There’s a museum in Aylmer, did you know?
It recently came to my attention that plenty of people don’t know there is a museum located where rue Principale meets the Ottawa River. These people read the Bulletin and have seen our coverage of both the grand opening of new exhibits there and other museum news. These people are also online and read about these events. Many of these people walk past the building regularly as they take their families to Parc des Cèdres or to the marina. It’s tempting to accuse these Aylmerites of not paying attention, or having little interest in culture and history, but this is not the case.
Perhaps these Aylmerites are illiterate for not having read the sign in front of the building? Oh, wait. Here is the problem – the sign.
There is no big “Museum” sign! There’s a white sign with a Symmes Inn logo on the front lawn of this heritage building. Somewhere, in small print, it says “museum”. No wonder so many residents who came to live here in the last decade don’t know what is in this building! Many who were interviewed by the Bulletin over the last week are familiar with the museum, at least in theory. They know a museum exists somewhere in Aylmer. But those interviewed at least did not connect this heritage building, the Symmes Inn, with the museum. They see a tiny museum-logo on a sign on des Allumetières Boulevard, or they read about events at the museum, all without knowing where it is in the first place.
The city has just signed a new multi-year agreement with Tourism Outaouais to promote tourism attractions within Gatineau. Hello? Hello? These signs have been missing for years; will the “tourism experts” now notice? It is wonderful to promote the big flagship events and locations, but what of tourism’s bread-and-butter items -- the events and places which are open constantly and ready to welcome visitors, like the Symmes Inn museum, should those visitors ever learn where these attractions are. Local families are constantly looking for local activities.
Otherwise, we’ll have our city promoted in Montreal and Sherbrooke – the federal Museum of History and Gatineau Park – while our many other smaller attractions remain unvisited, and apparently unpopular. No one knows about them and there’s the unpopularity – unpopular with well-paid tourism officials. And certainly unpopular with city officials who find the relevant zoning codes rigid, narrow, and unimaginative.
This distressing realization perfectly illustrates how a small action can affect a big change. City code or not, that building requires a large “Museum” sign. Plus, an “Open to the public” sign. All the appeals in the world to the municipal code, which apparently justifies only the sign there now, cannot justify the reality that innumerable visitors walk and drive right past the building without knowing it is a museum. Do we expect visitors to look through the windows to see what is in the building? Is that tourism promotion?
The museum needs a sign that says museum.