The curator and archivist for the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada is on a mission to identify as many soldiers as possible from the photographs that hang on that regiment's armoury walls.
Capt. (retired) Rob MacDonald has been looking at those photos since he joined the Seaforths as a 14-year-old cadet.
"I grew up in this armoury," said MacDonald, whose teenaged daughter will be the fifth generation of Seaforth in the MacDonald clan. "I used to stare at those pictures and try and identify family members. I always felt really sad that no one knew the names of these soldiers because they all deserve to be named."
If MacDonald has his way, many of those soldiers pictured in the historic photos will not only be identified, but also honoured by way of the virtual museum he hopes to some day complete.
"I will do what I can, as long as I can," said MacDonald.
MacDonald wants to post the photographs online so family members and friends from around the world can seek out loved ones for identification. His goal is to then make the photos interactive. By clicking on the face of a soldier, his or her history and service record will pop up. MacDonald also wants viewers to be able to "tag" a soldier, the same way Facebook users can tag each other as a way to share photos.
MacDonald wants to create the online component in conjunction with a move that will see the Seaforth Museum relocated to a much larger space within the armoury.
The Seaforth Armoury is being prepared to close for three years for a major restoration project that will include seismic upgrading. The Seaforth regiment is relocating to Jericho Garrison until the work is completed. The regiment will march out of the armoury Sept. 9 for the last time before the work is completed.
MacDonald is overseeing the massive job of archiving every photo and artifact in the building and readying them for the move. He's recruited the help of several community members who, like MacDonald, are all volunteering their time.
MacDonald is excited because the tiny gallery he has now to display the Seaforth Museum's archives and artifacts will expand substantially with the renovation. The museum will move into what was once a large caretaker's suite, which in the past was inhabited by decorated soldiers from the First World War.
MacDonald said so far the ghostly piper that's thought to haunt the armoury hasn't kicked up much of a fuss in response to the increased activity of late. MacDonald said generations of soldiers swear to having heard bagpipes playing in deserted areas of the armoury over the decades and have caught glimpses of dark figures out of the corner of their eye. Some soldiers told MacDonald they've also spotted shadowy figures in the window of the armoury when it was empty. MacDonald said the ghost is somewhat of a trickster and has been known to jiggle the door latch of the men's mess hall with such frequency, the soldiers came up with a standard response.
Rather than knocking on the large wooden doors placed throughout the armoury, soldiers and officers instead jiggle the metal latches when they need entry to a locked room.
"They told me that now when they hear the latch jiggling on the door and there's no one there when they open it, they just prop the door open, pour a beer and put it on the bar and say, 'There you go,'" said MacDonald. "It seems to work."