Sunday, October 15, 2023

Aurora Artifacts – 150 Years of Hidden Heritage

By Matt Maddocks. As we are about to head into a year-long celebration of Aurora’s 150th anniversary, recognition of our town’s rich history has never been more important. Our Sesquicentennial Committee, a diverse group of dedicated volunteers, have developed a theme that speaks to a celebration of Aurora’s past, present, and future. Given this, it is my hope that our elected representatives will at some point soon come to the realization that our present manner of acknowledging our past represents a less than stellar vision of our future.

I am of the belief that a town that does not respect its history will struggle to define where it is headed. True recognition of our past, the artifacts and documents that brought us to where we are and built our identity, all speak to who we are as a town today. A town that prides itself on its heritage can use and leverage that strength to progress forward, to grow and prosper both economically and socially. But by leaving Aurora artifacts and recorded history hidden away in basements and storage lockers, we dishonour one of the most important elements that contributes to the strength and character of our beautiful town. Aurora has described itself as a “character community”. But character is a trait that is cultivated and built, and comes primarily through proud recognition of the people, events, and history that developed our identity. If we hesitate to celebrate our past, we are challenged to celebrate our future.


Aurora’s established and purpose-built home for the display of our heritage artifacts is located at the old Church St. School, the original home to the Aurora Museum, and is now known as The Aurora Cultural Centre. Following extensive renovations to bring the old school’s mechanical and structural systems up to date and suitable for the display and preservation of our historical collection, our artifacts were sadly left packed away in the basement of the building. Several attempts have been made since to bring the items out of hiding to have them re-displayed in their renovated home.

In the latest draft of the services agreement between the Cultural Centre board and the Town of Aurora, the 12 members of the non-elected board have acquiesced to allow a small 731 sq ft room on the second floor of Cultural Centre to act as the new home for the town’s vast collection (over 16,000 artifacts) of history and heritage. Having personally viewed the size and scope of the collection, I am not convinced that one small room will provide the proper space and environment. When displayed prior to the renovations, the collection comprised the entire 2nd floor of the old school, and the collection has grown since then.

Aurora Historical Society curator Catherine Richards is someone I have found to be knowledgeable, professional, and passionate about the current state and preservation of Aurora artifacts. But sadly, it would appear that this passion and desire is not shared by those who would have the authority to make right the proper display of our heritage. It is my sincere hope that our current council of elected representatives will find the fortitude and conviction to make the right decision to re-establish the proper and rightful home for the display of our Aurora artifacts, especially as we plan to move forward and celebrate 150 years of the history and heritage of the Town of Aurora.

Matt Maddocks
Aurora, ON 

[1] Royal Canadian Army, Aurora District High School, September 2012, Photography by Matt Maddocks.

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