A group of heritage-minded individuals formed the Carleton-West Russell Historical Society (CWRHS) in the autumn of 1963. Their intent was to develop a pioneer museum to celebrate Canada’s Centenary in 1967. The group produced a plan for a pioneer village which met with little enthusiasm. By 1967, the group’s activities diminished. By the early 1980s, the remaining executive members disbanded.
Further private heritage ventures were undertaken in the early 1970s. The CWRHS’s plan for a pioneer village was scaled down to a re-creation of a pioneer farm. The result was the Log Farm on Cedarview Road operated by the National Capital Commission.
In 1973, local residents formed the West Carleton Museum organization. Attempts to lease the old Jockvale School House to house a museum from the Township were unsuccessful.
Nepean resident Sara B. Craig wrote “Hello Nepean” which was published in 1974. It is an anecdotal rendering of Nepean’s colourful history and its residents.
Nepean Township purchased the Fallowfield homestead of James Smith (circa 1827) and the Thomas Nelson House (circa 1852). Due to their rural location both sites were rejected as a museum site.
In 1982, interest in developing a community museum was revived. The Merivale Pioneer Historians (MPH) approached then Alderwoman Beryl Gaffney. Alderman Gaffney had helped establish the Nepean LACAC (Local Architecture Conservation Advisory Committee). A joint committee of the City Council and the Merivale Pioneer Historians was created. The result was a temporary home for a museum at Graham Park Cultural Activities Centre.
Nepean Museum was approved by Council in 1983. A new Board of Trustees was appointed in 1984. In 1985, Nepean Museum moved into the Hugh Sproule Davidson Farmhouse. The MPH had contributed $10,000 to help renovate the building. Terry Milson was hired as curator and prepared the Museum’s first exhibits.
In 1988 Nepean Museum moved to its present day location at 16 Rowley Avenue. The Museum is housed in the former City View Township Library building.
In February 1989 Nepean Museum opened to the public. Dan Hoffman was appointed full-time curator in July 1989, a post he held for twenty years.
In 2001 the City of Nepean was amalgamated into the City of Ottawa along with ten other municipalities. Mayor O’Brien recognized Wednesday, May 28, 2008, as 'Nepean Museum Day' in the City of Ottawa. The Mayor presented Mr. Gavin Leishman, President of the Board of Trustees, Nepean Museum with a framed proclamation. Sunday, June 1, 2008, marked the 25th anniversary of the Nepean Museum.
In 2011, Nepean Museum assumed responsibility for seasonal programming and collections at Fairfields. Fairfields, a designated heritage property, is a 19th century Gothic Revival Ontario farmhouse. It is located at 3080 Richmond Road. It was home to five generations of the Bell family, stalwarts of the community of Nepean.
Nepean Museum is a user-friendly facility with full wheelchair accessibility and ample parking. The exhibition gallery showcases the history of Nepean through a series of changing exhibits. The Museum houses a collection of some 20,000 objects in a purpose-built, climatically controlled collections facility. Guided interpretative tours and programming are available at Fairfields. Programming is available at both sites through Family Zone, Kids Crossing and Learning Links.
The Museum site also boasts two community rooms available for rental. Outdoor facilities include a children’s climbing frame and sandpit, a basketball court and the Doug Froebel Baseball Park.
Fairfields is located on a 1.8 acre garden property. Fairfields has restricted accessibility and on-street parking.
Nepean Museum is entering an exciting phase, revitalizing its community services and redeveloping its exhibition galleries. Visit us on site or contact us to get involved – we’d love to hear your ideas!