By Alannah MacGregor, Programs & Exhibitions Coordinator
It’s the holiday season here at the Museum and just like for many people it’s a very busy time of year. The halls have been decked and our woodland creatures are out and about, hiding in our Christmas trees, flying overhead, and frolicking in our mini village. Coming into work I love the magical feel of the Museum this time of year. This is my fourth Christmas working at the Museum of Lennox and Addington and I find a few memories coming back to me. Some are funny others are frustrating like trying to find a ladder tall enough to put garland up along the foyer beams. Others are sweet like creating wishing jars this year and seeing all the children have fun creating something special to them.
Memories are really the place where the holidays and museums overlap in a Venn diagram no one asked for. As the main person putting together programs at the Museum I try to make every program memorable to someone. With the aforementioned wishing jars I had a few moments in mind, one memory I was trying to create was one that wouldn’t even happen at the Museum. Participants took home their wishing jars and a battery tea light home and I could just imagine that little memorable moment of awe when each participant would drop their light in and see their wishing jars twinkle with a warm light. Another program we’ve put together that I’m hoping will make a lot of memories will be A Winter’s Eve Light 2023. I say this knowing that by the time this blog goes up online the program will be a few days passed. But speaking to readers from a time before our December 12th event I hope this event creates big memories for our community of coming to the Museum and being amazed.
One of the best parts of both museums and the holiday season is that sharing memories is encouraged! Whether it’s sitting around at a holiday party sharing stories with your friends or reminiscing about times gone by as your walk through exhibits. Accumulating memories is one of the many reasons why I love the exhibit our Archivist Heather and I put together this past September about postcards and world travel. One of my favorite parts of the exhibit is an area where people can write their own travel and adventure memories and post them on part of the exhibit. I haven’t come across any yet but I’m hoping at some point this season we get someone’s holiday travel story up on the wall.
I’ve noticed in the last few years there’s been a push on social media about making memories instead of supporting material culture this time of year. This is great idea especially for the environment but being part of a museum team has really shown me how memories and material culture can sometimes be so entwined. I have a couple recent stories that illustrate this point. For Christmas 2004 my parents gave me a stuffed moose. This moose was mass produced, as generic as any other stuffed toy I had ever received and significantly more than some. He was lovingly given the name ‘Bruce the Moose’ and I kept him for 19 years before I had the pleasure of giving him to my son. I will never forget the memory of giving him Bruce, this well-loved Christmas moose, and the genuine smile on his face knowing I was giving him something I had cherished for so long. I think that it’s undeniable to say that humans have a tendency to like ‘things’ but when those ‘things’ are connected to memories good or bad they take on more power to us than almost anything.
I have one more intersection between holiday memories and museums that I thought I’d share with you, and it’s actually the inspiration for this blog post. While getting ready for work this morning I put on a necklace I very rarely wear, it came from my Grandma who passed away 15 years ago this spring. I put it on this morning and didn’t give it another thought as the daily morning chaos commenced, but I found that my mind had been working in the background as on my way to work in a quiet moment a vivid memory came up of what my Grandma’s roast carrots tasted like at every Christmas dinner. Ironic really as those were always my most dreaded part of any Christmas meal. From there my memory flowed out to the voices of cousins I haven’t spoken to in years, the floral wallpaper that covered the kitchen walls at her house, and so much more. All these tiny memories I hadn’t given any mind to in years were suddenly front and center and I missed her more acutely than I had in a very long time. If one necklace can do that, it shows me once again why any museum’s collection is the center of all it does. The objects we collect, preserve, and display are powerful. Even though most days I’m working on programming it stills reaffirms to me why museums exist and that maybe just like the holidays season it’s about the memories that mean something, even if we don’t know it at the time.