History of the Museum
The Lincoln and Welland Regiment Museum began as an independent effort by certain members of the Regiment who saw the need to preserve and display the extensive collection of artefacts in the possession of the unit and its members both past and present at the time. A small museum was established in two rooms in the Niagara Falls Armoury.
With the closure of the Niagara Falls Armoury in 1999, the museum was forced to temporarily cease operations. After some time it was decided that the ideal location for the new museum should be in Niagara on the Lake as it was in this town that the Regiment could trace its earliest Canadian roots. In 2000, this move took place.
Currently, the Museum is located in a series of buildings known as Butler’s Barracks National Historic Site. The buildings are owned and maintained by Parks Canada The name is a misnomer, however, as Butler’s Rangers never occupied these buildings.
Following the War of 1812, the British decided to relocate the Indian Department and built a complex on this site which eventually grew to 19 buildings. The complex became known as Butler’s Barracks, a carry-over as Colonel John Butler had been a Deputy Superintendent in the Indian Department.
The two-story building that houses the museum’s main galleries, known as the soldier’s barracks, was built in 1817. It is believed that the outer log walls and main support beams are from the original building, and the walls dividing the rooms were put in about 1821. This building has special significance in that a company of Lincoln and Welland Regiment was headquartered there throughout the 1960’s. The museum’s vehicle collection is housed in a Gun shed that was built in 1821 to house field guns (cannon) for the Royal Artillery.
With a significant amount of volunteer effort the new museum held a ribbon cutting ceremony and opened to the public in 2001. Known as a ‘hidden’ historical gem in Niagara, the museum has received numerous accolades for its interpretation of not only the history of the Regiment, but more importantly the role of the citizen soldier in the shared heritage of Niagara.
Between 2001 and 2007 the museum was open by appointment only. That final year a decision was made to expand the operations for the museum and open full time during the tourist season in Niagara. Since then the museum has maintained regular operating hours and is proud to employ local Students through Young Canada Works, a government program that promoted the employment for post-secondary students in heritage jobs related to their fields of study.
Over the past few years the museum has expanded its operations to incorporate military vehicles of historical significance to the Regiment and the Canadian Military. A dedicated group of volunteers spend countless hours restoring and maintaining our vehicle ‘fleet’ in functioning non static order. This allowed the museum to adopt a unique heritage preservation role as one of the few museums in Ontario with a large collection of operational military vehicles for display and community outreach.
Over the next few years the museum will continue to refine and expand its operations to ensure that the public at large will have opportunities to enjoy and learn about our shared Canadian military heritage.