SS Keewatin arrived at the Great Lakes Museum dry dock. Staff and volunteers are busy preparing the 116-year-old steamliner to begin tours this spring. The historic vessel is slated to open to visitors in May 2024.

The SS Keewatin arrived safely in Kingston on October 26, 2023. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Throughout it all, the volunteers shared their time selflessly with the museum organization. Without their support, and thousands of hours of help, the museum may not be the treasure it is today, the local Historical Society emphasized.

“The Marine Museum of the Great Lakes derives its strength from its many volunteers,” the museum’s website states. “We would not be what we are today without them.”

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