This weekend, the boy and I joined hundreds of people from London and area to explore heritage buildings, museums, art organizations, and the cultural life of our city…for free!!! In a collaborative initiative, Doors Open and Culture Days raised awareness and increased public engagement with historic organizations and cultural institutions, many of which are not normally accessible to the public. There were almost too many places to visit. We had to be judicious in our choices and decided to stick to locations within walking distance of home. So on a beautiful, sun-filled day we set out to explore London.
The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame was our first stop. Originally constructed in 1928 as a Bank of Toronto, it is a Renaissance Revival building that now features the remarkable contributions of Canadians to the medical field. The portrait gallery houses many well known names. But the one that struck me most was Dr. Leonora Howard King. She was the first officially licensed female doctor in China who by 1884 single-handedly established a practice devoted entirely to women and children. Had she stayed in Canada she would have been barred from practicing medicine yet her determination had made a difference to a group of people across the globe.
Next stop was the 1st Hussars Museum at 1 Dundas Street. The building was a little difficult to locate initially. We had a vague idea where we thought it should be as we walked around the Old Court House building searching for a sign or an entrance. Finding none, we made our way toward the river and discovered a tiny yellow house.
The unimposing structure built in 1880-1 and one of the last remaining original buildings at the Fork of the Thames, houses a very important and unique collection of memorabilia from both World Wars. A tour led by a volunteer, Colonel Joe Murray (who also turned out to be our high school teacher) was inspiring and detailed. And most of all, it exhibited the passion that all the volunteers hold for preserving the memories of the past.
Of course the tour wouldn’t be complete without a chat and a thank you to the men and women who keep us safe around the world today.
Next we admired the work of eleven artist exhibiting their pieces at the ARTS Project. The building first constructed in the mid-1880s as Hawthorn’s Hotel has gone through many incarnations to now house three galleries, a black box theatre and art studios.
Along our tour we also visited Museum London, DNA Artspace, and the Polish Hall (for a well deserved home cooked meal) before my feet gave out. I can’t wait to see what next year brings. If you didn’t partake this year, I hope you join the tours next year. If you did I’d love to hear what your favourite stops were in 2014.