Local historian says Sarnia is missing out on pieces of its history

Over 3,200 pieces of Sarnia's history are in storage at the Lambton Heritage Museum

Local history buff and President of the Sarnia Historical Society Ron RealeSmith. (J.D. Booth/Lambton Shield)

Ron RealeSmith wants to see pieces of Sarnia’s history back in Sarnia.

Over 3,200 artifacts relating to Sarnia’s history are currently in storage at the Lambton Heritage Museum in Grand Bend.

The artifacts range from antique pictures of local landmarks and authentic model cars to a Second World War Sten Gun and a women’s suit.

The artifacts were formerly part of the collection at the Sarnia Historical Society’s brick and mortar museum on Davis Street in Sarnia.

When the Sarnia Historical Society fell on hard times after the sudden passing of long-time board members, the museum ceased operations in 2012 and the City of Sarnia took over the artifacts, putting them in storage before the artifacts were donated to Lambton County.

The artifacts have been stored as part of the Lambton Heritage Museum collection since.

RealeSmith, who serves as president of the Sarnia Historical Society, would like those pieces of Sarnia’s history accessible for the people of Sarnia.

“The majority of citizens of Lambton County live in Sarnia and they don’t have access to any artifacts of their history,” said RealeSmith. “And even if they could get access to it out in Lambton County, if they had public transportation available to them, there are no artifacts out there to see.”

RealeSmih suggested Sarnia is under-represented at the Heritage Museum.

“Alexander Mackenzie’s desk and the Goodison Threshing Machine are pretty much it for representation for Sarnia,” RealeSmith said at Sarnia’s January 15 council meeting. 

“As a citizen of Sarnia, I would like a place in Sarnia where we can view the artifacts,” he said.

“Oil Springs, Mooretown, Forest, Arkona, Sombra all have local museums; Sarnia does not,” RealeSmith said at the council meeting.

Andrew Meyer, corporate cultural officer with Lambton County, said the Lambton Heritage Museum is under renovation and there are plans to put together new exhibits which would incorporate the Sarnia artifacts.

Meyer said a new high-density mobile storage system will make the museum’s collection more accessible to the public.

“Our goal is to allow the public to access the collection,” he said.

Outreach exhibits at places like local libraries are also being considered, said Meyer.

“Our intent is to share the collections that we have more effectively with the community,” Meyer said.

Meyer said the County intends to work with groups like the Sarnia Historical Society to put together exhibits.

“With the [museum] renovation coming to a close and with this concern expressed by the Historical Society coming to light, it’s the opportune time to take a look at that collection and determine moving forward how we can get that out to the community and how can share that rich collection with Lambton County,” Meyer said.

RealeSmith said he is 100% willing to collaborate with the County, but ultimately, he wants to see the artifacts in Sarnia.

Renovations at the Lambton Heritage Museum are set to be complete within a couple weeks.

To learn more about Sarnia’s history, visit the Sarnia Historial Society website.

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