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Jean-Claude Vézina Par Jean-Claude Vézina

Mercredi, 18 juin 2014

New exhibition at the Eaton Corner Museum

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It's official! After years of hard work, the Eaton Corner Museum has opened its doors to reveal artefacts left by our ancestors. The new exhibition tells the story of the Eaton Township, especially Eaton Corner, one of the first villages established by European settlers.

The first families crossed the American frontier in 1797 or thereabouts, and in 1860, about 93% of the settlers were English speakers who mostly made their living in agriculture.

The new permanent exhibition sketches the life of these people in broad strokes. "Two hundred years ago, this was the place that was the most patronized," said Marc Nault, speaking in French. He is president of the board of directors of the Eaton Corner Museum. He is passionate about the new project that brings to life an important tourist attraction. It will be a gateway to the Haut-Saint-François MRC, via the Townships Trail. "We want to become the entry point for heritage tourists," he said. "Among other attractions, this village is where you can find the greatest concentration of original Cape Cod houses."

After 1860, many pioneers of different nationalities came to the area. Scottish, English, Irish, French Canadian and other people worked side by side to develop the region. "This is not the only place where such a melange of cultures worked well," said Nault.

Based on the journal of Rev. E.J. Sherrill, the team of historian Monique Nadeau Saumier created a virtual dialogue between settlers Rev. Sherrill and Joshua Foss, who built the house next door to the Congregational Church. Inspired by Rev. Sherrill's journal, she created a conversation that the two men could have had. This audio recording tells visitors about events that happened in the young colony. Tim Belford and Charles Bury lent their voices to the two historical figures. Bury also translated the texts in the exhibition into English. He was president of the Eaton Corner Museum shortly before his death, and was a strong proponent of the new permanent exhibition.

Artist Denis Palmer created six beautiful paintings which hang in the Museum's windows. They were transposed onto a semi-transparent support by the design firm, Pittoresco, which designed and constructed the exposition.

Many collaborators made this project possible. Among others, the Centre local de développement du Haut-Saint-François (CLD) helped coordinate the various steps, and invested about $76,000 in the adventure. Dedicated volunteers gave many hours of work to bring it to completion. From the model presented not long ago to the official opening, it has been just two years, but two years of intense negotiations. Nault commented that "the Ministry of Culture gave us a hard time. Just to install one electrical outlet, it was complicated." But he noted that it was this same ministry that permitted the conservation of the building as a whole. That included approving the choice of colours to repaint the interior of the old church, which was not an easy task.

Marc Nault has real veneration for timber frame architecture. He remarked that one of the values of Anglophones was work well done. "It had to be built for their descendents," he said. An example is the Foss House, currently under restoration with advice from architect David Leslie. Despite the ravages of time, it is still solid. To see this house alone is worth the trip, especially if old-time construction techniques are close to your heart.

Robert Roy, mayor of East Angus and vice-prefect of the MRC, said this achievement demonstrates what community strength can accomplish. "At the museum, you have the capacity to transmit the past," he said. Noël Landry, mayor of Cookshire-Eaton, mentioned the work of Charles Bury. He recalled that in his municipality alone, there are 10 churches and seven cemeteries. He also said that the Municipality of Cookshire-Eaton contributed the new parking lot, guaranteed a loan for the museum, and advanced the funds to pay the salary of Mario Santerre, coordinator of the project. He worked with Julie Pomerleau of the CLD. The final word went to Jacqueline Hyman. She said she was proud of this project which highlights the history of the area through its architecture, the Foss House and the heritage garden.

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