When the Olde Gaol Museum recently created a pop-up education exhibit that would travel to schools, it was a break in format for the museum that they hope will breathe new life into local history.
Their most recent foray into schools was for One Man’s Mission — The Charles Lytle Story, which shared contributions made by Lytle. He was a Kawartha Lakes resident who was a member of the Toronto Police Commission and is credited with the creation of Elmer the Safety Elephant.
“While this exhibit breaks new ground for the museum in format, educational programming at the museum has enjoyed success with the Grade 1-4 students for the last two to three years,” says Lisa Hart, museum operations supervisor.
“Many local residents have no idea about this aspect of our museum’s work unless they happen to have a student in their family who participated in one of the programs,” Hart says, which is something they’re trying to change.
In the 1920s Lytle moved to Toronto to join the police and became a member of the traffic squad. More than 20 years later he was in charge of the division with the rank of inspector.
It was in 1947 that Lytle blended his love of children with a commitment to public safety by creating a program for area schools which involved a famous grey pachyderm named Elmer – or Elmer the Safety Elephant.
Beyond the museum, places like the Kawartha Lakes Art Gallery and Gamiing Nature Centre also present educational programming, a fact which hasn’t always been well publicized.
Kathy Anderson is the head of the museum’s education committee. She says she’s “enthusiastic” about the museum’s shift to doing pop-up exhibits.
“I think it gives people even more opportunities to hear the stories and see the artifacts that are specific to this area of Ontario,” says Anderson.
“Museums are uniquely positioned to tell us those stories and there are so many creative ways to do that,” she says.
She notes that schools are often challenged by transportation costs for field trips so that “any time we can take an exhibit to them,” she believes it’s a great thing.
Anderson notes the museum partners informally with other organizations, too.
“Teachers who are bringing their class to our programs at the museum will often combine their visit with another venue that is offering educational programming such as the art gallery, the library, the police station and the fire hall. Each of these is within easy walking distance.”