Prior to 1987, the Museum was simply a dream of Captain M.T.A. (Mike) Calnan. That spring, he met a kindred spirit and co-founder, Captain M.J. (Mark) Hilash. Both men, one a career soldier, the other a citizen soldier, were, and remain, avid collectors of militaria ranging from buttons and badges to artillery and armoured vehicles. With an enormous amount of family support on both sides, a great deal of trepidation and a significant personal commitment of time and money, land was purchased and construction of a building commenced. As their regrettably shallow pockets were the only source of funds, Hilash and Calnan built the building themselves, hiring a few summer students and "gang-pressing" family members into the construction crew.
Over the intervening years, the collections have grown while holidays were sacrificed to the "edifice god". After two years of seemingly endless paperwork and a great deal of advice from the Charities Division of Revenue Canada, charitable status was granted to the Museum on 1 September 1992.
During the last few years, the Museum has become very active in the local and national scene. Our "Outreach Programme" has seen members and artifacts participating in many parades, including the week long commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of D-Day on Parliament Hill in June of 1994 and the 125th Anniversary of The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery held in Ottawa in 1996. Other outreach events have included visiting local Legions and schools to speak on military heritage, Peacekeeping and Canadian industrial history.
The Museum's collections are, for the most part, privately owned. As awareness of the Museum spreads, donations of artifacts increase and the Museum's own collection is growing accordingly. The collections consist of artillery pieces, both armoured and soft-skinned vehicles, farm machinery, tractors, missiles, industrial tools, uniforms, clothing, medals, civilian and military small arms, ammunition and artifacts representing the many ways the Citizen Soldier earns a living. We are very proud of the fact that the vast majority of the artifacts were made in Canada.
The small arms collection features the more than 100 piece Calnan Collection on loan from Colonel (Retired) M.D. Calnan, CD, RCA, Honorary Chairman of the Board and inspiration for the Museum. Captain Hilash's significant collection of vehicles, uniforms and miniatures represents several important eras in Canadian history. The Rideau Canal Historical Arms Collection is also held by the Museum and consists of numerous uniforms, badges, small-arms, pieces of ordnance and vehicles belonging to Captain Calnan. In total there are over 50 vehicles and 20 pieces of horse-drawn farm machinery.
Many other important pieces are on loan from benefactors who represent a true cross-section of Canadian society.