Our Museum was recently gifted with an original set of letters that were written by Lloyd Peter Hedley, a young man from Canfield, Ontario, and a member of the RCAF during WWII.
How did the letters end up here, on the west coast?As the donor of the letters explained, “My mother got the letters from her cousin who lived in Ontario and bought an older home there quite some time ago. My mother helped clean the place when her cousin moved in. They found a number of things in the attic, including Lloyd Hedley’s letters he had sent to his parents during the war. I can only assume that the house at one time had belonged to Lloyd’s parents. My mother’s cousin was going to throw the letters away and my mother stepped in and said no way they should be thrown away and so her cousin told her to take them if she wanted them. There was only one Hedley in the small town (where my mother’s cousin’s house was) and my mother called them to see if they wanted the letters and they said they did not. So my mother just kept them all these years and just before she passed away last September she gave them to me, asked me to be sure not to throw them away and that perhaps they should be given to the Museum at the base…my mother if she were alive would be thrilled to know others would know his story.”
When memorabilia is donated to our Museum, we have to decide where it best belongs. The first step I took was to transcribe the letters; doing this would give a sense of their focus. I discovered some interesting information as well as a bit of Hedley’s story. Then I connected with the curator of the Haldimand County Museum near Canfield. I wondered if they had any information to share; the curator sent along some copies of newspaper clippings. I wondered if the letters might better belong there, near Hedley’s home… Next was introducing and discussing the letters at our Collections Management Committee Meeting. It was decided that we should make copies of the letters to go with the transcriptions and to keep those in our archival files, but that the original letters should be sent to the County Museum. And so? It was as if we were sending Hedley back home! The letters are where they should be, where they belong. If any descendants of the Hedley family want to learn more about this family member, they will be able to access information locally. And if anyone comes into our Museum seeking information about Hedley, we’ll have some things to share.
So please… Don’t throw that out! If the items you have don’t have value to you, it will have value to a museum, to a family, to our sense of history.
In my next posts, I’ll share some of Lloyd Peter Hedley’s story and some of what I learned from his letters.