All Things New at the End of the Year

By ALANNAH MACGREGOR

As we approach the last month of 2022 I found myself confronted with the fact that I haven’t written a blog since January of this year. Occasionally in the past as a collection technician I’ve struggled with what to write in these blogs. How could I describe to you exactly how amazing it is to hold an artifact in your hand and have the privilege of documenting everything about it, who owned it, who made it, every scratch, crack and dent that makes it unique? Today I find myself writing this blog and I have a feeling the trouble will be keeping it from turning it into a novel. 

Spoilers first, while I am an old face at the Museum of Lennox and Addington early this October I started work in a new role, I am now the museum’s Programs and Exhibition’s Co-ordinator, and to be honest I could not be any more thrilled about it!

A glimpse into the past, a photo from my first weeks of work as a summer intern 2019

A short trip down memory lane. I grew up in Lennox and Addington County and yet went 23 years naïve to the fact that I had such an interesting museum in my backyard. Come winter of 2019 and I’m searching the internet for a summer internship, I applied thinking it would be a small maybe one or two room museum, despite this I spent whole days preparing for my interview. I still remember the first moment I walked in the foyer the day of my interview, my first thought was “Whoa” my second thought was “I want to work here!” If you’ve been to the museum, maybe you remember the first time you walked through the front doors into that big open space with huge dark wood beams running along the ceiling, and grand glass cases which for me at the time contained incredible model ships. I didn’t know how lucky I was when some time later I was accepting an internship with the museum. I had no idea the happiness, frustration, and pride this museum would bring me over the next three and a half years. 

Returning to the present, I still pause a moment every morning when I walk through this beautiful building, I get to see my hand in the exhibits as I go by, banners hung, a grain shovel researched, a diorama accessioned. In 3 years I can see the small impact many hours of hard work have had on the museum and I am filled with a joy I cannot describe.

The aforementioned banners

I am writing this blog just over a month and a half into my new role, and I’m still learning the ins and outs. Having solidified most of our winter programming for 2023 I sit here thrilled about what the museum will be bringing our wonderful visitors in the new year. Our coming activities largely focus on introducing people to a multitude of cultures through insightful presentations, art workshops, music, and dance. Our programs this winter will keep your toes tapping, your art hearts filled, and your minds thinking about new perspectives.  

There is definitely a learning curve to any new job and while I’d like to say I’ve gotten some of it down pat, that’s always when you’re hit with something new. So far I’ve learned to cast a wide net when planning, that no day is going to go according to plan, and most importantly try to stay flexible. I’ve also been getting fantastic guidance and support from the team here at the Museum of Lennox and Addington! My favorite piece of advice so far was that I need to be bossier on occasion. 

Mostly I’ve been learning to take the good with the bad with any program. The first PA Day program I designed was in late October; the school aged children and I learned how to recognize bird songs, played a game in the museum, and made our own bird seed. While this full program was a success there were also lots of takeaways like the programs I design don’t take as long as I expect them to, and most importantly avoid cranberries at all costs, even the dried ones make an awful bright red mess. I’ve also had the opportunity to create a school program based around our photo exhibit Owls of Amherst Island and Other Canadian Wildlife, for a kindergarten/grade 1 class. Part of the program included learning how we identify what kind of animals we saw. Seeing those students light up with interest when they are asked to think about how we tell a bear from an owl, was a huge huge highlight in this new role. However even with a school program there were takeaways, primarily it’s getting the hang of what each age group requires and how many fun facts I can throw in with the fun activities and still have their interest. Overall I think at this point I’m learning just as much from every program as our participants. 

An artifact going on display early 2023

This new role also includes an exhibition’s components, which is an area of museum work I’m better versed in. This component helps ground me and reminds me that no matter how many programs I put together our collection and exhibits are the backbone for everything we do. I still derive a lot of joy sitting from down for a quiet hour or two and working with our artifacts. Does it belong in this exhibit? How will we display it? What challenges does it pose? They are all questions that need to be answered before the big install. 

Late December and into early January 2023 the museum staff will be taking down several exhibits to make room for the amazing new ones. As much as I love installing new exhibits and getting to see the museum in a whole new light, I find taking down any exhibit is a bitter experience for me. It’s difficult to take something down when you know how much work went into getting it up there, exactly how much effort went into creating the exhibit’s concept and all the people who had to come together to bring it to life. If jeopardy had a category called “Life lessons I learned at the museum” the first answer would be “What is: change is hard, but there is always something exciting coming around the next corner!”    

So that’s where I am right now. My desk is no longer the thing of order seen in the first photo and instead looks like a small tornado passed over it, and some days my brain feels the same way. Despite this, I still like to take time every day when I walk through the museum to appreciate the beauty of where I work, its past and my past; but I also take equal time to welcome whatever new experiences this wonderful museum has in store for me. At the end of the day, what more can you ask out of any museum than to be somewhere people can go to experience the past in all its difficult complexity and to look to the future thinking about what’s right around the corner.          

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