Hamilton Museum of Steam & Technology National Historic Site

Hamilton Museum of Steam & Technology National Historic Site

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During my search for a heritage site to visit in Hamilton I came across the Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology.  I discovered the Museum through the city of Hamilton website under the attractions section.  Information about the Museum such as location, phone number, and hours of operation was easy to find.  One important feature of the www.hamilton.ca website was that all of the links to the different Heritage sites were in the same section.  This is significant because some people may only be familiar with more popular heritage sites such as Dundurn Castle.  While they are looking for more information about Dundurn Castle they are likely to come across other Heritage sites.  This is an effective way to expand the audience of those interested in heritage sites.  Although, there is a downside of having most of the advertising for the heritage sites online.  Elderly people who are not as literate with technology as the younger generation may have a hard time accessing the websites and therefore learning about the heritage sites available to the,.  This may unintentionally exclude older individuals from visiting the heritage sites.

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The Museum itself was not difficult to find.  The entrance was well labelled and easy to access.  When I arrived I took part in a guided tour along with 3 other groups of people.  The cost of the tour was only 7 dollars for adults.  At this price the tour is easily affordable by the majority of the public and inclusive to all interested in learning.  The two tour guides working at the Museum did a fantastic job of explaining how the steam technology worked, its relevance to Hamilton, the history of the building and its people, and the individual roles of each worker.  The tour was in three parts.

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The tour began with an introduction.  The tour guide began her introduction around a scale model of Hamilton in the 1850’s.  The introduction was meant to establish the context of the situation in Hamilton and the need for water to be pumped using steam technology.  The next section included several scale models of the technology used in the factory.  Each of the models were powered using electricity to show how they would have interacted with each other in the factory.  The final section was of the factory itself.  The full scale machines were powered up using electricity but only ran at 1/5 speed.  The previous two sections were necessary to fully understand how the steam engine worked and its importance to the community.

In terms of accessibility, the museum had a sign at the beginning of the tour which served as a checklist to show the different ways in which the museum was accessible.  For instance, the museum had a FM system (an assistive listening device), but did not have accessible ramps.  The sign also said that special accommodation could be made upon request.  I assume that this meant that individuals who were not able to use the narrow staircase could call in beforehand and make a request for a private tour so their needs could be met.  This is a smart and cost effective way to be more inclusive.  It may not have been feasible to build ramps around the museum without altering the factory permanently, but it is possible to accommodate on a case by case basis to those interested in learning about the museum.

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The tour guides provided interesting background information about the site.  For example the large tower seen in the photo above was 150 feet tall.  The tower did not need to be this big.  100 feet would have sufficed, but the extra 50 feet served as an advertisement for the factory, and served as a symbol for what Hamilton could accomplish.

Overall, my trip to the Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology was a great experience.  The tour guides were very informative, passionate about the museum, and eager to teach the community about the history and significance of steam and technology.  It is a shame that I only found out recently about this location.  I think Hamilton would benefit from finding a way to better advertise these heritage sites to its community.  These sites serve as important experiences for learning about our shared past and I strongly encourage others to check them out by starting here: https://www.hamilton.ca/attractions/hamilton-civic-museums.