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past exhibitions

Painting Niagara-on-the-Lake

November 27, 2018 - May 4, 2019

An exhibition featuring paintings from the Museum's collection that depict Niagara-on-the-Lake landscapes or built heritage. Highlights include the Betty Lane, Francis H. Granger and RJR Pottery Collections.


Camp Kosciuszko: The Polish Army at Niagara Camp, 1917-1919

Check out the exhibit on Google Arts & Culture

Plus Daily Life & Training and the Spanish Flu and Individuals at the Camp

November 11, 2017- November 15, 2018

An exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of the opening of Camp Kosciuszko, where thousands of soldiers of Polish descent trained before being shipped off to free Poland from 123 years of occupation.

Every community has a First World War story to tell. Most focus on the local soldiers who enlisted during the war and the impact that their absence may have had on the community. Niagara-on-the-Lake also has these stories to tell. However, 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of Kosciuszko Camp where thousands of soldiers of Polish descent, from the United States and parts of Canada, trained for several weeks prior to being shipped off to Europe to free Poland from 123 years of occupation.  These soldiers lived in our community for several weeks, some were unable to speak English and others, during the sweep of the Influenza of 1918, never left, being buried at a special cemetery at St. Vincent de Paul church.

 Who were these men? What was their life like here? How did they arrive? What did their training entail? What did they do during their leisure hours? How did the community respond to hosting these young men? We will attempt to answer these questions with this exhibition.

Putting Down Roots

May 15 - October 31, 2017

This year, 2017, marks 150 years since Confederation. Although our nation is celebrating its 150th birthday, Canada is undoubtedly much older. In fact, this year also marks the 225 anniversary of the opening of Parliament, which occurred right here in Niagara-on-the-Lake. This year is an occasion to reflect on our long history as a nation and to look forward to the future.

This exhibition, Putting Down Roots, explores over 600 years of history and the people who have settled, sought refuge or stayed in Niagara-on-the-Lake. All of the groups represented in this exhibition have contributed in some way to shaping our community, a community that has grown and flourished into the Niagara-on-the-Lake that we know today.

Information from this exhibit is on Google Arts & Culture! Click HERE to check it out!

Iroquios Beadwork: Through the Voices of Beads

An exhibition of Iroquois beadwork from the Royal Ontario Museum and local Niagara artist Samuel Thomas.

Iroquois beadworkers play a vital role in preserving cultural beliefs. The Iroquois were quick to adapt European-made cloth and glass beads to their own artistic traditions developed over many centuries. Such adaptation allowed them to pursue their conceptual and aesthetic goals, while retaining the same imagery that they have always used, representing their cosmology, values and legends. Iroquois beadworkers play a vital role in preserving cultural beliefs. The Iroquois were quick to adapt European-made cloth and glass beads to their own artistic traditions developed over many centuries. Such adaptation allowed them to pursue their conceptual and aesthetic goals, while retaining the same imagery that they have always used, representing their cosmology, values and legends.

Thank you to the anonymous donor who sponsored this travelling exhibition.

Janet's Gems

On December 12, 1895, fifteen citizens of Niagara-on-the-Lake answered the call to establish an historical society. Janet Carnochan, a teacher at the local High School, was chosen as President, much to her surprise and reluctance. Her appointment sparked a passion for local history that provided the strong foundation on which our organization now stands in terms of research, writing, collecting and interpreting the history of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Even Memorial Hall, the Museum's main gallery, was built in 1907 largely due to Janet’s efforts. It became the first purpose-built museum in Ontario.

At the time, several people doubted the Society’s ability to collect artefacts of significant interest, believing that everything had been given away or destroyed, or that no one would either give or lend anything for such a purpose. Fortunately, Janet and the newly formed Society ignored these sentiments. This exhibition is a testament to their determination. The early Society collection produced artefacts of both local and national interest, many of which are still maintained by the Society today.

Life Under Canvas: Niagara Camp 1915-1919

During the Great War, some 75,000 men arrived at historic Niagara Camp by boat or rail to undergo basic training for the Canadian Expeditionary Force or later, the Polish Army.  For many, those weeks or months of instruction initiated them into LIFE UNDER CANVAS. But no matter how rigorous their training for real soldering, nothing could really prepare them for what lay ahead in the trenches of France and Flanders.

This exhibition provides some insight into daily life on the three campsites that comprised Niagara Camp. Many veterans, officers and men alike, later described their days at verdant Niagara as their happiest: new skills acquired, life-long friendships made, new-found self confidence.

Enjoy Your Stay: Historic Inns and Hotels of Niagara-on-the-Lake

Our community’s hospitality history dates back to the very early settlement of our Town. Since Niagara-on-the-Lake was the capital of Upper Canada and a major stop along the Niagara River trade route, travellers would have stayed in Niagara to establish business relationships, to rest during a long journey or to visit family or friends.  

The charms of Niagara-on-the-Lake are numerous in themselves and the resort-like community that emerged in the late 1800s, along with the easy distance to other points of interest, greatly added to its attractiveness. 

The historic hotels and inns of Niagara-on-the-Lake are numerous. This exhibition provides a snapshot of some of the former most popular places for visitors to enjoy their stay in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The Art of War: A Legacy of the Great War

The First World War (1914-1918) pitted the Central Powers (Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire) against the Triple Entente Alliance (Great Britain, France, and Russia). Canada, a colony of Britain, was automatically at war when it was declared in August, 1914.

Life during wartime is unlike any other experience. Men and women along the European front lines and even those on the home front dealing with extraordinary circumstances needed to find ways to distract their attention from or deal with the horrors of war. Many found solace in documenting their experiences through poems, articles, singing, drawing, sewing and creating ornate pieces of art. These surviving pieces, like war memoirs or photographs, tell of their sacrifices.  It is their legacy which reminds us never to forget. In this exhibition, we commemorate the centenary of the First World War through various forms of artwork created during the period.

Battlefield Niagara

“Nothing but heaps of coal and streets full of furniture.”

That is what William Hamilton Merritt described after Niagara burned to the ground in December, 1813 and American forces left the town in ashes. Battlefield Niagara is a unique exhibition that examines the local events of 1813 including the Battle of Fort George, the occupation of Niagara by American forces and the burning of Niagara. Come check out one of Ontario's best War of 1812 Collections. On display until December 31st, 2013.

Niagara on the Eve of War

This exhibition focused on what the town of Niagara on the Lake was like just prior to and during the War of 1812. The exhibit explored the individuals who lived in Niagara as well as the community within which they lived. The exhibition also touched upon what steps were being taken to protect Upper Canada at the very early stages of war. The exhibition has a special focus on the Battle of Queenston Heights which occurred on October 13, 1812.

Heroes, Homes & Hardships

An exhibition featuring the original artwork of Canadian artists recreating the imagery of the War of 1812 from the Niagara area. Exhibition includes Cameron Porteous' "12 Hours that Saved a Country" series of paintings that depict the events of the Battle of Queenston Heights of October 13, 1812.

50 Years Shaw Festival Retrospective: A Multimedia Journey Through Time

In celebration of the 50th season of the Shaw Festival, Bill Schmuck, Designer Director at the Shaw has developed an exhibition that honors the theatre's history. This exhibition explores the theatre's journey from its humble beginnings with its one theatre productions at the Court House to the current four theatre building on Queens Parade. Multimedia displays illustrate the theatre's history through its artistic directors and plays, and examines the impact the theatre has had on the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Art of Architecture & the Niagara Historical Society Photographic Collection

“The Art of Architecture” exhibition showcased the winners of the Doors Open Niagara photography contest. The remainder of the exhibition included the images, photographs and equipment used to capture them from the Niagara Historical Society collection. Together they provide information on the people, places and events that shaped Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Village Life

An exhibition examining the unique and shared histories of the village of the old Niagara-on-the-Lake township

The Forgotten Years

An art exhibition of works done in Niagara-on-the-Lake between 1929 and 1973.

Through Their Eyes

An examination of the women of Niagara and their contribution to the events of the towns history.

Domestic Gems

An exhibition celebrating the influence of two prominent St. Catharines Architects, Arthur Edwin Nicholson (1881-1945) and Robert Ian Macbeth (1891-1978), on the built landscape of the Niagara Peninsula. Whether working together as the firm of Nicholson and Macbeth (circa 1918 to 1930) or independently, these two men were responsible for much of the region’s best architecture.

Inspired Landscapes

The Niagara River has inspired visitors and artists for centuries.
Follow the River, from the Falls to Lake Ontario, through the eyes of an artist.

100 Years - 100 Artefacts

A celebration of the 100th anniversary of Memorial Hall, the first Museum building in Ontario. This exhibition showcases some of the Museums most important artefacts, chosen by the community.


® Image: View of Fort George, Oil on canvass, C. Kreighoff 1823