MONTREAL — Organizers of a planned permanent hall of honour and museum room at the original site of storied Baron Byng High School have changed their minds and decided to preserve its legacy instead in the “virtual” world of the 21st century.
The new project is taking the form of a website and/or software application that will seek to pay homage to the school’s legendary legacy by creating a “virtual Baron Byng,” organizer George Sand told The CJN.
Plans include having on the site/app lists and photos of graduates and war heroes, report cards, sports teams, yearbooks, a virtual museum and library of authors, and even a virtual “tour” of the school, as well as videos and personal reflections.
All materials will be scanned and incorporated digitally onto the website/app, including more than 300 artifacts donated by graduates and their families for the original project.
The artifacts are then to be donated to local Jewish archives.
It will be possible using digital technology, Sand said, to recreate – as much as possible – the Baron Byng that was.
The committee is also working with Zev Moses, creator and director of the Interactive Museum of Jewish Montreal, on the project.
“It will have everything,” promised Sand, a 72-year-old lawyer who graduated in 1959. “It’s a way of adapting ourselves to the 21st century.
“It will give us immortality. How long would [an actual museum] have gone on after we’re all gone?”
An organizing committee of alumni headed by Ted Rotsztein announced more than three years ago that the original school – now headquarters of the Sun Youth Organization at 4251 St. Urbain St. – would house on its third floor a dedicated hall of honour for the institution, which, over its 59-year history (1921-1980), produced generations of accomplished students – almost all Jewish.
They included a Nobel Prize winner (Rudolph Markus), as well as – for a public school – a vastly disproportionate number of politicians, war heroes, writers, physicians, artists, lawyers, jurists and scientists, including Mordecai Richler, poet A.M. Klein, Supreme Court Justice Morris Fish and artist Anne Savage.
But from the start, the committee, despite amassing hundreds of school artifacts from alumni and their contact information, faced a series of hurdles that impeded progress.
They included questions about the status of the building – it’s not yet owned by Sun Youth – as well as the fact that the building remains in dire need of renovation and has no escalator that would have eased the way upstairs for elderly alumni.
Harry Hus, a Bynger who first conceived of the hall of honour project at a school reunion in 2010, expressed a small degree of disappointment that things have not quite panned out as planned.
But he had only good things to say about Sand and others who have been involved.
“To be frank I have not been involved for a long time,” Hus said, “but they are all hardworking people, and they are making an effort.”
While Hus, 70, is not inclined to use virtual technology itself, in terms of the new project “it is better that there will be something instead of nothing.
“Ideally I would have liked to see that hall of honour, but I wish them success.”
Sand said while there is not yet an established timeline on the latest Baron Byng project, he promised it would happen.
The site, he said, will allow future descendants of Baron Byng families, and anyone anywhere, to appreciate its rich legacy.
“This school is a true part of Canadiana.”