Telling an old story in a new way

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Erin Dee-Richards at the interactive display of the Hard Oilers who opened the oil fields of India. It's part of a new display at the Oil Museum of Canada in Oil Springs.

There is lots of light and lots of interactive displays to hold the interest of young and old in the newly redesigned Oil Museum of Canada in Oil Springs.

Visitors are once again taking in the past at the museum which tells the story of oil discovery in Lambton County.

Last year, contractors stripped the 60 year-old museum to the studs as part of a plan to return the building to its original design by Ian Rutherford, including returning the walls of windows. Erin Dee-Richards, the curator and supervisor at the site, recently gave The Independent a tour, showing the exhibits based on the original vision of the museum including the geology of oil, how Indigenous people used it, the discovery of oil and the reach of Lambton’s oil drillers as well as the history of Oil Springs and the boom there.

The wall of windows is one of the first changes visitors will notice as they walk up to the museum. And Dee-Richards says it stays true to Rutherford’s vision. “The original intent for the windows was for you to read about the history and then turn around and see it – the oil field.

Many of the displays are interactive, like the new history wall which explains the use of oil through the decades. And, with the touch of a hand, the oil starts gushing from the rig.

The interactive history wall tells the story of oil through the decades.

“There’s more interpretation and more time can be spent in here,” she says. Tall columns of oil bubble at the press of a button so visitors get an idea of just how thick crude is. And people can visit the different countries Hard Oilers opened up oil fields in India and beyond.

There is also a look at how the discovery of oil brought about the development of Oil Springs; from a miniature of the Fairbank Oil Field to the register of one of the more famous hotels from the period. The Oxford Hotel register from April 2, 1862 shows people from as far away as England visiting the community.

The Oxford Hotel Register

And there are items rarely seen before, such as home movies taken by a Hard Oiler in India.

The museum is open to visitors Wednesday to Saturday from 11 am to 4 pm. You can reserve a spot online or drop by during regular business hours.