About The Southwest Ontario Barn Quilt Trails
The Southwest Ontario Barn Quilt Trails is a new historical tour spearheaded by the Elgin, Oxford, Norfolk Association of Museum Curators and Directors (EON), a local museums association, to stimulate tourism in Ontario’s Sand Plains Region (Elgin, Oxford, Norfolk, Middlesex and Brant Counties). Working with area tourism authorities and other community partners and volunteers, EON will launch the tour that will span the five counties in 2012.
Barn Quilt Trails
Barn quilt trails use colourful, decorative murals based on quilt block designs as markers on barns or other agricultural buildings to signal historical points of interest. Travelers follow a printed map, available along the route and in local tourism offices or from the tour's web site. They do not actually stop at the barns during the tour.
In the United States, where the tours first developed, they are popular rural attractions. A 2008 study of the Ohio barn quilt experience concluded that, “trails bring tourism and tourist dollars into the region, engage people in their communities, and promote local culture and history.” In Ontario, groups in Wardsville and Temiskaming have also developed trails.
Once complete, Southwest Ontario Barn Quilt Trails will be the largest barn quilt trail in Ontario. It will feature 100 murals across Elgin, Oxford, Norfolk, Brant and Middlesex Counties. In Middlesex, Brant and Norfolk Counties the route celebrates key events and people related to the War of 1812. In Elgin County, the route follows the historic Talbot Trail and tells the stories of settlement, community building and rural life. It will tell the story of settlement in Oxford County as well.
The tour murals will be painted on an eight-foot square wood surface and hung on the sides of barns or other farm buildings or on free standing posts next to historic sites and structures. The patterns will reflect traditional quilt blocks or be inspired by the history of the host farm and the surrounding community. The blocks will be designed by quilters and painted by community volunteers.
Barn Quilt Hosting
Each county’s quilt trail steering committee, made up of representatives from heritage and farm organizations, museums and quilters, will plot a prospective trail route and look for barn owners who would like to participate. Factors considered when identifying sites include:
- proximity to other attractions
- located on paved roads
- visible from the road
- condition of the barn
- historic significance of the building
The cost of this start-up phase of the project has been covered through a grant so there is no cost to the barn owner. EON seeks a commitment of three years and will provide the barn owner with a written agreement. Following the initial three-year period, the quilt trails will be taken over by the county steering committees.
The designers will collaborate with the barn owner on the final design. The quilt block is painted on two 4x8 feet sheets of sign board. It will be attached to a frame that will be secured to the barn. EON will consult with barn owners concerning the installation of the block. EON is responsible for building and installing the block and will require access to the farm site. EON and their contractors are fully insured. The quilt block remains the property of EON, which will require occasional access to the property for upkeep and photography.
One of the goals of this project is to build knowledge about the region's rich heritage for future generations. To this end, EON invites barn owners to consider providing information about the site and its history (such as historical images or documents) that could be added to their quilt block’s entry on the tour's website for the public to view. As well, the history of the farm and of the immediate neighbourhood may inspire the block’s design. Historic textiles in the family’s possession may be another source of creative inspiration.
Do you want to volunteer?
In each county the steering committee will be looking for volunteers in different areas to assist with designing and painting the blocks and with developing an archive of stories and images related to each site and the surrounding community, some of which will appear online. For more information on how you can become involved, contact:
Elgin County Museum
519-631-1460 ext. 160