Estate of Donna Vera Evans Bushell Contributes $425,000 to the Elgin County Museum

Donation to help connect the past to the future in Elgin County through augmented reality

County of Elgin – The Estate of Donna Vera Evans Bushell has committed $425,000 to the Elgin County Museum to support the introduction of a new augmented reality app for St. Thomas and Port Stanley, add murals and historical signs along cycling trails across Elgin County, establish two new positions to boost the capacity of the Museum to both digitize archival collections and generate content for the new app, acquire more artefacts for the collection at the Museum and conserve existing pieces, and purchase tables, chairs and other amenities to build a welcoming outdoor learning environment for visiting students and community groups.

This major donation will build up the profile of the Museum and boost Elgin County as a compelling tourism destination. London-based EXAR Studios will develop the ‘Engage’ app to allow residents and visitors to see communities like St. Thomas and Port Stanley in a brand-new way. The free app will guide everyone on adventures that are essentially digital scavenger hunts, allowing users to experience attractions just by looking through the camera of their smart phone. Murals will come to life, billboards and signs move, and most significantly, the history and present of the community come to life through a new visual reality.

EXAR Studios is devoted to engaging communities and consumers through futuristic technologies including virtual reality, projection mapping, augmented reality, and more. The app is being developed for London through a $100,000 grant from the Regional Recovery and Relief Fund through FedDev and allocated by Tourism London. For Elgin County, the app is being developed through the donation from the Bushell Estate arranged by Andrew Gunn and Maddie King of Andrew Gunn Consulting and young & free press.

Members of the local media are invited to attend a brief presentation at the Elgin County Heritage Centre at 460 Sunset Drive just south of St. Thomas on August 11, 2020 at 11:30 am. Local officials, staff members from the Museum and representatives of the Estate will be on-site.

Elgin County Warden Dave Mennill said, “The County of Elgin is thrilled to be a recipient of this generous donation from the Bushell Estate. These funds will allow the County to embrace new digital methods of delivering our museum services and provide innovative ways for residents and visitors to engage with our unique rural heritage.”

Manager of Museum and Archives for Elgin County, Mike Baker, said “this truly generous bequest will allow us to undertake a number of projects we would not otherwise be able to do. The digitization position will add many resources to the on-line material we already provide, while the cycling trails will give visitors another reason to tour our beautiful County. Finally, the Augmented Reality project is truly exciting as it will put history, literally, in the hands of residents and visitors alike.”

“We are absolutely thrilled to be able to work with the team at the Elgin County Museum to make this donation from the Bushell Estate,” stated Andrew Gunn, consultant for the Estate. “With the augmented reality app, EXAR Studios will help the Museum deliver historical and cultural information to the community through a fun, innovative new medium. This will be an amazing experience for teachers and students, as well as local citizens and tourists. Additionally, we are so excited to be able to add fresh energy to our network of cycling trails in Elgin County by adding artwork and signs that highlight our historical roots and current culture. The funding for two new positions at the Museum will provide great employment opportunities. We are excited as well that the Museum will be able to add to the collections through the acquisition of significant historical and cultural artefacts, as well as purchase furnishings and other amenities to set up an outdoor learning environment on-site. This is truly a transformative donation for the Museum and the community.”

“It’s especially exciting to be working with the Elgin County Museum to bring a focus on heritage, arts and culture in the region. They are an amazing organization and I’m so happy that they align with the mission of Engage to highlight how augmented reality can be used to explore and learn about the County’s past.” said Daniel Kharlas, EXAR Studios co-founder and Chief Operating Officer.

For more information, please contact

Michael Baker, Elgin County Museum
(519) 631-1460 ext. 159 

Andrew Gunn, Consultant on the Estate of Donna Vera Evans Bushell

Daniel Kharlas, COO, EXAR Studios

Elgin County Museum

The Elgin County Museum promotes the rich historical and cultural heritage of Elgin County by acquiring, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting artefacts pertaining to local history. Through the Elgin County Heritage Centre at 460 Sunset Drive, visitors can experience a series of changing and permanent exhibitions. The Museum has been closed to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, but will re-open on Tuesday, August 11th with safety procedures in place.

The Estate of Donna Bushell

Donna Vera Evans Bushell passed away November 9, 2019, in her hundredth year, the last of her family. Donna’s passion was to plant trees and reminisce about her ancestors and friends while her sister Doris Evans taught music as a church organist. The oldest sister, Thelma Joiner, taught elementary school around Aylmer for forty-five years and researched local North Yarmouth history. All three sisters shared a love of their heritage as descendants of the pioneer Westlake, Penhale and Gilbert families who settled along the North Edgeware Road in Yarmouth. Their collected historical papers will eventually be deposited in the Elgin County Archives. More than $2M has been allocated from the Estate in recent weeks to support a series of exciting projects in Elgin County and St. Thomas.

Easter Holiday Closure Notice
Family Day Closure Notice
Graphic to indicate holiday closures at Elgin County Facilities. The Elgin County Administration Building, Provincial Offences Administration Building, and Elgin County Heritage Centre will be closed on Friday, December 23rd at noon. Regular business hours will resume on Tuesday, January 2nd, 2024.