With a bit of humour, the mayor of St. Marys helped kickoff a pandemic contest that’s safe and fun. 

Al Strathdee recreated a photo taken in 1978 when then-Mayor Clifton Brown posed on an antique penny-farthing bicycle.

In the humorous recreation, Strathdee is seen on a tricycle with town resident Bob Doupe. Doupe is standing in for himself 43 years after he posed for the original.

Part of the reason humour was used for this particular project was St. Marys Museum Curator Amy Cubberley’s decision.

“We do actually have that penny-farthing bicycle in the museum’s collection. So at first, we thought maybe we could recreate it with that, but I wasn’t super keen about having our mayor riding on an actual 120-year-old artifact,” she says.

But Cubberley is super keen on engaging St. Marys and area residents during the pandemic.

So she’s asking them to go to this website and select a photo from the museum's vast digital archive and recreate it with authenticity or humour for the chance at a small prize.

It’s part of an initiative leading up to Family Day and Ontario Heritage Week.

“We are hoping people just pick out a photo that speaks to them and maybe have fun with the props and the background and whatever costume they can make in their homes and really just have some fun with it.”

While the contest has just begun, another example arrived just this week.

A local police officer, Const. Aaron Mounfield, took his picture to match one of town officer Dan Ross. It was taken in the 1940s.

“That view, aside from the cars in the background and I think some hydro poles that view is unchanged.”

Left: St Marys police Officer Dan Ross is seen in a photo taken in the 1940s. Right: Current police Const. Aaron Mounfield is seen standing in the exact same location. (Source: St. Marys Museum)

But as we all know, times have changed for all of us, and for museums.

Many have remained closed since the pandemic began, but government emergency funding has helped them survive.

And, Cubberley says, so is another unexpected revenue stream: people trapped at home looking for projects.

She says they’ve turned to searching their family history, leading to a doubling in revenue from archive requests.

St. Marys Museum Curator Amy Cubberley (Submitted)

“We have seen a massive increase in our requests for research. So people seem to be taking this newfound time at home to dive into genealogy and property history.”

It turns out St. Marys is not the only community doing vintage picture recreations. Tillsonburg’s Annandale House Museum is launching a similar public contest Friday.