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The future of military history in this Prince County city took centre stage during a public forum this past week.
The Lest We Forget community veteran’s committee held the event at the Royal Canadian Legion on Wednesday night to give the community a chance to provide input.
Committee president Barb Gallant said efforts to establish a military museum at the Armoury building on Summer Street have been underway for about 20 years.
"It's for the whole community," she said, adding it is time to let city council know how important the issue is.
Once ongoing renovations are completed at the Armoury, plans include having the International Fox Museum Hall of Fame upstairs, while the main floor will be a place where many local stories are told, including those of the military.
The amount of space allocated to the military was one of the topics of discussion.
Joyce Phillips, the daughter of a veteran, was very blunt in her comments.
“I appreciate the cultural part you want to put in the Armoury and the fox museum upstairs, but that isn’t what it’s about, people,” Phillips told the gathering of about 25 people.
“You need that full building for a military museum, and you need somebody that is going to be there that is versed in military history, which we know there are several around here.”
Phillips, who also suggested having students dressed in uniforms at the museum, said individuals who had and have family members in the military understand the sacrifices.
An all-military museum in Summerside, she said, could highlight several historic events, including the Civil War, Boer War, First World War, Spanish War, Second World War and up to today.
“Between Randy (Ross), (Lest We forget committee director) George (Dalton) and the rest of the community in Summerside, you would outshine the War Museum in Ottawa, no lie," said Phillips.
Ross, a self-described amateur historian, has a “passion” for the military and his collection includes approximately 150 uniforms.
“I appreciate the cultural part you want to put in the Armoury and the fox museum upstairs, but that isn’t what it’s about people. You need that full building for a military museum and you need somebody that is going to be there that is versed in military history, which we know there are several around here.”
- Joyce Phillips
Another concern raised was that military artifacts are being lost since there is no place to display them.
“I love the passion that I'm hearing, and there's no doubt about the need for us to figure out what we are going to do with the artifacts, so we don't lose them,” said Coun. Cory Snow, who attended the meeting with Coun. Carrie Adams.
Also speaking on behalf of the city were chief administrative officer Rob Philpott and Lori Ellis, manager of heritage and cultural properties.
Philpott said the city is committed to working with the committee.
“We heard a lot of passion here (Wednesday) and a lot of people who are certainly interested in continuing to move forward and addressing our need to properly recognize our military history, not only in Summerside but Prince County,” said Philpott.
Asked about the comments requesting more space, Philpott said anything is up for discussion, but the city's main focus now is completing the renovations. It is hoped the museum displays will open in the summer of 2021.
Ellis appreciated the feedback and said Culture Summerside is looking forward to working with the committee and other groups.
“Our history in its entirety for a community is very, very important, and our military history is a part of it,” said Ellis. “It is important to hear the passion; it is important to hear the specifics of the passion and the stories of people connected to the history.”