Carleton Place museum uncovers intimate unmentionables for next exhibit

Posted on: January 15, 2018

Brian Turner

Small town and rural museums are a great place to learn about your community.  Not just history, but the stories and tales of how people and events helped to create the place you call home.  They’re usually staffed with helpful, knowledgeable and cheery volunteers who never seem to mind going out of their way to assist visitors with questions and to add a very personal touch to a trip to yesteryear via some very imaginative and informative displays and exhibits.  The Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum is no exception.  Located in the former town hall/jail (and former Victoria School) at 267 Edmund Street in Carleton Place, this museum has been bringing history to life since 1983.

The newest exhibit, scheduled to open on Jan. 9 (running until May 4) is entitled ‘Underwear and Unmentionables’. According to museum curator Jennifer Irwin, some of the items may raise an eyebrow or two.

The idea spawned from a donation of goods and artifacts from a local pharmacy that was closing. When going through the treasure trove of items and related advertising materials, the museum team was struck with the unique packaging and advertising for prophylactics (condoms) and after a lively discussion the idea of an exhibit dedicated to underwear and unmentionables was born.

Irwin promises a wide array of period pieces providing an insight to what lengths some people went to for the sake of a preconceived notion of the ideal human body form. Of course she mentioned that it was easier to find viable historic examples of women’s garments as men tend to wear their underwear to threads and dust.

Did you know that a former Carleton Place clothing manufacturer Bates and Innes once made men’s long-johns labeled Ottawa Valley brand?  Irwin and her team would love to find a set.

Visitors can help museum staff find answer to such historical puzzlers as ‘how did anyone answer the call of nature wearing all the under-get-up of the day?’

Along with clothing, the exhibit will include an interesting look at how sex education, feminine products, birth control, and childbirth have changed through the years.

If you have unearthed something historic in your attic or basement and think it has some historic significance, the Carleton Place and Beckwith Museum would love to hear from you.  They’re always on the hunt for old photographs for example that can shed a light on how our early residents coped with day-to-day events. They can promise to provide a safe and climate controlled home for donated items giving them a chance to come to life once more in the minds of curious patrons.

The Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and admission is by donation.

This article was first published in the January 2018 issue of Hometown News. For more articles from our January 2018 issue, pick up a print copy at a local retailer (find a list of locations here) or read our digital version.