American couple donates large Dionne Quintuplets collection to Callander, Ont., museum
The Callander Bay Heritage Museum has received a “treasured” collection of Dionne Quintuplets memorabilia as part of a large donation.
The collection belonged to Richard Fraser and his wife Nancy after his mother, Doris Fraser, passed away in April at the age of 97.
"It was her hope that the collection could stay together," said Nancy from her home in Harrison, Maine. "It was natural for us to want to get it to the museum."
Doris visited the Callander Bay Heritage Museum in 2001. She was a member of an American group called the Dionne Quints Collectors Club.
"It’s in the right place," said Richard. "She bought all of it at yard sales, flea markets and antique shops."
The five sisters Annette, Yvonne, Cécile, Marie and Émilie were born May 28, 1934 in a humble farmhouse. Their mother, Elzire, suspected she was carrying twins, but no one was aware that giving birth quintuplets was even possible.
The girls were not allowed to stay with their family for long. They were taken away by the Ontario government and put on public display in a specially-built compound called ‘Quintland’. The girls lived there until they were nine years old, with only occasional contact with their parents and siblings.
After a custody fight, the sisters were reunited with their parents, but all five have said they did not have happy childhoods.
The collection consists of antique dishes, spoons, calendars, photographs, books, toys, advertisements, and an extremely rare and valuable five set Madame Alexander doll collection.
"They’re simply very expensive and they’re very much treasured by collectors. Opening each box was just the wow factor," said museum curator Natasha Wiatr.
Wiatr says it is one of the most significant collections the museum has received to date.
It was the goal of former museum curator, Carol Pretty, to find a complete set of the Madame Alexander doll set. Sadly, she passed away earlier this year before the collection arrived.
"There’s a bittersweetness to this donation. She told me it was the one part of the collection the museum never had,” said Wiatr. “It was the one thing she always said ‘If only we could get one of those, our collection would be coming close to completion’.”
The museum has the collection on display Saturday to allow the public to view it before it will be catalogued and put it into inventory.
"The next step will be to decide which ones will be put on display and basically fit as much as we can on display," said Wiatr.
Nancy and Richard say they are planning a trip to Callander to visit the collection in the future.
"In this day and age, a lot has been forgotten at least around here. Hopefully, in Canada it will be remembered. Hopefully the two sisters in Montreal can go and see the collection as well," said Nancy.
The museum is looking to conduct more research on the collection so the next generation can learn more about the quintuplets’ story.