Quilts on display at ANHS

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As Ontario starts to gradually open the doors out of our homes and into society once again, I pray that every parent, child, friend and family keeps an eye on each other and continues to social distance and wear a mask when unsure of situations or the people they are with.

If any doubt remains about the value of these simple measures one has only to look south of the border to see what can happen when ignored.

For something safe to do, there is a colourful and interesting exhibit you might want to go to at Annandale National Historic Site. Yes, the doors of ANHS opened, although not quite all the inside doors as yet. The Pratt Gallery will be open BY APPOINTMENT ONLY to view quilts. The ladies are going to love this one and surprisingly so will historians and guys!

The exhibition is entitled: Piecing Together the Past and Present: A Collaborative Quilt Show for 2020. The collaboration is between the Stationhouse Quilters and Fibre Artists who will reveal 10 modern quilts and 10 historical quilts from the Annandale NHS collection.

Quilts are amazing works art made of various types of coloured cloth in a myriad of ancient and modern patterns (quilting goes back 5,000 years) or just splashes of brilliant colour crazily stitched together.

Alas, having written this prior to the opening I cannot speak of the Stationhouse quilts for this exhibit and what the modern quilts like, although I am sure they are vibrant and beautiful. You will just have to come to see them, but I can attest to a couple of the historic ones you will see in the museum’s collection.

Annandale NHS has a wonderful collection of quits that tell the stories of our town’s past and wars and 10 will be out to view.

An unusual quilt you will see is made from cigar bands. No, not the little paper rings that were on Dad’s stogies that we remember. We have to go back to the late 1800s when a silk or satin band was wrapped around a bundle of cigars or perhaps a box. I expect using the term band instead of ribbon was manlier. The bands were colourful and usually had the name of the cigar company on them. Sadly, this quilt does not have a band from Tillsonburg cigar factory located at the back of the old Imperial Hotel.

You will also see a quilt made of parachute silk, from World War II, which will have a very interesting story to go with it.

As in days gone by quilts today are still used for fundraising. In the past people would help by paying to have their names, groups or even poetry stitched on a quilt. This was the case in World War I when funds were raised for the war effort by producing a Victory Quilt. When completed, these quilts would often be sent overseas, perhaps to the Ontario Military Hospital in Orpington, England to be passed around for all to see. Hospitals were a meeting place of Ontario service men and women, even if they were not patients.

One such quilt was found recently at Doluce Domiun, a Tillson family cottage on E.D. Tillson’s original Muskoka property. E.D.’s granddaughter Marguerite Sinclair was a WWI Nursing Sister who served overseas and spent wonderful times at her parents’ (Lillie and Dr. L.C. Sinclair) cottage. Marguerite never married but her sister Lillie’s descendant, Martha, and hubby Max Jackson, discovered the quilt and have donated it to the museum. It is amazing for the who’s who of Tillsonburg is on this quilt, many of whom have descendants still in town today – like Oatman, Bennett, Davis Anderson, Hewer, Fergusson, Thompson or Jackson. One square alone has 36 names surrounding a maple leaf! Some squares have the names of men serving and their regiments. Another has the 1916 Tillsonburg Town Council’s names and another the 1916 Tillsonburg High School staff.

To stay safe, you want to gather your seven best friends and MAKE YOUR APPOINTMENT for one of the hourly, 45-minute Pratt Gallery tours. They are running Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the gallery. (No drop-ins allowed.) Call 519-842-2294.

The Historic Annandale House will remain closed until such time as both the health and safety of visitors and the preservation of the historic surfaces within the house can be guaranteed. Current government-approved disinfectants required to clean high touch areas (e.g. doorknobs, handrails, door frames) are not recommended by the Canadian Conservation Institute for use on historic surfaces. Use of approved disinfecting methods will cause damage to these surfaces, therefore the required cleaning prior to and after each visitor touring the house is not attainable at this time.

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