Telling a county's story
Huron County Museum tells the stories of the people who built the area, and the unique man who built the museum itself
The Huron County Museum has plenty to see and do for everyone of any age. In addition to their regular displays, the museum has special exhibits and events.
The museum was opened in 1951 by Joseph Herbert Neill who contributed his own personal collection. Originally a travelling display, it eventually became too large and needed a permanent home. He donated the collection to the County of Huron which set up a museum in a former school in Goderich.
Neill’s touch as the founding curator can be found throughout the museum. The Neill Gallery on the first floor, just down the hall after passing the Doty engine in the lobby, highlights Neill’s contributions. On display are interactive models Neill created to demonstrate pioneer skills and activities. The gallery includes a loom for weaving and artifacts from early immigration.
The museum offers visitors a tourmate audio guide for additional information on the various displays with a number on the signs near the displays. A map guide can be picked up in the front lobby as well.
Travelling from the Neill Gallery, the museum gives visitors an idea of how dark and cramped quarters were for pioneers by showing a log shanty similar to the first home for settlers. On the other side, various axes and saws, used to build barns and houses, are displayed. There’s a model of a barn that can also be seen that shows the sturdy structure of these buildings.
Walking across the hall takes visitors into the Lattimer Gallery with its displays on the Canada Company which was tasked with bringing in settlers and making profits from the sale of land. A fascinating collection of maps show how this region was depicted as far back as the 1600s.
Heading out of the Lattimer Gallery, one can literally walk in the footsteps of a century of school children who wore hollows in the wooden steps leading to the second floor.
The upstairs starts with a showcase of the county’s marine heritage including the Great Storm of 1913, a century ago, which was the deadliest disaster in Great Lakes history.
Salt has been an important part of the development of this county. The exhibit includes a map of all the original salt-making locations across Huron as well as some of the equipment.
The military gallery includes a Link Trainer, the first flight simulator, which helped train pilots on the air bases that dotted Huron County during World War II. There is also a model of what the Sky Harbour airport looked like when it was a training base.
In addition to a quarter scale replica of a deHavilland Tiger Moth airplane, there’s a special window that gives you a view of a Sherman tank parked outside – an important weapon used by Canadan forces during World War II. The military gallery then leads to the agricultural gallery.
The agriculture gallery has census data from various years in the county as well as all sorts of horse-drawn farm implements. Children will love the George June display of wooden carvings.
The three windmills gracing the two-storey window make for an inspiring display on the way to the fully-furnished late 1800s Victorian apartment.
The stairs down from the apartment lead to the Main Street exhibit surrounding a 60-foot-long Canadian Pacific Railway locomotive. Neill organized a company of interested citizens who bought “shares” in the locomotive and a special track was laid to get the engine to the museum site. The building was constructed around it.
Lining Main Street there are shops, many with storefronts salvaged from around the county, displaying commerce from the past from a hardware store to a dress shop to a printer’s shop, and even the undertaker’s establishment which has a lovely display of shadow boxes mounted on the wall.
As well as the permanent collection, the museum has a temporary exhibit hall off the main lobby.
Admission to the Huron County Museum is $5.00 for adults, $4.50 for seniors, $4.00 for students and $3.50 for children six to 11 with an $18.00 family rate. Located at 110 North Street, the museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sundays. The museum is also open Thursday evenings until 8 p.m. Call 519-524-2686 for more information.