Four hundred years in the making, Ontario’s francophone history is now available to anyone in the world.
History buffs, teachers, parents and students are among the targeted audiences for a new Virtual Museum of Franco-Ontarian Heritage. The website www.mon400.com was unveiled Thursday to more than 300 delegates at the opening of the 44th annual Ontario Museum Association conference in Windsor.
It was appropriate to officially launch the new website in Windsor, “the cradle, in a sense, of the French in Ontario,” said OMA executive director Marie Lalonde.
The initial offering of more than 250 stories, objects, images, archival documents and behind-the-scenes museum tours currently available for viewing on the website is just a start, she said, and anyone who feels they might also have something to contribute is invited to do so via social media.
The virtual museum should also serve as a “reaching across the ocean” opportunity for Ontario’s rich francophone history and culture to be shared widely and to serve as a tool to attract new visitors to the province, said Kelly Burke, acting-deputy minister responsible for francophone affairs who made the announcement in Windsor.
Even though Windsor has grown into Canada’s fourth-most culturally diverse city, Mayor Drew Dilkens, on hand to greet the OMA delegates, said the French roots in his city remain “very strong and still active.”
Dilkens himself shares those deep roots, as a descendent of Sandwich Towne co-founder Louis Villaires (an ancestor he shares with city councillor J0-Anne Gignac).
Among the dozens of #mON400 virtual museum collaborators are the Royal Ontario Museum, the Canadian Museum of History, Library and Archives Canada, the Hockey Hall of Fame, university research centres and the Windsor Community Museum.
“Through the project, we’ve discovered a great deal of engaging and exceptional historical figures, and we realize once more the key role museums have in preserving our history, our legacy,” said Lalonde.
Windsor’s new Chimczuk Museum is still a few months away from opening to the public, but the delegates to this week’s Ontario Museum Association conference at Caesars Windsor were given a sneak peek. The heritage to be displayed locally will be “fabulous,” said Lalonde.