The Elgin County Railway Museum is moving full steam ahead with an online auction of some of its railway artifacts as part of a collection cleanup.
From signal lights to track signs, along with manuals and artwork, hundreds of items are up for bids, with the auction closing at month’s end.
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Railway items up for bids at Elgin museum auctionBack to video
“Part of our motivation for this is we’ve been doing a re-evaluation and reorganization of our artifact collection,” said Elizabeth Nagy, the museum’s events manager. “Whatever is surplus we have decided to auction.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily shuttered the museum’s doors to visitors, it has also provided staff with a chance to audit the artifacts they’ve been collecting for more than 30 years.
“We did take the opportunity of the pandemic giving us more time in our space, without being open to the public, to do the reorganization,” Nagy said. “We had a lot more stuff than we really realized.”
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The digital auction is run through Shackelton Auctions. An in-person preview day will be held Nov. 28 at the museum, with COVID-19 safety protocols in place.
“I think the more surprising thing is, in working with the auction house, we have learned what kind of value people place on items,” Nagy said.
More than 800 items are up for auction, including signs, railway signals, tools, telephones, manuals and artwork.
Most of these pieces were donated to the museum and never placed in exhibits.
Nagy said the museum followed protocols before putting items up for auction, ensuring they were duplicates and offering artifacts to other museums first.
“There’s always a fear in the museum world that things will just get sold without any thought for the fact it is historically significant,” she said. “We want to stress we did our due diligence.”
While Nagy said the auction isn’t financially motivated, the funds gathered will help support future collections and preservation.
The Elgin County Railway Museum, located in St. Thomas, opened in 1989 as an ode to the city calling itself the “Railway Capital of Canada.”
The city was a railway hub in the early 20th century because of its location between Buffalo and Detroit, with five railway lines running through the city and more than 150 freight and passenger trains a day.
Beyond allowing railway fans to pick up some interesting gems, Nagy hopes the auction also provides some education while the museum remains closed to the public amid the ongoing virus crisis.
“While it’s not the same as an actual exhibit, there definitely is a historical aspect to a lot of the items in our auction that can pique some interest,” she said.
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