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Tobacco Culture and Delhi’s History intertwine at Delhi Tobacco Museum & Heritage Centre

Updated: May 10, 2023

In mid-July, two New Brunswick men walked into the Delhi Tobacco Museum & Heritage Centre. They worked locally as primers in tobacco years ago, and were en route to a wedding. They stopped at this Talbot Road attraction in order to view artefacts of their previous Delhi days.

They also met Andrew Moore, the Tobacco Museum’s new, full-time Assistant Curator. Moore was only two weeks into his job at the time. But he was already impressed by the museum’s potential, even after two years of pandemic shutdowns halted all museum life in Ontario.

“It’s great to have visitors coming through the museum again,” said Moore, grinning.

This Assistant Curator comes with 18 years of interpretative experience ranging from Toronto’s Pioneer Village to Eldon House in London. When not greeting visitors, Moore scrutinizes and catalogues donations made prior to the pandemic, with the hope of identifying potential exhibit themes. He also meets with members of Delhi’s multi-cultural community to identify recently-loaned ethnic items for a future exhibit.

“This is the community’s museum and I want to revitalize it again. This museum shows tobacco’s positive side. It is so deeply entrenched in the community. Tobacco made Delhi what it is today after at least 100 years of growing it – from the 1920s to today.”

Andrew Moore
Assistant Curator Andrew Moore

Created 1979, the Delhi Tobacco Museum & Heritage Centre was built to resemble a typical tobacco pack barn. The museum highlights the history of the Delhi area’s tobacco industry, and its concurrent evolution of becoming one of south-western Ontario’s most ethnically-diverse, rural communities.

Delhi’s cultural and economic identity changed from the days when early white settlement developed around the Quance Mill and Dam – located in Quance Park beside the museum.

Like other lumber and grist mills in Norfolk’s early days of settlement, the Quance Mill shaped a critical piece of Delhi’s development prior to the tobacco industry.

However, deforestation and improper agricultural practices on Norfolk’s sand plain created the infamous Dust Bowl and abandoned farms by 1900. The situation led to various reforestation efforts including the creation of Canada’s first forestry station, at St. Williams.

During the 1920s, the fox sand and Norfolk’s climate proved conducive for growing flue-cured tobacco. Soon prospective farmers, mainly immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe, flocked to Delhi to transition existing farms into tobacco. As they prospered, some groups, including the Belgians, Germans, Hungarians and Polish, built their own community halls.

Distinct cultural events, such as the Belgium bicycle races, became regular town events.

“It (the tobacco culture) is deeply entrenched into the community that is now Delhi, especially from the 1950s to today,” said Moore. “Tobacco saved this region from becoming a dust bowl.”

The museum celebrates other crops – the site has a ginseng exhibit, for example.

Moore set three goals to boost community involvement in the museum, starting with his ongoing review of existing materials.

“I want to make what we have better – I have lots of stuff to figure out. I want to highlight Delhi itself and its multicultural groups.”

Second, he wants more community events to celebrate Delhi’s past history and cultural customs.

Last spring, for instance, the museum hosted March Break family activities such as Hungarian embroidery and a stain glass shamrock craft. A 4-H Cloverbud group learned how to make Ukrainian Easter Eggs. The County also hosted a summer museum camp in July.

“And of course I hope to do more of my own speciality: school programming,” concluded Moore.

Moore had a school programming opportunity waiting for him: a Soil Super-Heroes exhibit that runs from September into early winter. It’s a travelling exhibit developed by Agriculture & Food Canada that introduces visitors to the “super-heroes” which live within the soil and make life on earth possible.

Thus, Moore is finalizing an interactive school program aimed at Grades 3 and 4 that will focus on the soils of Norfolk. “It (the grade level) comes through the school curriculum on environmental practices and native eco-systems,” said Moore.

The Museum & Heritage Centre exhibits are on two floors. It is open on Thursdays and Fridays.

“I’m still new here and I am trying to learn, but the people who come in here already have a connection and they talk about it – like those New Brunswick primers.” 


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