The Pilgrimage Tour to Banting House NHSC

I have given hundreds of tours at other museum sites in my professional career. I’ve even given a few at Banting House NHSC and shadowed more in my first few weeks of working here. However, two weeks ago I shadowed a tour unlike any I’ve ever experienced before. It was what we at Banting House NHSC call a “Pilgrimage Tour”. Now you may be wondering what that is? A pilgrimage tour is given to a guest (or guests) who usually have Type 1 diabetes or are close to someone who does, have been wanting to visit Banting House their whole lives, and finally made the trip to do so. They often come from very far away and this is usually a very emotional experience for them. I had a hard time imagining what one of these tours would look like until a few weeks ago.

An amazing guest named Tracey traveled six hours from Pittsburgh to visit the birthplace of insulin. One of our fabulous volunteers and I greeted her at the door and she told us about her travels, her experiences living with Type 1 diabetes, and how visiting Banting House NHSC has been on her bucket list for years. There was another group of guests that joined us on the tour and it so happened that one of them was diagnosed with Type 1 over 40 years ago!

On my way to fulfill a Museum Bucket ListL 6ish hours, one border crossing, and two Timmy's stops later, I'm almost to Banting House! Might do a bit of #ITweetMuseums, but this one is pretty close to me personally. How does your connection to a museum topic impact your visit?

Lots to say about Banting House - first: when's the last time you cried before entering a museum? I was today years old. The enormity of the idea of insulin, the audacity of its pursuit, and its impact on life are incalculable
A series of tweets by Tracey who came on a pilgrimage to Banting House NHSC.

As we traveled through the museum, it was a very two-sided tour that involved information and discussion from both the guests and the tour guides. I feel like we learned just as much from the guests as they learned from us! It was also a very emotional tour, there were moments when each of us shed a tear and other times where we were howling with laughter. Tracey later described Banting’s discovery of insulin as a miracle and holy- those ideas really resonated with me on that day.

It looks so simple. So mundane. So clinical. But to diabetes patients in the early 20th century? This was life. Literal life in a bottle. A miracle in a glass vial, and a glass syringe. It feels holy.
Tracey’s thoughts on one of the displays at Banting House NHSC.

Tracey isn’t the only one to make a pilgrimage to Banting House NHSC. We receive visitors from all over the world each year who have been waiting years to experience the site. In our gift shop we keep a map for guests to place pins in to show where they are from. There are different colour pins to represent different types of guests – blue for Type 1, white for Type 2, and red for general interest. Each new year we change the map and start anew. As Tracey said the map gives you “the sense that people make this place a pilgrimage. I definitely did.”

IMG_0566
The map in our gift shop that shows where our guests are from so far in 2018.

Thank you so much to Tracey for taking the time to visit Banting House and for tweeting all about it!

 

This post was written by Rachel Delle Palme, Graduate Research Assistant at
Banting House NHSC. Rachel is currently completing her M.A. in Public History at
Western University.

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