Preserving The McGee Collection

Marilyn Bruinsma


Paul Carroll, a Huron County Historian, spoke to COPA 45 members at our May meeting to update us on the progress of the McGee collection and Gallery.

He told the group that shortly Mr. McGee would write a letter to the Huron County Museum to turn over his entire collection with no conditions. The transfer will take place late summer or early fall where museum staff will come to assist in cataloguing and packing the collection. COPA 45 will likely be asked to move the boxes to the museum. A task of which I think we are capable. The staff will then begin to clean, sort, and inventory each item.

McGee’s Port Albert collection along with his memorabilia from the First and Second World Wars will be divided for exhibit at the most appropriate locations among the Sky Harbour Museum, Legion and the military gallery at the main Huron County museum location.

Some items may even be suitable to enhance the collection at the Branch 109, Royal Canadian Legion, and the McGee Gallery. The printed materials will be placed in the archives for research purposes. There will also be a special display for the Port Albert celebrations in 2011 at the Huron County museum, the McGee Gallery and the Goderich Legion.

Carroll met with Pat Hamilton, museum curator, to discuss the McGee Gallery collection. From these discussions came ideas to revamp the military gallery at the museum on North Street and the Sky Harbour Gallery and to then establish to incorporate the McGee Gallery collection, both of which are located in the airport terminal.

All this can be accomplished without taking away the integrity of Sky Harbour Gallery while protecting and caring for the other collections.

To house the McGee collection in the terminal a few minor repairs must be made. COPA 45 has agreed with volunteers to remove the rotting exterior basement windows and drywall that area to provide more wall space for artifacts. As well an archway can be cut between the two galleries to leave more wall space for displays. Materials for the renovations will be paid by COPA 45.

A consultation with the town’s architect is required for advice and approval. County staff is also looking at other renovations on the lower level to accommodate more displays and artifacts.

“What is next?” asked Paul Carroll. First there was group discussions on what each group is willing to do, the amount of money available, and where further funding may be obtained. When all the political support is complete, then the proposals may be made public and further donations from citizens and corporations could be forthcoming to preserve this heritage.

Here is where COPA 45 could take a lead role in facilitating the groups to meet, talk ideas and develop strategies to move the project forward.

Carroll also has concerns with accessibility to the lower floor in the terminal. While applying for a Trillium grant to purchase display cases and
shelves he felt we should pursue further monies for wheelchair capabilities to the Galleries if such funds are available. Definitely there is a need there and accessibility is critical to enhance the present and future galleries within the building. Again, talks with the Museum staff concerning their needs will move the project ahead.

Paul Carroll summed up his presentation with a compliment to COPA 45 as he strongly felt that had it not been for our group starting the momentum to establish the McGee Gallery at the airport, we would not be as close to renovations as we are today. Thank you Paul. We just hope that we have been one small piece of the pie to help preserve a very important part of aviation history that happened just north of Goderich in the hamlet of Port Albert.

Many men from around the globe trained here and are planning to return here in 2011 for its’175th birthday. May we truly be able to show them many memories as they reminisce with others from that bygone era.