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Fraser family knew Callander museum was 'best place' for Dionne collection

Maine family donated Dionne memorabilia to museum, including many rare pieces
Doris Fraser to the left at the Museum June 16 2001
Doris Fraser (left) visited the Callander museum in 2001, and now her impressive Dionne quints' collection calls the museum home / Photo courtesy of the Callander museum

The Callander museum recently received a large donation of Dionne quintuplets’ memorabilia. Museum curator Natasha Wiatr said the gift “is the most significant donation we have received to date,” and “probably the biggest.”

Richard and Nancy Fraser donated the items—five large tote bins full of photos, dolls, magazines, and other memorabilia—from the collection of Richard’s mother, Doris.

See: Maine family donates stunning Dionne Quints collection to Callander’s museum

The family lives in Maine. Doris called Bethel home, and Richard and Nancy are a little further south, in Harrison. However, because of Doris’ fascination with Quint collecting, the Callander and North Bay areas were always places of great interest to her.

Doris recently passed away at the age of 97 and during her long life amassed a large collection of Dionne memorabilia.

“She was a big collector,” Nancy Fraser said, and “she always wanted to go visit where the Dionne’s were from.”  

That goal was achieved 20 years ago, when Nancy brought her mother and Doris to Callander for a visit to see the Dionne sites in the region.

“We took mother to visit the place, way back along,” Fraser recalled, “and she wanted the collection to stay all in one place. We figured the museum was the best place if they were willing to take it.”

“And when I contacted them, they were thrilled, so we were happy to send it up there for them to display it.”

Doris was an avid collector—“she’s been collecting since she was a child”—and the family were no strangers to antique shops and collector’s groups, always searching for a new treasure to add to the ever-growing Dionne collection.

“Wherever we found it, we’d bring it home for her,” Nancy said, referring to her and Richard’s travels through the States and the many antique shops they stopped in along the way.

Doris was always searching as well, and prominently displayed her collection throughout her Bethel home, especially the pictures.

“They were all displayed,” Fraser said, and “I had to fill all the nail holes,” Richard joked, after packing up the donation for the museum.

“She always hoped the collection would stay in one place,” Fraser said, and donating to the Callander museum “was the obvious choice for us.”

“We could have tried to sell it,” she said, “but in her memory, we knew it was going to stay in one place so it was well-worth donating it to the museum, and they were so thrilled to get it that we feel really good about it.”

“And I’m sure she’s thanking us up there for doing it.”

Fraser emphasized Doris’ desire to have these items displayed, as many “people collect things, and they put them away, and you never see them again.”

Once out of sight, the stories these items tell can also be lost, and “I think the whole story of the Dionne’s needs to be remembered for what the country did to the family, taking them away like that.”

“It needs to be kept alive,” Fraser said, and now that the Fraser’s donation is part of the museum’s catalogue, “a lot of people will get to see this collection.”

About the Author: David Briggs

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering civic and diversity issues for BayToday. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada
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