Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Banting House

First, a confession:

Prior to moving to London, and doing some research on historic homes and museums in the area, I was not familiar with Dr. Fredrick Banting, the specifics of the discovery of insulin, or the severity of type I diabetes prior to this discovery.  All of that changed last Friday.

My Public History class took a field trip to the Banting House and was treated to a tour given by curator, Grant Maltman.  We had been told ahead of time that this historic site was a lot different from others because it tended to attract visitors with an emotional connection to Dr. Banting and his discovery.  Still, that didn't quite prepare me for the experience.  

Now, I will be the first to admit that museums can touch people.  It is because of some of the fond memories I have of visiting historic sites that I chose to go into Public History.  But as inspiring and educational the places I have worked at have been, I have yet to bring anyone to tears.  All through his tour Mr. Maltman told us of people that had come from all over the globe to Canada, specifically to visit the Banting House; a woman whose infant daughter was diagnosed with type I diabetes, a grown daughter whose father had been among the first to receive insulin when it was approved for human use, a child who cried when she didn't have the English words to thank Dr. Banting in the museum's guest book.  It was all I could do to hold back the tears while standing in the bedroom where Dr. Banting had his realization.

Since my visit, I have told pretty much everyone I have talked to what a wonderful museum it was.  I can't wait to go back and take Doug with me.  But as I thought about it, I wondered what made my visit so spectacular.  It was an interesting, and well put together museum - but the house and the artifacts themselves weren't anything that would blow you away.
Then it hit me.

It was Mr. Maltman's passion for the house and the history that made it so engaging.  The emotion he put into his tour made all the difference in the world.  Another guide could have given us the same information, but not delivered it the same way, and it would have been a completely different experience.  I was not the only one in my class that noticed his passion and was impressed.

Not only did I learn about Dr. Banting and his discovery, but I was reminded why I chose Public History in the first place.  I want to tell the intriguing stories from the past - inspire, excite, and perhaps evoke a few tears.  To be so excited about something, that it rubs off on others.

Decorative window depicting the Queen Mother's visit to Banting House.

Curator, Grant Maltman starts the tour talking about the
history of the museum, and the Queen's visit.

Banting enlisted in the Canadian Army Medical services during WWI,
and was awarded the Military Cross.

Dr. Banting moved to London to start a private practice,
but struggled to get started.

Dr. Banting was in the process of medical testing for the troops in WWII
when he died in a plane crash at age 49.

The bed where Dr. Banting had his life-changing dream.
(I apologize for the quality of the photos.  Flash was not permitted in the museum, and my camera isn't the best.)

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