Earlier this summer the Stratford Perth Museum formally launched its latest exhibit – Hidden Qualities: The Kroehler Story – celebrating the manufacturing, social and historical impact of the Kroehler Manufacturing Company.
The official launch on July 30 coincided with a wonderful event at the Museum where dozens of former Kroehler employees and their friends and families gathered to view the multi-media collaborative exhibit and share memories of the iconic company that was located at the corner of Ontario and Romeo streets.
For over 70 years Kroehler was at the heart of Stratford’s furniture industry and among the world’s largest furniture companies.
At the industry’s peak in the mid-20th century, nearly one-sixth of all the furniture made in Canada was produced in this area by Kroehler and other local furniture companies and Stratford furniture companies employed one quarter of the local workforce.
But Kroehler was more than just a factory and the exhibit explores the social impact of the company as well – the outreach and civic projects ranging from the Employee Recreation Association, to the war effort, the famous softball and hockey teams and the parties and dinners for employees and their families.
The July 30 afternoon was a joyful, memory-filled gathering of special guests –Kroehler employees and their families who had shared their personal stories to enable the museum preserving and presenting the Kroehler story.
The museum’s ability to research and create exhibits also relies on people donating their important and often precious objects to our Collection.
Over the past 40 years the museum has received many artifacts specifically related to Kroehler –the wing spar of a Mosquito Bomber, company jackets, softball trophies, documents such as the list of employees who had enlisted to serve in WWII, and their military addresses so people could keep in touch with them, newspaper articles, and photographs – hundreds of photographs, many well documented with names and dates!
These tangible objects help make a connection to the recollections and narratives that have been shared with us.
Hidden Qualities: The Kroehler Story consists of three parts – an exhibit of artifacts, photos and documents related to Kroehler, a documentary film created by Powerline Films, and a series of conversational podcasts created by Kelly McIntosh.
A thank you to the federal program New Horizons for its support as well as to our exhibit sponsors Best Western: Arden Park Hotel for its generous support.
In addition to the exhibit itself, the Museum also unveiled a giant replica Kroehler chair to augment the exhibit. Sitting on the Museum’s east lawn, the giant chair was created by local artist Frank Holte and is based on a salesperson’s sample that is part of the Museum’s collection.
The chair project was driven by Museum Board member, Deanna Horton, and supported by a range of public donations, most notably by the primary sponsor, The Chafee Foundation.