Museum board chair receives Award of Merit

Miami Railway Station Museum board co-chair Gordon Docking received the Award of Merit from AMM Central Region Councillor Leslie Poulin. (LAUREN MACGILL/Morden Times)

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The board co-chair of a local museum has been recognized for his tireless efforts to preserve and display the province’s railway history.
Miami Railway Station Museum board co-chair Gordon Docking received an Award of Merit from the Association of Manitoba Museums on October 25, an award that recognizes significant contributions by individuals to the Manitoba museum community.
Docking said he was humbled and pleased by the award. “I really do want to make the point that it’s not alone,” Docking said. “No one can do something like that by themselves.”
Docking and his wife Lorraine got involved with the museum in the mid 1990s because it had closed for a period of time, and they had heard that another community wanted to buy the museum and move it.
“That really got us inspired to say we can’t have that museum moved away from this community,” he said.
The museum was built in 1889 and is a national historic site as well as a municipal heritage site.
While Docking has been at the head of the board, the museum has seen many projects come to fruition. The roof was re-shingled, the windows were all replaced, the building was moved so a basement could be put in and was repainted.
This year, the museum had a train platform built on its south side, a project that the board had been fundraising for years.
While the wooden part of the platform is finished, the museum wants to install an access ramp next year to increase accessibility for anyone with mobility issues.
Docking has been the grant writer for the museum, and was the one who helped get summer students to help.
“He’s always been the best fundraiser,” Miami Railway Station Museum board treasurer Joan Driedger. “He’s always willing to work. I really appreciate working with him.”
“He phones people, he goes out and visits museums, he goes and visits people to go find more information,” she added. “Everything that you see there [at the museum] he’s had his hand on.”
One of the draws of the Miami Railway Station Museum is its interactivity. The building hosts many artifacts like typewriters and phones that guests are encouraged to try out and interact with.
The museum has hosted a living museum day for the past three years, a project headed by Docking and his daughter. Elementary school students come to visit the museum and get to participate in things like rope making, quilting and butter making.
An experience at a museum in Winnipeg really cemented the need for an interactive museum for Docking.
“As we walked through you noticed, ‘Do not touch’ [signs],” he said. “My granddaughter said ‘I enjoyed that but it bothered me that I couldn’t touch anything.’ I think she’s so used to our museum. I’d like to see more and more things in the museum.”
“I think we’re moving in a very positive direction, and that is the hands on more and more,” he added. “Even asking kids to sit down with a manual typewriter, they first of all realize that it’s the same keyboard. It’s not just for kids, it’s for adults too. We’ve had adults sit down with that typewriter and quite enjoy that.”
One of Docking’s biggest disappointments was seeing the removal of the rail line. “What we have right now is about 100 feet of rail,” he said. “A dream would be if you could have a little bit more rail and have something that’s actually workable.”
Docking now wants to transition away from acting as board chair, and has been working on finding new people to bring to the board.
“The last thing we want is that museum to sit there empty,” he said. “There’s lots of excellent people here. We put out a call for volunteers to help with our car show and we’ll get many, many people come in. That’s never been a problem for us.”
Docking said the challenge may be just finding people who are willing to devote more time than just a few hours to the museum.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do without him,” Driedger said.
Docking said he couldn’t have done the work without his wife Lorraine, who acts as co-chair of the board, board treasurer Joan Driedger, board secretary Joan Robinson, her husband Dale (member at large) and board member Sandy Steppler.
Docking said the R.M. and the province have been big supporters of the museum.
“The municipal government has constantly been there for us,” he said. “I’d also like to mention the support of the community itself. We’ve had people right across southern Manitoba, right from Steinbach to St. Leon, who are more than willing to give us money to help with projects we’ve had,” he said.
“This museum is very important to the town,” Driedger agreed. “We have full support from the R.M., they have been over and beyond supporting us because we’re the symbol. When you drive into Miami or you look on the website, that’s what you see.”
Future projects for the museum include finishing and installing two freight shed doors and painting the interior of the building.