Nancy Island is the most relevant site to the War of 1812 in Simcoe County and the Georgian Bay region. It is home to the charred hull of the HMS Nancy – a British supply schooner pressed into naval service during the War of 1812. After a gallant defense, the HMS Nancy sunk in the Nottawasaga River on August 14, 1814, following a battle against American forces. Over time, the river currents deposited silt and sand around the sunken hull and an island was formed. In the early 20th century, the hull was excavated from the Island where it has remained on public display since 1928.
Protecting and conserving an artifact that dates back to 1789 (construction date of the Nancy) is no small task and has provided many challenges over the years. The photos included in this article show the recovery of the Nancy in 1927, the original museum that housed the remains in 1928, the hull outside the new Museum of the Upper Lakes built in 1968, and the museum with the glass enclosure built to protect the hull in 1985.
We are pleased to report that Ontario Parks now has a capital project underway in partnership with the Friends of Nancy Island to improve the conservation and environmental controls associated with the HMS Nancy hull. Many of the improvements will be “invisible” as it will be addressing air quality and environmental controls in the hull enclosure to address moisture and temperature issues throughout the year as well as cool the museum so that it is a more pleasant experience for both our visitors and staff.
The Friends of Nancy Island have recently hired a Conservation Technician who once the capital repairs are completed will be responsible for cleaning and conservation of the hull according to guidelines provided by the Canadian Conservation Institute. The Friends will also continue to fundraise to make improvements to the windows and lighting of the Hull Enclosure so that they are more energy efficient and aesthetically pleasing.
The Friends are also excited to announce that during Wasaga Under Siege, as part of the fundraising efforts, conservation specialist Chris Sabick will speak about the HMS Nancy and also give a behind the scenes tour of the remains of the hull. Chris is the Director of Conservation for the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in New York. He and students from Texas A & M University did extensive research on the HMS Nancy in the 1980’s. More information will follow on these events.