The story of the settlement and historical development of Lennox & Addington County is highlighted in a number of themed exhibits displayed within the old County Gaol.

Artifacts from the textile, furniture, domestic arts, tools and equipment collections of the Museum & Archives are showcased on a changing basis.  Occasional guest exhibitions are also presented.

What's on Exhibit


Cronolines and ConfederationCrinolines & Confederation: Gigantic Gowns & Nationalism - 1856—1870

“Collection curated by Diane Gallinger, Jordan Heritage Resources”

What does Canada’s 150th Birthday and Scarlett O'Hara's massive hoop gowns have in common? They are both products of nationalism. In 1867, Canadian nationalism evolved as a defensive response to American nationalism. Britain wished to save money by forcing colonies to take on more of the costs of  their own governance.  A political deadlock between French and English necessitated a change in how government was run. There was a practical need to reshape a collection of colonies along the St. Lawrence River in British North America around a common national identity and purpose. One nation with its unique history of French and English heritage would fare better in terms of defence and economic development than a number of weak and independent colonies.

In a time of nationalistic fervour, massive dresses were used as walking billboards to convey political propaganda for new regimes, assert national dominance, express patriotism, shape perceptions of cultural identity in a widening world. As events in the 1860s and today demonstrate, nationalism is a deeply potent emotion that can shape whole cultures, redraw the map of our world, and steer political events. Come see how see how the greatest fashion leaders of the 1860s used the seductive power of nationalism to send political messages through one of the grandest, most spectacularly lavish, and strangest  fashions of all time - the gigantic crinoline skirt.

Benson PhotoThe People and Places of Napanee: 1860’s Photographic Collection of Stephen Benson

In the decade of Canada’s confederation, Stephen Benson was capturing the people and places of Napanee; the town that Sir John A. Macdonald would have known throughout his professional and political career.  This collection of 385 glass negatives reveals the everyday faces of the town and  the buildings that served as the community’s centre during those Confederation years. The majority of the negatives are portraits of individuals and groups taken between May 1863 to December 1864. An exceptional collection that captures a broad range of people and places in a growing and prosperous town at the onset of Confederation.   As part of Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations, a selection of this collection is on display in the Archives Corridor for you to discover and enjoy.

About the Photographer: Stephen Benson (1843-1901) grew up in Napanee but came from loyalist roots and prominence. His father, John Benson (1808-1882), proprietor of a General Store;  also had a prominent career in public service. He served as Clerk of the Division Court from 1833-1837, was elected Reeve of Napanee in 1855, and served as Town Clerk from 1860-1862, he was also Justice of the Peace, County Auditory and Collector of Customs.

Stephen Benson was a trained telegrapher and had helped with his father’s business and property interests. In 1863, Stephen announced his new Photographic Gallery, located opposite the Yates Hotel. The venture was short lived, by 1865, he had closed his studio and moved to Rochester, NY.  

Museum-ConfederationEraEntrepreneurs.jpg"Confederation Era Entrepreneurs"

By the 1860’s, the population of the County had grown to allow Lennox and Addington to become independent and a new Court House and jail were built in the mill reserve. Napanee, at the head of the falls, became the County Town. John Stevenson, Napanee’s Reeve, was also the first County Warden.  Confederation, the forging together of the provinces of British North America, passed almost unnoticed in the local press. The County’s First Warden became the first Speaker of the new Ontario Legislature. In the post Confederation era, Italianate styled houses began to dominate Napanee architecture. William Miller, an East Ward merchant, built a new Italianate styled house near the Court House.  Proximity to the Court House and the railway station made East Street a desirable area.

Inside the houses were well furnished.  In 1868 when young William T. Gibbard joined his father, John, in the business, elaborate carved sideboards became a defining product of Gibbard and Sons. 

William Miller’s carved game sideboard and Renaissance Revival Gibbard bedroom suite are on display in the Gibbard gallery.

Museum-HorseBuggyAge.jpg"The Horse and Buggy Age"

The years after Confederation to the Great War which erupted in 1914, were the decades when the “Horse and Buggy Age” was at its height. Each farm family possessed one or two light carriages of which the buggy was the most important, and the democrat, a rig with two or three benches, was almost as important. Although the blacksmith remained essential in rural communities, the small foundries and factories strung along the County’s rivers began to build versions of the most popular new inventions.

It was also a great wheat period and a time of hearty work in the fields.  The pace of farming quickened with improvements in farm machinery. New foundries, mills and manufacturing plants were built taking advantage of water power sites along the Napanee River.  D.B. Stickney’s Newburgh foundry built reapers and Joseph Connolly in Yarker produced a variety of ploughs. The Benjamin Wheel Manufacturing Company in Yarker produced rims and spokes for wagon and buggy wheels.

A Connolly democrat, a C.H. Finkle cutter and a Stickney reaper are featured in the Horse and Buggy Age.

Coming Summer 2018

My Story My Tattoo

"My Story, My Tattoo"

Tattoos are living images that reveal important stories about our residents, our community and the tattoo phenomenon. My Story, My Tattoo features 32 photographs and stories of people and their amazing tattoos. The exhibit includes four audio stations (with eight audio interviews), seven videos and 30 text panels.

Participants represent every walk of life – everyone from a cancer survivor to teachers and their students, a firefighter and a farmer. The participants range in age from 26 to 89 years and live throughout Wellington County.

All of the individuals were open and honest, and their stories and personalities are represented through this series of thought-provoking and colourful images. Chris Piccinetti, a Guelph photographer and graphic designer for the County of Wellington, photographed these inspiring images.

My Story, My Tattoo is a travelling exhibit from the Wellington County Museum and Archives. 


Egypt Gift Of The NileEgypt: Gift of the Nile

The Nile River Valley of 5,000 years ago was the birthplace of a remarkable civilization. Protected from foreign invasion by vast deserts and sustained by fertile soil along the river, the ancient Egyptians developed from a simple agricultural community into a sophisticated society. Under a system of divine kingship, this Egyptian civilization lasted thousands of years and contributed strongly to the later cultures of the Mediterranean and Europe.

The Egypt: Gift of the Nile exhibit allows visitors to travel to ancient Egypt and learn about jewelery, perfume, make-up, food, family life, funerary religion and the afterlife.

This exhibition is on loan from the Royal Ontario Museum.