General News

Museum’s new Corn Flower Glass Gallery opens Sunday

November 8, 2018   ·   0 Comments


Nanci Malek, the Events, Marketing and Promotions Coordinator at the newly branded Museum of Dufferin, is excited about both the new name and look for the museum and the upcoming opening of its fabulous and fulsome Corn Flower Exhibit, on this Sunday, November 11.

“Of course, it’s all over social media,” she was clear about that, “Sarah (Robinson, Curator) does our Instagram and we’re launching the online data base. It’s free for people to access the archival collection of the Corn Flower. They can research pieces they may have found or that have been passed down to them, to more fully understand the history and value of the glass.”

Back to her own past a bit, Ms. Malek told us, “I used to organize bands  at the YMCA when I was 13 years old. I love watching people enjoy themselves.

“When they come into the museum, I want them to be comfortable. The place is clean and beautiful and people coming for the first are blown by the size of it and the log houses in it.”

Having said which, the museum’s focus this weekend is the new and permanent Corn Flower Glass Gallery. The construction and development of this exhibit and the renovations that have gone with it were financed in part by a grant of $150,000 from the Canada 150 Infrastructure Program.

By the end of the work, the glass pieces are displayed in custom glass cases, lit by state-of-the-art lighting to show off the intricacies  of their beautiful designs.

Dufferin-born William John Hughes was a glass cutter who had learned the skill of glass cutting during his employment with Roden Brothers Silversmiths when they decided to expand their business to glass cutting. Jack, as he was called in those days, excelled at the craft, which concentrated at the time on popular flower designs.

In 1912, he left his job to work at home on his own designs which became the Corn Flower. He began to sell them for a affordable prices and, over the next 30 years, the glass tableware became a favourite for Canadian families.

During most of those 30 years, Mr. Hughes did the cutting in the basement of his home. He brought in and cut the cut the blank glasses, mainly imported from the USA; then, went himself on the road to sell it. It was primarily sold in jewellery stores across southern Ontario.

With 2,200 pieces on exhibit, the Museum of Dufferin boasts the largest public collection of W. J. Hughes Corn Flower glass in the world.  Included in this collection is a small number of rarely seen coloured pieces of blue, purple and vaseline (a “vibrant yellow”). The colours were difficult  for the chemists to keep consistent during the mixing process, accounting for their rarity. Twenty years of searching discovered them, as well a few “quirky” Corn Flower glass pieces.

Not only is this specifically Canadian glassware beautiful to behold, it is also a story of a very successful business by this craftsman and entrepreneur, William J. Hughes. Together with his son-in-law,  Pete Kayser, they concentrated on producing Corn Flower glass that was both high quality and affordable. They took a clever approach to marketing it in the 1950’s and 60’s to make it a household name.

A fully detailed  and quite interesting story of his long and fascinating history can be found at

Ms. Malek told the Citizen, “The exhibit also includes interactive displays, historic photographs of the Dufferin community and funky advertising materials.”

While you are at the museum, dazzled by this accomplishment of collecting the truly wonderful display of Corn Flower, take a few moments as well to visit the gallery on the fourth floor of Lifeactually, photographs by Pete Peterson of adults with special needs, living their lives, actually.

The Museum of Dufferin is on Airport Road at Highway 89. It is a fabulous museum and archives with a new name. We chatted to Ms. Malek about this too.

“It’s been the Dufferin County Museum and Archives since it opened in 1994,” she said, “and it needed to change. We wanted something more modern to attract younger people to come too.”

She made the remarkable statement, “The reaction was immediate. Attendance has almost doubled.”

For more information or to have a look-



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