Last Saturday was Doors Open in Kingston. For those who are unfamiliar, Doors Open is an event where museums and buildings not usually open to the public allow people to visit them for free. Doors Open Ontario events are scheduled on weekends throughout the summer months, running from May-October, and have many participating cities. Check out their website for more information and for participating locations.
I took this opportunity to learn more about Kingston and explore some buildings that I’ve never been to. Most of Kingston’s participating buildings were located near downtown so I managed to visit the following 4 places.
Queen’s University Archives
The Queen’s University Archives is home to a large collection of documents, pictures and media, preserving the history of Queen’s as well as the Kingston area.Their goal is to save items in their original form, as the format these documents come in can tell us a lot about the specific time period. For example, remember cassette tapes? Wonder if they will be completely forgotten about in a few decades. We were given a guided tour of the archives, visited two of their holding rooms and were told a bit about its history.
Murney Tower Museum
Kingston’s harbour is made up of 5 main fortifications, which are Fort Henry, and four Martello towers (Murney Tower, Shoal Tower, Fort Frederick Tower and Cathcart Tower). Murney Tower is a National Historic Sight of Canada and allows visitors to get a glimpse of military life in 19th century Kingston. Another tower that is regularly open to visitors is the Fort Frederick Tower, which is home to the Royal Military College Museum.
This is another National Historic Sight of Canada, and it was the house of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. The house has been restored to look as it would during the 1840s, however only a few of the items in the house are original. The staff are dressed in costumes from that time period and are happy to answer any questions.
Tip: If you eat at Sir John’s Public House, located at 343 King St E, in Kingston, and your bill is over $25, then you can get free admission to Bellevue House.
Canada’s Penitentiary Museum
The Penitentiary Museum shares the history of Canada’s penitentiaries. The museum sits right across the street from Kingston Penitentiary, and the house used to be the Warden’s residence. There are 8 rooms in total showing visitors the stories, artifacts and programs that have been a part of Canada’s penitentiaries throughout the years.