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East York Chain of Office won’t go to downtown Museum of Toronto, foundation says

By Gary Webb-Proctor

City of Toronto staff shouldn’t have any difficulty locating the Chain of Office of the former Borough of East York, as directed by a City Council vote last week.

But acquiring it for display in a proposed Museum of Toronto endorsed by the Council in the same motion at the January 31 meeting would prove to be a lot more difficult.

Ray White -STAFF

Ray White -STAFF

For by the time the twenty-fifth annual Agnes Macphail Awards are held on March 24 the chain, already prepared in a museum-style display case, is expected to be on permanent display in the East York Civic Centre where the event will be held, says East York Foundation president Ray White.

An adopted amendment to the city proposal to continue further developing the idea of turning the Old City Hall into a Toronto museum and multi-use facility also directed staff to “report on the whereabouts of artifacts of municipal historical significance including the chains of office from the former municipalities” that were amalgamated into the current city configuration 20 years ago.

The amendment, by Councillor Stephen Holyday, also tells staff to consider “the suitability of such artifacts for inclusion of a display” in the proposed museum.

East York Chain of Office mounted and ready for display -COURTESY RAY WHITE

East York Chain of Office mounted and ready for display -COURTESY RAY WHITE

But Ray White, president of the East York Foundation that has ownership of the Chain (after having it returned by former mayor Michael Prue last year, as we previously reported) told East York Chronicle today that “the Foundation has no intention of relinquishing ownership or custody of this treasured East York artifact nor displaying it anywhere but where it belongs, here in East York.”

Since acquiring the Chain from Mr. Prue the foundation has had it “mounted in a beautiful case and a location spec’d out with city staff at the civic centre and our plan is to display it at the civic centre, where we believe it rightfully belongs and should be displayed,” Mr. White told EYC in an earlier interview.

The non-profit EYF was established in 1965 by provincial legislation and in 2004 recognized by the City of Toronto as the official custodian of cultural artifacts from the period when EY was a borough and, prior to that, a township, its website states.

White said the display is being “plaqued accordingly, with a little bit of history of the Chain and what the various pieces of it represent.”

He revealed that he had “met just last Friday with staff deciding on the placement of it and all we have to do now is provide the plaque to go with it.

“It’ll be prominent front and centre when you walk into the building,” he said, located on the wall adjacent to the main stairway.

The foundation he said, expects to have the Chain display installed next month, in time for the forthcoming 25th annual Agnes Macphail Award ceremony to be held there on March 24.

“It’s imminent. We are working with dedicated local suppliers to bring this to fruition. We anticipate all to be complete in no more than four weeks time,” he said today.

In addition to the foundation’s collection including the Chain and other materials such as sculptures, books and documents (including 13 A.Y. Jackson paintings on permanent display at S. Walter Stewart Library and a number of others held at Todmorden Mills and the EYCC) other local organizations such as the Toronto Historical Society also have collections of memorabilia that currently don’t have a permanent public home.  The new East York Hall of Fame, expected to induct its first members within the next few weeks, also does not as yet have a physical location.

Asked about the possibility of some day establishing an East York Museum similar to the Scarborough Museum on Brimley Road, in which other artifacts and archives from the former borough could be displayed, White noted that “there’ve been discussions about that many times over the last decade but it comes down questions of funding, staffing and having an appropriate place to house it.”


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