Upstairs at Seely

Curated by Bob Whitelaw

Come for the architecture, and stay for the pictures. (Or vice versa.)

Upstairs in storied Seely Hall, under the aegis of the old Port Medway School Sign (rescued from an Ontario antique shop by Jane Fairburn and Mark Roger), explore selected photographs, documents, maps and other historical material relating to the rich history of Alacah, Port Maltois, Port Metway, Port Medway. Having roots in the larger History Show, originally called “Old Port: Scanning the Past,” presented by Bob Whitelaw with research assistance from Suzanne Morton, the displays are constantly evolving.

The exhibit sets the stage with maps to locate us in space, and a series of panels to locate us in time, depicting local 2,500 year old native artifacts; a few documents relating to the French/Acadian presence; and photos of local eighteenth century colonial artifacts.

The exhibit is generally site specific, including Seely Hall itself, the Seely family, and the Seely homestead, the contiguous Old Port Medway Cemetery (a provincial and federal heritage property), downtown Port Medway (the “corner”, once boasting four stores, a church and a hotel), the Wharf Road and the wharves themselves, and the Port Medway Lighthouse (1899) and Park.

There are also related thematic panels on, for example, the ages of sail, steam, and internal combustion; fishing; schools; churches.

And much much more!

Bob’s Artist Statement

The study of history is a very humbling experience. Each new fact learned leads to many, usually unanswered, and sometimes unanswerable questions.

First, someone has to care enough to keep records, whether ledgers, diaries, newspapers, and after the 18???s, photographs. Then reliance on future generations to preserve these records, which each amount to only a peek at a very tiny facet of what was of course a very complex whole. Records must survive shipwrecks, fire, flood, vermin, uncaring inheritors. Diaries are usually musty, hard to read, and sometimes potentially embarrassing. And “who wants to see another picture of that old lighthouse, anyway.” It is very difficult to determine what will be considered important down the road, like updates on the weather, and diet. Looking at old photographs we often find ourselves saying, “would you mind moving slightly to the left, sir, I like to see that house behind you,” or to the photographer, “Why not step back a few paces so I can see off to the sides a little more,” or “Can’t you please move in a little closer and get more detail on that ship?”

Our little peep holes on past society are necessarily very limited chronologically, and sociologically. It tends to be the records of the “upper crust” that survive. The goal of course is to create a series of three-dimensional snapshots, between which we can begin to interpolate the missing pieces. Diaries, wills, photographs, art work, deeds, survey plans, maps, ship’s bills of lading, store ledgers, bills of sale, IOU’s, school records, censuses, church records, obituaries, grave stones, newspapers (news, the “out and abouts”, the “shipping intelligence”, the advertisements) all contribute tiny fragments to the whole picture.