A showcase diving deep into the history of the late Guelph Mercury launched on Friday evening at the civic museum, with its curators saying that, as they look to past, they also aim to raise discussion over the future of journalism in the Royal City.
Museum Manager Tammy Adkin, who admitted to being “a bit of a newspaper fanatic” who started her career at the Windsor Star, said she was “heartbroken” when the Mercury closed in 2016.
The daily newspaper served Guelph from 1854 and was one of Canada’s oldest print papers until it closed. The exhibit, which is split up into two galleries, features displays of the old paper and a walk through the history.
The museum also got a hold of the old Guelph Mercury sign from Lovett Signs, a local company that Dawn Owen, the lead curator of the showcase, said was responsible for keeping it in good condition.
The old newsprint and printing press machine was not the only peices of history present. In the room for the opening presentation was the former managing editor of the Guelph Mercury, Phil Andrews.
Andrews told The Guelph Post that the Mercury held a special place for many families in Guelph. When he used to talk to students, he would ask them if their families kept an important clipping from the newspaper.
Almost all the schoolchildren, he said, would put their hands up.
“They recorded a moment in history. When it happened, how it happened, why it happened. For families, there’s nothing like that and there kind of isn’t still,” he explained.
“An exhibition like this brings you back to that value that newspaper had to be that validating thing of record that captured, by snapshots, the history of the community and the history of where your family was as things happened in the community, too.”
As for the future of journalism in Guelph, Andrews said that “I think were transitioning between a kind of local journalism that was not economically sustainable through to the next thing that will be.”
The former editor turned government communications official explained he believes there is still “a void” and that “something more is to come” as the mainstay in Guelph journalism.
He acknowledged that the new media that jumped to fill the gap the Mercury left are “each in their own way doing valuable stuff” and that the current news sources are, to a degree, “under-appreciated”.
“I think something new is going to happen,” Andrews went on, saying that it will defiantly be digital and online, implying it could be “fodder” at first, but that “it will come”.
“Guelph is a significant enough centre economically” that there will be a new media source or ecology “that delivers the value that people demand here,” the local journalism veteran predicted.
Andrews will be part of a journalism panel taking place at the Guelph Civic Museum later in June as part of the exhibit, which lasts until September, and tickets can be bought during operating hours. The two exhibits on the first and third floors are called “B&W and Read All Over”.