History merits preservation

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Sir: I was really happy to read the letter to the editor by Freida Roth about the popularity of The Chatham Voice and the importance of such historic monuments as the Downtown Chatham Centre mural. Apparently mall owner Dan Warrener has asked for it to be removed to accommodate his future plans.

This incredible 25-year-old structure is made of clay and contains 350 pieces. It weighs 720 kilograms and, according to a recent municipal staff report, would require a painstaking effort to move.

It was in 1989 that retired farmers Henry and Lila Faubert decided Chatham needed this mural, which depicts urban and rural life here with the Thames River as a focal point. It ended up costing the Fauberts $70,000 and it took the expertise of local artist Cliff Kearns to create the masterpiece involving 4,000 hours of labor and the assistance of his brother Larry and a group of art students.

Coun. Derek Robertson has been quoted as saying “We want to preserve this piece of Chatham history.” True, councilor, true! We need to preserve Chatham history. And Dan Warrener has done much of this by buying older buildings in town and renovating them to their former glory. I hope he finds a way to incorporate this historic mural within the Downtown Chatham Centre.

Like Freida Roth, I would hate for it to be thrown into a dumpster like the historic corn mural, made for Chatham’s 1979 International Plowing Match. Last year, it was discovered the corn mural had been thrown out, apparently due to a misunderstanding among city staff. It wasn’t a small item. Not the sort of thing you accidently mislay. If I remember correctly, it was 44 feet long.

But it was an historic item thrown into a dumpster.

I am relieved to hear certain people are moving towards putting all our historical paperwork onto a digital database. Personally, I love shuffling through paperwork but we do need computer records for the city’s archives.

Thumbs up to Chatham-Kent Museum, the public library and the art gallery, all of whom have partnered in applying for a provincial grant to transfer approximately 10,000 historic photographs, 200 books and several art works onto a digital database. And these include the thousands of local photographs by George James. I believe these are presently in the museum.

Just because Canada is a relatively new country, it doesn`t mean we shouldn`t keep historical records, especially for a community so rich in history as Chatham-Kent. The Ridge House museum collection, both their photographs and their artifacts are already digitized and the public library has digitized 78 directories dating from the 1870s until the early 2000s, 50 municipal documents from the same time period and 35 books by local artists. But unfortunately there’s much to be done and apparently the staff just doesn’t have the time.

Stephen J. Beecroft

Chatham

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