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Conservation students to honor college namesake in ‘Meet the Real Fleming’ exhibit

Fleming College namesake Sir Sandford Fleming is being honored during the 50th anniversary of the college. Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management students are curating the Meet the Real Fleming exhibit, which opens Saturday, April 1, 2017 during Fleming’s Spring Open House.

Sir Sandford Fleming
Sir Sandford Fleming

Sir Sandford Fleming was born in Kircaldy, Scotland in 1827 and moved to Peterborough, Ontario, Canada in 1845, where he drew and printed the first map of the city. Sir Sandford was an engineer and innovator. He designed Canada’s first postage stamp, the Three Penny Beaver; led plans for the Intercolonial Railway, was director of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, and Chief Engineer of the Northern Railway; and invented Universal Standard Time, which was adopted worldwide in 1885.

In 1897, Sir Sandford was knighted by Queen Victoria for his accomplishments. The regalia he wore to the knighting are just some of the artifacts that will be displayed at the Meet the Real Fleming exhibit.

“We’re learning lots of personal stories about Sir Sandford that people may not know,” said Conservation student and Lead Project Manager Raene Poisson. “He saved a portrait of Queen Victoria from a burning building, which she mentioned at his knighting.”

Conservation student Raene Poisson
Conservation student Raene Poisson

Raene is excited for the exhibit and enthusiastically discusses the artifacts she and her classmates are working on in the Sutherland Campus Conservation Lab. In addition to his regalia, the exhibit will also display Sir Sandford’s brass rolling ruler, a ruler with visible (possibly Sir Sandford’s) prints on it, and a dress belonging to his wife (believed to be her wedding dress), among other items. These artifacts are normally on display at Hutchison House museum in Peterborough.

“The students are so enthusiastic about the topic and working with the personal effects of Fleming, the namesake of the college,” said Fleming Conservation program coordinator Gayle McIntyre. “The students have embraced the topic. It’s a complete synthesis of the curriculum; all of the courses come together. It shows teamwork and collaboration, time management, and research. The project is the perfect blend of art, science, engineering and creativity.’

Gayle McIntyre and Katie McEvoy

‘Students are experiencing back of house museum functions – such as the planning and preparation of the artifacts, and text for the exhibit – through to the front of house museum functions, including exhibit installation and public engagement,” said Gayle. “This class is rich in positive energy and fresh ideas. Faculty are proud of their efforts!”

Raene agrees. “Everything we’re taught in the program is used in this project,” she said.

Her classmate, Katie McEvoy, is part of the Interpretive Planning Group that helps promote the upcoming exhibit. Katie manages the Sir Sandford Fleming Twitter account, tweeting first-person as Sir Sandford to help others learn about him. Her team also chatted with Trent radio, held a bake sale, and made a Sir Sandford Selfie cutout for students to take cellphone pictures with.

“At the exhibit opening, I’m most excited to get feedback on our work,” said Katie, who will organize Sir Sandford-themed activities for children to enjoy at the April 1st event. “It’s our first time doing an exhibit start to finish, so receiving feedback from students and staff to see how we did will help us measure our success.”

The students have also been fundraising for the exhibit. On February 22, they hosted a bake sale in the Sutherland Campus main foyer to raise money and awareness of it.

Sutherland Campus Bake Sale
Sutherland Campus Bake Sale

One of the project managers at the bake sale was Lindsay Sisson, who said she hopes students will feel connected with Sir Sandford at the exhibit. “We’re hoping to connect with the student population by sharing what Sir Sandford was doing at our age and lesser known facts about him,” she said.

One Sir Sandford story the Conservation students adore is how Sir Sandford fell in love with his wife, Ann Jane (“Jeanie”).

“He was riding a horse-and-carriage with Jeanie when they crashed into a tree,” said Lindsay at the bake sale. “That crash was when Sir Sandford fell in love with her and they later married. Sir Sandford also used the tree stump to make a family picture frame.”

Weeks later in the Conservation Lab, Lindsay’s classmate Raene shares the same story as being her favourite Fleming fact. “The more I research about him, the more I fall in love,” says Raene. “I just love the story of how he fell in love with his wife!”

The students hope guests at the Meet the Real Fleming exhibit will feel the same.