Fort Henry National Historic Site of Canada is the showcase of one of the most important collections of British and Canadian military artifacts. Fort Henry has recently been designated as a World Heritage Site as a part of the Rideau Canal, which includes the Kingston Fortifications System, of which we are the keystone component. The museum collection enhances the story of the Fort and its place in this very important UNESCO recognition. Fort Henry has also recently undergone a multi-year restoration program that addresses the critical structural issue that threatened the ongoing operation of the Fort. This work will recommence in 2010 and will help to preserve the Fort for posterity.
However, the museum at Fort Henry is also in severe need of renewal. Many of the artifacts are housed in museum cases that were constructed in the 1950's and in some cases may actually be damaging the one-o-a-kind objects. A comprehensive redesign of the needs of the museum, from protective low-light museum cases, to a detailed examination of the themes that tell the important story of Fort Henry and the selection of significant artifacts has been developed. The Fort Henry Museum Plan puts forward a room by room proposal for each museum casemate, based on the concept that the exhibits should further explore and involve visitors in the story of one of the most impressive fortifications built in British North America.
The recent designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site underlines the importance of Fort Henry National Historic Site of Canada and should further increase the profile of the Fort as a premier tourist destination for Ontario and Canada. It is important that the displays that we present maintain the same high quality as the world class performances by the Fort Henry Guard and provide a memorable experience for our visitors.
Kingston in the War of 1812
The first Fort Henry was built on Point Henry in 1813. The first Fort was a squared wooden timber construction with bastion corners on the north and a rounded lunette on the south. The purpose of the fortification was to defend the Royal Naval Dockyards on Point Frederick. The exhibit will be a timeline of developments on the site as well as defensive positions in and around Kingston.
Fort Henry in the 1860's
This room will focus on the final development of Fort Henry's fortifications, showing Fort Henry in its structural and defensive nature during the identified Commemorated Period. The exhibits will show the development of Kingston's defences, with other major defensive features, such as the Martello Towers, Market Battery, Tete du Pont Barracks and the Artillery reserve.
The British Officer
The exhibit will provide an explanation of the social and military lifestyle of Officers, as distinct from that of the other ranks. Explanatory panels will explain the purchase system and training of the infantry officers and compare the parallel but seniority and merit-based system in effect in the artillery and engineering branches of the service. The British social and class structure as related to the Army will be covered along with the responsibilities that were expected of the officer class. The place of the officers within the regimental system of the period will be presented. The location allows an opportunity to cover diverse items of the officer such as pay, costs and provision of uniforms, officers' servants, etc.
The British Infantry
This room would deal with the contemporary life of the common soldier. Placement is based on the location next to the Barracks Room in Storage Rooms #2. The life of the infantryman is presented from accounts of his daily life, his equipment, uniforms and related garrison elements. This room will also provide a wider view of the British soldier within the greater context of the British Empire of the nineteenth century via the medal display currently locate in SR #6. Descriptive panels will describe the improvements during the commemorated period of the soldier's lot, with improvements in barracks space, attempts to increase literacy through regimental schools and regimental libraries, inclusions of canteens within barracks and efforts to curb alcoholism through temperance associations.
The Royal Artillery
The Royal Artillery The room will display the life of the artillery garrison, as a comparative view to the infantry soldier. Both the artillery and the infantry were in garrison at Fort Henry simultaneously, but their duties differed. The artilleryman's exhibit will extend past the period of the British presence and include the period of the beginning of the Canadian Artillery from the formation of A and B Batteries, the formation of the Royal Canadian Artillery and the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery.
West Officers' Quarters
West Officers' Quarters These rooms illustrate the domestic arrangements and communal social life of officers of the garrison. Long a part of the presentation at Fort Henry, the Officers' Quarters form an important element of the tour route by the Fort Henry Guard and provide an excellent visual vehicle for an explanation of the social class structure of the Victorian British Army.
Drink: Officers and Other Ranks
Alcohol played a significant role in the life of the garrison at Fort Henry. From the consumption of wine at the Officers' Mess, to the beer rations of the common soldiers, drink was another indicator of the social differences of the two levels of the British Army. Barrels of locally manufactured beer and imported cases of bottled wine were both stored in this room in close proximity to the garrison's officers.
Fort Henry and the Prisoners of the 1837 Rebellion
1837 Rebellion There are several themes that would be well reflected in this area:
- an Officers' Kitchen
- a prison during the 1837 Rebellions
- access point to the Reverse Fire Chambers
Reverse Fire Chambers
Reverse Fire Chambers These chambers are located in the exterior counterscarp walls of the Redoubt and are accessed via a tunnel leading from the Officer's Kitchen. They are an essential component of the defensive features of a Prussian style Redoubt System. They are composed of two elements; three musketry chambers, connecting to three carronade chambers. Each has its own line of fire and purpose, but both are specifically anti-personnel in nature, designed to deal with an infantry force entering the Ditch.
Bakery and Men's Cookhouse
These two rooms show the cooking arrangements for the garrison. The ovens in the bakery permit wood fires to be maintained, but they may not be used for the actual baking of bread or food preparation. The Cookhouse is non-functional and fires may not be lit in the stoves beneath the large cooking pots.
Evolution of Fort Henry from the 1820's through 1840's
While the first Fort Henry was strengthened, The Bryce Commission identified the need for a significant development of the fortification on Point Henry as the western lynchpin in British North American military strategy that included the Rideau Canal and the Kingston Fortification systems. The contribution of the Royal Engineers in the planning and construction of the military defence system will be highlighted. The political atmosphere will be examined through presentations of the 1837 Rebellion and Kingston as the first Capital of the United Canadas.
Senior NCO's Room
Senior NCO's Room This room originally served as the quarters of a senior NCO. Occupying the middle ground between Officers and other ranks, these men had their own quarters, separate from both, but in proximity to the men. Most senior NCO's were married and their wives shared their rooms. The room would make use of lesser quality furniture than Officers, but would reflect a more pragmatic view of the living quarters of the middle management of the garrison.
Temporary Exhibit Location
Temporary Exhibit Location There is a requirement for a temporary exhibit room to house travelling exhibits or those relating to contemporary issues such as the current restoration program.
Firepower, The Firearms and Weapons of the British Soldier
The development of firearms is an essential part of the story of the British soldier and fortifications in British North America.
This display is currently well developed in Storage Rooms #7 and will be moved to this location. Additional signage will be developed.
Barracks Room Display
The barracks room represents the layout and living conditions of a period other ranks barrack room. The barrack room was where the common soldier slept, ate and spent most of his off-duty time preparing his equipment and socializing. The cramped quarters and multi-purpose use of this room provides comparison and contrast with the life of the officers of the garrison. The use of 1867 reproduction uniforms and equipment presents visitors with a contrasting view to what they see on the Parade Square.
Guard Memorial Room
The Fort Henry Guard was formed almost immediately after the 1930's restoration of Fort Henry and have formed an important part of the presentation of the site ever since. The room houses trophies and presentation items of the Guard as well as important items such as the Regimental Colours. Numerous FHG memorabilia is on display. This room will be reopened to the public and will also serve as a meeting room. The casemate has suffered from water damage over the last few years.
Nine Pounder Field Piece Display
The room houses an original nine pounder field piece and reproduction limber. The field gun is one of the few of this period remaining in existence and conveys by its size and weight, the technology and methodology of field artillery of the commemorated period. A gun of this type is shown in the 1867 photograph of Royal Artillery Officers of the garrison posing by the West Officers' Quarters.
Artillery at Fort Henry
Artillery at Fort Henry This room will display artillery pieces and technology using guns of the commemorated period from the Fort Henry collection.
The display will present three aspects of Artillery:
- Garrison guns and field guns. Fort Henry is a fortification mounting garrison guns. These will be contrasted with the lighter calibre of field guns, which are mounted on large-wheeled carriages for mobility.
- Principles of Artillery will explain the different uses of long guns, howitzers and mortars.
- Progression of Artillery Technology from smoothbore muzzle loading (SBML) to the rifled breech loading (RBL) Armstrong guns and the return to rifled muzzle loading (RML) ordnance at the end of the period.
Functional purpose of the Caponnier: The caponnier was introduced into the Ditch to address a blind spot in the defences of the Fort when the design of the north casemates were altered from two to three sides. The caponnier is a ground level defensive musketry chamber that allows defenders to fire back along the ditch to create a crossfire between the caponnier and the reverse fire chambers on either flank. They are an essential component of the defensive features of a Prussian style Redoubt System and are specifically designed to eliminate an infantry attack. Defenders have access back into the Redoubt via a passageway.
Projectile Exhibit: Roundshot and Shrapnel
Projectile Exhibit: Roundshot and Shrapnel The story of artillery projectiles, ignition systems and sighting of artillery and the technological developments of these concepts during the Fort Henry period will be shown in this exhibit. The exhibit will cover a broad range of topics that will explain the complex technology of nineteenth century artillery projectiles and the operation of the guns.
Kingston and the Naval War of 1812
Kingston and the Naval War of 1812 The importance of Fort Henry as the primary citadel overlooking the former Royal Naval Dockyards offers the opportunity to focus on the theme of Kingston's Naval history.
Two decommissioned British ships from the War of 1812 fleet were sunk in Deadman's Bay in the 1830's. These two hulks still exist beneath the waters, but in 1938 and again in the 1950's many artifacts from the Prince Regent and the Queen Charlotte were brought to the surface and housed at Fort Henry. The exhibit will display the items raised; from the guns from the original Fort Frontenac, used as ballast, to various ships' fittings. Other naval artifacts, such as ship models, naval cutlasses and navigation instruments, will broaden the story of the importance of the Navy and the dockyards.
Magazine The re-opening of the Magazine presents the opportunity for an exhibit on this critical aspect of Fort Henry. The British Army constantly adapted their approach to magazines in regard to ventilation as evidenced in the reconfigured brick vents in the side and rear stone walls. The exhibit will focus on the evolution of the engineering of British military magazines in general and their specific application in Fort Henry.
The Helden Kellar
The Helden Kellar, located in the East Wall of the Lower Fort, housed the German prisoners' canteen during the Second World War. The prisoners were allowed to decorate the room and murals occupy the eastern end of the room as well as a portion of the side walls and the arch of the ceiling. The murals depict scenes of Medieval Chivalry, such as mounted and unmounted knights, and a centrepiece of a friar beside a large wooden barrel. Coats of arms of districts in Germany decorate the lower border of the murals. The room is the last vestige of the conversion of Fort Henry from a newly restored historic site, to a detention centre for German sailors, airmen and merchant seamen.
Commissariat The Commissariat Department was the civil branch of the British Army responsible for the finances and procurement of supplies for military operations. These far ranging duties were centred in Kingston for the military district of Canada West, encompassing what is now Ontario. This office will be set up as an operational office with furniture reflective of the Commissariat at that period. Interpretive signage will explain the duties of the department and how Fort Henry was an essential part of the military supply lines.
This room will be set up as an operational Non Commissioned Officer's office with appropriate furniture, showing the daily operations of the Fort. The Orderly Room served as the command centre from which the NCO's controlled the activities of the garrison. An interactive system will be set up with a push button system that activates a recording of the bugle calls that regulated the soldier's day.
Secondary use: The room could be equipped with a telegraph key and sounder that would be connected to a secondary unit in another location along the Curtain Wall (i.e. the Officer's Guard Room.) The unit could either be stored in the desk when not in use for interpretive programs, or the key could be set up both to emit signals without personnel present.
Snider Enfield Exhibit
This room shows the unpacking and issuing of the Snider Enfield Rifle at Fort Henry. The Snider Enfield was the first breech loading firearm widely issued to the British Army and is the model carried on the parade square by the Fort Henry Guard. The original shipments of the Snider Enfield arrived in Kingston in 1866 and were issued to the Royal Canadian Rifle Regiment then in garrison at Fort Henry.
Garrison Cells #3, 4, 1, 2
Garrison Cells #3, 4, 1, 2 Two cells, one on either side of the Arch would be developed into full display to illustrate the restricted and cramped conditions of the cells. This would consist of a wooden bed, a tin bucket and limited implements allowed to a soldier under detention.
The two cells would be locked and visitors would only see into the interior via the small barred window at the front of the cell. Other cells in each of the four rooms would be left open and would have the wooden bunks only.
Officers' Guard Room
The purpose of the Officers' Guard room is to serve as the office of the Officer of the day, the officer responsible for the routine operations of the Fort for a 24 hour period. All keys for the Fort would be under his jurisdiction and these are housed in this room. Period desk (recently restored), couches and a stove currently occupy this space.
Escape Route of German POW's
This room was used by 19 German prisoners of war to gain access to the west privy drain and escape from Fort Henry in 1943. Maps and documentary photographs of the subsequent investigation illustrate the route of the escapers. Newspaper clippings of the escape can be used to give the sense of urgency in the city of Kingston. The room could be either used exclusively for a "Great Escapes" tour and kept closed upon leaving, or left open to walk-ins. Incongruity from the Commemorate Period must be considered.
This was the original location of a small kitchen to provide prepared food for the officers of the garrison. Its position in this area provides visitors with a view of the different lifestyle of the officer class. The room will show a small working kitchen with a variety of foods and preparation techniques available for the varied diet of the officers. The non-functioning fireplace will highlight the open hearth cooking techniques of the period.
Orientation Room As the introductory room as visitors first enter Fort Henry, this room will explain what the visitor will be seeing so that they may be able to physically orient themselves as well as achieve a greater understanding of the purpose of Fort Henry, its evolution and its importance as a National Historic Site.
A Shilling a Day. Finance and Pay in the British Army
Finance and Pay in the British Army This location serves as an ideal location for an exhibit on the Pay of the British Army with a scale of the pay and stoppages of the other ranks. The system of pay of the officers, in contrast, involved the Regimental Agents in a time before a reliable banking system.
It is also a good location for an explanation of the Commissariat Department, the body responsible for the finances of the British Army in North America, highlighting the importance of Fort Henry as a Commissariat depot for the British military defence system in Upper Canada.
Library, Museum Storage
These rooms currently house the Library, containing the Fort Henry collection of books and archives and Museum Storage Rooms 1 and 2, which house the reserve collection of artifacts, including uniforms, headdress, firearms, archaeological elements and numerous items from the collection. This area is also the operational centre for the curatorial section, with workspace for production of display materials, exhibit maintenance and material storage.
The secure nature of the Redoubt ensures that access to these areas are limited. Modifications to the casemates will be required to improve the climate controls, but the need to provide a secure location for the collection still make this location preferable.