Museum exhibit to showcase Fort Frances businesses old and new

By Natali Trivuncic
Staff Writer
ntrivuncic@fortfrances.com

A new exhibit is underway at the Fort Frances Museum & Cultural Centre that will showcase businesses in town throughout the years.

And as the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially taxing on local businesses who are faced with constant restrictions and closures, this exhibit is a great way to showcase businesses’ past and present who have been a staple in the community.

Beverly Cochrane, curator at the Fort Frances Museum & Cultural Centre, said the idea started back in the summer of 2019 when they were putting together another exhibit.

“As I was reading through different articles about that area, learning about the businesses in Fort Frances, looking at pictures of places, I thought this is some really good information, and it would be nice for the public to learn about,” Cochrane said.

Cochrane and longtime museum volunteer Maxine Hayes, decided to create the exhibit which was initially planned to start in December 2020 but with the uncertainties of COVID, they decided to postpone it.

“When everything shut down, we pushed it back for a year,” Cochrane said. “Not knowing that was the best decision we could have made at that time.”

Cochrane said that although it has been a collaborative effort, Hayes has taken on the bulk of the research. One part of Hayes’ research has been going through all of the historical Fort Frances Times papers and cataloging the names of businesses and where they were located.

Cochrane said the earliest edition of the Fort Frances Times that she has is from 1898. Back then, the paper was called the Rainy Lake Herald.


Maxine Hayes, with the roadmap of downtown Fort Frances businesses she created for an upcoming exhibit on the history of local businesses. -Submitted photo

Cochrane said they do not have a name for the exhibit yet but are hoping to come up with one as they continue with their research.

While plenty of items have been collected, Cochrane said they are now looking to supplement it with personal stories from past and current business owners or those who have fond memories of businesses in town, including those that no longer exist.

Cochrane said because of COVID, the museum has been closed, limiting the amount of research her and Hayes can do, but they hope to have it done by December.

“We have a lot of the information now so it would be putting it all together and the layout. I have a list of the artifacts that we have in house. We have old Betty’s hat boxes and sales receipts. Those types of things we’re definitely going to showcase within the exhibit,” Cochrane said.

If there are people that have collectors’ items that they’ve purchased from the stores that have been long gone, Cochrane said she would also love to include those in the exhibit.

For collectors’ items or any other special items that would be useful to the exhibit, Cochrane said they have loan forms for anyone who is willing to loan the item for the exhibit.

Along with artifacts, those who have stories to share can either type them up or send a voice recording to the museum email ffmuseum@fortfrances.ca or call the museum at 807-274-7891. The anecdotal stories collected will also be used for the exhibit.

Cochrane said the best part of collecting research has been the nostalgia.

“When I’m looking through some of the information I think ‘oh yea I remember that place’ and then remembering the nostalgia about being a kid in Fort Frances,” Cochrane said.

Cochrane said she distinctly remembers going into Berry Patch which is now the Flint House restaurant.

“I remember seeing the comic books and also just the smell of walking in it. I don’t know if it was just because of the name Berry Patch but it smells like berries,” Cochrane said. “Things like that that spark memories of a time gone by and that’s the nostalgia that it would be nice to recreate.”

Cochrane said she hopes the exhibit will give the community some knowledge and appreciation of how things have evolved over the years.

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