Museums are the keepers of our history, a reminder of what came before and could come again. They also tend to be quiet, thoughtful spaces that echo with the voices of the past, calling to the romantic inside all of us. When a visitor wanders through the halls of a small town museum they get an inside peek into what feeds the community’s heart and soul, and the stories of the people who shaped the community with their blood, sweat and tears.
While we may not be able to wander a museum at our leisure and breathe in the scent of history, we can keep history alive with a virtual experience at one of these museums in Ontario’s Highlands.
176 Civic Centre Rd., Petawawa
Pioneer villages immerse you in the sight, sounds, and scents of yesteryear. At Petawawa Heritage Village, you can celebrate the settlement of early Canada with collections that take you back thousands of years to the First Nations peoples. On their website you can learn about the railroad and its importance in the Ottawa Valley in the mid-1800s, and take a virtual tour inside the Petawawa train station. Explore a local schoolhouse, woodworking shop, trapper cabin, wigwam, and more.
How to explore virtually: You can get an idea of the scope of the museum from their website’s photographic catalogue or you can do a 360-degree virtual tour of the whole village site, navigating into and out of buildings for the full experience. It’s like you’re really there!
90 William St. W., Smiths Falls
We’re not sure what makes the railroad so fascinating – whether a locomotive is chugga-chugging down the railroad or sitting in a museum waiting to be explored, there’s something a little romantic about the railway. At the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario in Smiths Falls, you’ll have all your railroad questions answered, and then some. Their website will give you a thorough photographic journey of the museum, one train car at a time.
How to explore virtually: The museum is doing weekly Instagram live videos, to answer questions and give you a real insider’s view of the museum. The videos can be found on the Town of Smiths Falls’ Instagram page.
35 Madawaska St., Arnprior
Located in the clock tower in the charming small town of Arnprior, the Arnprior Museum is an interesting look into the founding of the small town, and all the gossip on Arnprior’s movers and shakers. Lumber is a natural focus for the museum, given the importance of the lumber industry in the early days of the Ottawa Valley. One can almost picture the log jams on the Ottawa and Madawaska Rivers, and the lumberjacks who rode them.
How to explore virtually: Visit the Arnprior Museum’s Facebook page and test your history knowledge with their weekly “What is this Artifact?” trivia game. See if you can guess the names and uses of unusual items from the museum’s collection. Watch one of their video tours for the full museum experience.