The Beginning & the National Presbyterian Museum

The National Presbyterian Museum collection process began in 1996; the first denominational facility of its kind in Canada.

The history of The Presbyterian Church in Canada is the story of wave after wave of immigrants who, by their work and worship, have deeply influenced Canadian life. As they arrived, these new Canadians organized congregations and church courts, which often exhibited strong denominational and emotional ties with their homeland. They built churches and adorned them with ecclesiastical fabric and furniture, all contributing to the evolving witness of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

The challenge was to preserve this heritage for the benefit of future generations. The Presbyterian Church in Canada Archives was founded in 1973 as a modern, professionally managed operation. It preserves official documents, personal records, photographs, architectural drawings, etc. However, there was no home for three-dimensional objects, such as:

  • Communion ware and tokens
  • clerical robes
  • mission artefacts
  • plaques and wall hangings
  • Women’s Missionary Society and Sunday School certificates
  • youth organizations

These items depicting the life and mission of the Church have disappeared over the years; thus, to preserve what remained and to display them, a depository was needed.

In 1996, the late Rev. Dr. John A. Johnston, at that time retired minister emeritus of MacNab Street Presbyterian Church in Hamilton, Ont., championed the establishment of a national Presbyterian museum. He had been inspired by his visits to the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania while he was a student at Princeton Theological Seminary, New Jersey.

Through his influence, the General Assembly of The Presbyterian Church approved the Museum as an official program under the direction of the Committee on History. The Museum began to receive artefacts of every kind (including a portable organ from Alaska Highway construction days!). These were stored in a variety of temporary locations, then brought together under one roof when the Museum officially opened in St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Toronto in a dedication service on Sunday, September 29, 2002.

Statement of Purpose

The National Presbyterian Museum shall collect and exhibit artefacts relating to the history of The Presbyterian Church in Canada and its antecedent denominations. The significance of the artefacts will be described by interpreting the lives of the men, women and children in association with Canadian Presbyterian denominations and how they confronted, challenged and changed both Canadian and global culture with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.