Love is in the Air

By Jenna Leifso, Archivist

G.C. Heath and friend, about 1940-1945. Photo by J. Gordon Henderson. Rights: Public Domain

G.C. Heath and friend, about 1940-1945. Photo by J. Gordon Henderson. A992.0003.692. Rights: Public Domain


Your training is done and you’re about to go back to the war in Europe or the Pacific but you have to leave behind your new wife or girlfriend in Canada. What do you give her to remember you by? A popular option for those in the Royal Canadian Air Force or the Royal Air Force during WWII was the Sweetheart Pin. Similar in appearance to official badges, but with a slightly more feminine look, Sweetheart Pins came in a variety if shapes, sizes, and colours. Some were even made with semi-precious stones!

Sweetheart Pins were privately purchased by men to give their girlfriends or wives and often indicated their service branch. The woman in the picture is wearing an RAF Sweetheart Pin on her blouse. She most likely received it from her friend in the photograph.

New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and Britain all had their own versions of Sweetheart Pins.


It lives!

By Emily Beliveau, Digital Projects Assistant

On March 13, 2014, we launched, the end product of the Henderson Digitization Project.

The website displays over 850 newly digitized images taken by Goderich photographer J. Gordon Henderson and was produced with funding from the Ontario Government. This new website marks the beginning of a new era of digital participation for the Huron County Museum & Historic Gaol. It is the first major digitization project undertaken by the Huron County Museum and the first time a collection has been made available to the public online.

The photographs on the website are an important part of local history that connects Huron County to world events. J. Gordon Henderson’s photographs not only tie Huron County into the Canadian experience of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, but the global experience of world war.

The project team is very excited to have this site alive and well and available for the world to start perusing. We launched the site in style with an evening event at the Huron County Museum that included live demos of the site, remarks from Lisa Thompson, MPP Huron Bruce and Warden Joe Steffler, a cash bar, refreshments, 1940s music, and a vintage-themed photo shoot. Pictures from the party are at the Museum’s Facebook page.

project promo poster

Collection Connections

By Emily Beliveau, Digital Projects Assistant

In September, I posted a picture on the Museum’s Facebook page as an example of the WWII-era wedding photographs in the Henderson collection. What I didn’t know at the time is that the wedding dress in the picture was donated to the museum in 2007. Thanks to our Registrar, Patti Lamb, we’ve now made a match between the photo and dress.

wedding portrait of a couple

Mr. and Mrs. J Wilson, April 1941. Photo by J. Gordon Henderson. A992.0003.560a. Rights: Public domain.

Miss Phyllis Mary Lawrence of Goderich and Corporal John Wilson (RAF) of Sheffield, England were married Wednesday, 16 April 1941 at St. George’s Anglican Church in Goderich. Corporal Wilson was stationed at No. 31 Air Navigation School, Port Albert. Phyllis was the first Goderich girl to marry a British airman from Port Albert.

bodice of wedding dress

Closeup of Mrs. Phyllis Wilson’s wedding dress, made by the bride’s mother Pearl (Morris) Lawrence. 2007.0023.003a. Image rights: Copyright Huron County Museum & Historic Gaol

So, how did we not know about this connection before? The short answer is that we had no easy way of knowing, short of recognizing the dress and the photo and putting it together.

The picture of the couple came into the museum collection in 1992, as one negative among thousands that make up the collection of J. Gordon Henderson’s professional photography career. The image was marked “Mr. and Mrs. J. Wilson,” but that information wasn’t added to our collections database until we started working on the Henderson Digitization Project (archival collections are often described at the fonds, series, or file level, rather than item-by-item).

The dress came into the collection in 2007, donated by the bride’s daughter Mary. Since then, the dress has been on exhibit at the museum twice and it was from one of these exhibits that Patti recognized the photograph. Although the museum (unknowingly) had the original negative in the archives, Mary brought the family copy of the Henderson wedding photo to accompany the dress while on exhibit, making the connection that Patti remembered.

two image composite

Mrs. Wilson’s veil, photographed by the Huron County Museum (left) and shown in her wedding portrait (right).

bouquet fabric side-by-side

Mrs. Wilson’s wedding bouquet fabric, photographed by the Huron County Museum (left) and shown in her wedding portrait (right).

Usually, we make these kinds of connections through our internal collections database. In this case, pulling up all the records with the last name Wilson would have indeed made the match, but doing that kind of cross-referencing for more than 850 Henderson images among over 50,000 catalogue records is not in our day-to-day time budget. Now that we know about it, though, we’ve linked the two records together in the database so that anyone searching in the future will know the photo and the dress are related.

In short, matchmaking isn’t just for weddings and romance, it works for museum collections, too.

Moving pictures

By Emily Beliveau, Digital Projects Assistant

Working with a photographic collection from a studio photographer means we have access to many instances of two or more shots taken in short succession. In essence, there are hundreds of two-frame movies available to us if we want to make them (and of course we do!) Most of these moving pictures only tell the story of someone fidgeting in front of a camera, but some are better than others. For instance, we can make this air trainee wink at us (click image to animate):

static portrait of airman Barnie

Detail from No. 63 Sky Harbour Class, September 1942. image A993.0003.037l. J. Gordon Henderson, photographer. Rights: Public domain.

Now to be a buzzkill, this fellow was cropped from a Sky Harbour class picture taken in sunny conditions, so he and most of the rest of his classmates were squinting in the sun rather than flirting for the camera. To give you an idea how much movement there is between one take and another, here is the full view (click image to animate):

class picture

No. 63 Sky Harbour Class, September 1942, image A993.0003.037k+l. J. Gordon Henderson, photographer. Rights: Public domain.

There are dozens and dozens of potential animated GIFs within the Henderson air training photos, so stay tuned for future moving pictures.