Letter from the Executive Director
Well, plenty has changed since the last edition of Currents was circulated! Our Executive Director, Rhonda Walker, retired at the end of June along with several other NSM staff listed in the Raise a Glass section of this newsletter. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead Archives, Museums and Libraries. Consequently, we have been searching for a new Director of the Nova Scotia Museum and will be announcing the successful candidate soon. In the meantime, I want to extend my sincere thanks to Calum Ewing who has been acting in this position since July 1st to help bridge the gap. As well, we have a new Deputy Minister, Justin Huston, and Associate Deputy Minister, Melissa MacKinnon, with whom I had the pleasure of visiting several NSM sites this summer. With these appointments, we have two new enthusiastic NSM advocates.
This past July, I had the privilege of participating in a creative industries conference, XpoNorth, in Inverness, Scotland. It was a singular opportunity to meet museum professionals from Europe and discuss their challenges and successes. Our operational challenges are remarkably similar as are our aspirations: to demonstrate the relevance of museums in a world facing climate change, aggressive nationalism and a widening gap between the rich and poor. As well, we are working on advancing museums as strategic partners in creating healthier communities.
This edition specifically focuses on education and partnerships. Within the NSM, our partnerships are as diverse as our sites and I suspect you will be surprised to learn of the breadth of content and programs the we are collectively involved in. One of the reasons why I wanted to start a newsletter was to celebrate these successful partnerships which often fly under the radar.
A critical partnership for the NSM is the newly empowered Board of Governors. You may recall that last February it was announced that the NSM Act was amended granting the Board an enhanced role enabling them to set fees and support museum operations. Since July, I have been working closely with the Board to develop a comprehensive understanding of NSM operations, conduct strategic planning and form new committees. I want to thank them for their enthusiasm and goodwill throughout this re-set. Their names and biographies will soon be posted on the NSM website so watch for this.
In closing, I wish everyone a happy holiday season and thank staff across the province for their hard work and commitment to an institution that continues to impact the lives of Nova Scotians and our visitors. I look forward to 2020 and moving forward together.
Stephanie Smith, Executive Director of Archives, Museums and Libraries
Culture Action Plan Update - Theme 3: Strengthen Education, Partnerships, and Understanding
"Junior Nature Explorers" - A New Program from the Toolbox for Museum School Programs
A grade one curriculum-based program, "Junior Nature Explorers," was released this October for all NSM sites. This program meets the unique learning needs of young students - using play, storytelling, games, and crafts to explore Nova Scotia's natural environment through the lens of our four founding cultures (Mi'kmaq, African Nova Scotians, Acadians, and Gaels). This will be a new addition to the Toolbox for Museum School Programs which already includes seven modules on how to develop and present museum school programs, and a curriculum-based grade five social studies program. The Toolbox was well received by NSM sites when it was released in 2015 and was presented at provincial, national, and international museum conferences. It is available for free online.
Museums working with post-secondary institutions
The NSM Collections Unit offers a variety of opportunities for post-secondary students through both internships and special projects. Working with students provides hands-on experiences for the students as well as assists the museum complete important projects using new ideas from students. This summer the museum hosted two Museum Management and Curatorship Interns from Fleming College's post-graduate program, Robert Wong and Phillip Gnemmi, who worked with museum registrars Mary Guildford, Lisa Bower, and Amber Laurie. Young Canada Works funding facilitated Alex Setchell to work as a field assistant to Sean Haughian, Curator of Botany. And last spring Roger Lewis had students in his NSCAD Indigenous Exhibition Methodologies curator an exhibit at the Museum of Natural History entitled "Siawa'sik: A Contemporary Study of the Resilience and Adaptation in Mi'kmaq Art."
Museum offers Professional Development for Teachers
Every year the Nova Scotia Museum participates in the Social Studies Teachers Association and the Atlantic Science Teachers fall conference. Staff from a variety of NSM sites engage with hundreds of teachers in the exhibitor's halls, highlighting what museums have to offer teachers and answering teacher questions. However, it is in the workshops with museum staff that teachers get in-depth opportunities to learn about Nova Scotia's natural and cultural history. This October, NSM staff presented the following workshops:
- Science Conference: Simplifying Reality: Tips and Tricks for Science Illustration - offered by Dr. Sean Haughian (Curator of Botany) and Graham Caswell (Education Outreach, Museum of Natural History)
- Social Studies Conference: Hockey isn't Just a Game - Develop Critical Thinking Skills & Use Primary Resources - offered by David Carter (Communication Designer, NSM)
- Social Studies Conference: Winged Skulls and Weeping Willows - Getting to know your local historic graveyard - offered by Vanessa Smith (Assistant Curator of Archaeology)
- Social Studies Conference: Ross Farm - Full Day Experiential Learning - offered by Stephen Workman (Ross Farm)
Featured Team: M8 Collective
Directors from the M8 Collective, the eight largest locally-managed rural sites, meet monthly to share information and best practices and collaborate on joint projects and initiatives. This group acts in both an advocacy role for museums and as a peer support network, seeking to find solutions to shared challenges. The M8 is currently chaired by Stephen Flemming (Sherbrooke Village) and also includes Peter Cullen (Ross Farm Museum), Rodney Chaisson (Highland Village Museum), Danielle Serratos (Fundy Geological Museum), Angela Saunders (Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic), Dave Darby (Firefighters' Museum), Richard Larin (Acadian Village), and Cynthia Dorrington (Black Loyalist Heritage Centre).
Featured Staff: Rodney Chaisson
Rodney Chaisson is Director of Baile nan Gàidheal | Highland Village, which became one of our locally managed sites in 2000. Founded in 1959, the Nova Scotia Highland Village Society, which developed and continues to operate the site, marks its 60th anniversary this month. Rodney has been the museum's director for 26 of those years. During his tenure, the museum transformed its interpretation and programming with a focus on visitor experience and community engagement; participated in a national pilot of the Museums Achievement Program; became the 26th member of the Nova Scotia Museum family; and moved the Malagawatch Church across the Bras d'Or Lakes. The museum is currently focused on the implementation of a three-year $3.6 million site development strategy. In 2012, Rodney participated in the Museum Leadership Program through Clairmont Graduate University and the Getty Foundation. Most recently, he has wrapped up a six-year term on the board of the Association of Nova Scotia Museums where he served as President and Vice-President.
The first part of the 2019 season has seen some unique partnerships with Nova Scotia Museum sites.
- Fundy Geological Museum is teaming up with Joggins Fossil Center for to give day-long Cast into the Past tours for the first time. This expedition takes visitors backward through time, from Parrsboro when dinosaurs roamed the earth, to Joggins when their predecessors, amphibians and reptiles, ruled the planet.
- The Museum of Natural History hosted a temporary exhibit, series of public talks and events as part of "The Big Draw Festival 2019: Drawn to Life." "The Big Draw" is an international festival - the world's biggest celebration of drawing. This exhibit and its programming have allowed the museum to partner with local artists.
- Three Nova Scotia Museum sites - Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, and the Dory Shop Museum - hosted a simultaneous boat building workshop for children this August. Between the three museums seven Beven Skiffs were built.
- For the past 4 years the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic and the Lunenburg Public Library have offered their community a museum family day pass that can be signed out like a book at the library. This year the relationship has grown to include children's storytelling aboard the museum's schooner, Theresa E. Connor, by the library.
- Mark Dunphy, MNH technician, was able to make a mold of a tree thanks to access granted by the Halifax Public Gardens. Look for the results of the mold as a replica is built in Museum of Natural History's Netukilimk Gallery, coming soon.
- Haliburton House partnered with SPCA, Shur-Gain Feeds'n Needs Windsor, and Tim Hortons Windsor for their Wag 'n Walk event for dogs and their humans to come together in Windsor
Who to Grab Coffee With
Museum staff always have great stories. If you have a chance, grab a coffee with these folks to find out more about what they have been doing.
- Richard MacMichael (Coordinator of Visitor Services, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic) who recently hosted a recipient of the Canadian Wish of a Lifetime program. The recipient was 85 year old Marilyn McLean, a retired air ambulance nurse, who wished to explore her family history in relation to the Halifax Explosion. This program provides a chance for seniors to fulfill a special dream or do something they've always longed to do.
- Lori Churchill conducted an online survey as part of her graduate work with residents of Shelburne County and the Municipality of Argyle to gather their thoughts on local heritage sites. Lori was able to increase awareness about the project by working with local press: www.thecoastguard.ca and www.ckbw.ca
- Ian Loughead (Senior Conservator) to hear about being on the organizing committee for the Canadian Association of Conservation of Cultural Property Conference in Halifax. As a result of this conference Ian was able to hear conservation stories from across Canada as well as arrange for special behind-the-scenes collections tours of the museum's marine history collection, natural history, and cultural history collections. Visitors were particularly interested to see Ian's fancy Roomba which helps him control potentially harmful dust in the natural history collection spaces.
Raise a Glass!
Congratulations are extended to:
- Nova Scotia: Then and Now, Modern Interpretations of Heritage Recipes cookbook created by Nova Scotia Archives staff is named "One of the World's Best Cookbook" at the Gormand International Culinary Awards in Macau, China, placing 3rd in the category of Culinary History.
- Gerry Lunn (Curator of Interpretation, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic) on receiving his 25-year long-term service award with the Province of Nova Scotia.
- Eamonn Doorly (Boat Builder, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic) on receiving a 2019 Premier's Award of Excellence for his work with the Building Boats, Changing Lives program at Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
- Matthew Hughson (Site Supervisor, Fisherman's Life Museum) and Denise Taylor (Marketing Services Officer, Museum of Industry) who worked on the planning committee for ANSM's Mining Your Museum for Gold conference and to Stephen Flemming (Executive Director, Sherbrooke Village) and his team for hosting such a successful event.
New Museum Appointments:
- Stephanie Smith - Executive Director of Archives, Museums and Libraries
- Calum Ewing - Acting Director, Nova Scotia Museum
- Peter Cullen - Director, Ross Farm Museum
- Joni Thomas - Administrative Clerk, NSM ICI Section
- Anne Kendrick - Administrative Clerk (Term), Museum of Natural History
- Rosemary Browning, Senior Heritage Interpreter, Haliburton / Shand House Museums
- Laura Mounce, Heritage Interpreter, Haliburton / Shand House Museums
- Kate Pitcher, Heritage Interpreter, Uniacke Estate Museum Park
- Christopher Kilburn, Heritage Interpreter, Prescott House Museum
- Shannon Scott, Heritage Interpreter, Lawrence House Museum
- Beverly Turner, Heritage Interpreter, Fisherman's Life Museum
- Richard Williams, Maintenance Worker, Fisherman's Life Museum
Retirements and Departures:
- Rhonda Walker - Executive Director of Archives, Museums and Libraries
- Linda Clayton-Brooks - Executive Director Administrative Assistant
- Pam Dunbar - Administrative Clerk, NSM ICI Section
- Andrew Hebda - Curator of Zoology, NSM Collections
- Mark Dunphy - Preparator, Museum of Natural History/Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
- Suzanne Theriault, Heritage Interpreter, Uniacke Estate Museum Park
- Bonita Carpenter, Maintenance Worker, Fisherman's Life Museum
- Richard Larin, Executive Director, Historic Acadian Village
- Michelle Coleman, Senior Heritage Interpreter, Haliburton / Shand House Museums
- Elizabeth Hill, Heritage Interpreter, Lawrence House Museum
Does your NSM site have a staff announcement? Won an award? Let us know so we can include it in the next edition of NSM Currents. NovaScotiaMuseum@novascotia.ca
It is with sadness we mark the following losses:
- Black Loyalist Heritage Society's, Elizabeth Cromwell, recipient of the Order of Nova Scotia who was the founding president of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society, serving as its vice-president until her death, and matriarch of the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre.
- Fisherman's Life Museum staff, Janette Arnold, who had a 22-year career as a heritage interpreter.
- Sherbrooke Village's Marilyn Pinkham who worked as the cook in the McDaniel's Tearoom and Restaurant. She was famous for her fish chowder, which was a secret family recipe.
- Nova Scotia Museum's Lloyd Duncanson, taxidermist for more than 30 years, was an early innovator of fibreglass forms. Although Lloyd retired in the 1980s, the famous moose and deer at the Museum of Natural History are examples of his skill.
- Retired Nova Scotia Museum School Loans Coordinator, Sandra Clarke left a legacy thorough education across the province. A teacher by trade and nature, she was kind and strong in spirit.
First Glimpse at a New Acquisition
M2019.44.1- Stella Bowles's Warning Sign - "This River is Contaminated with Fecal Bacteria"
When Stella Bowles was 11 years old, she tested the water in the LaHave River. She found levels of fecal contamination exceeded those safe enough for contact with skin. She posted her results to social media and created this sign to warn passing motorists. Her persistence eventually led to 15.7 million dollars to remove over 600 straight pipes.
This artifact was added to the marine history collection as an example of how women are redefining traditional ways of living with the sea. It also represents the growing environmental youth movement. In the words of Stella: "Kids can make a difference. Your age shouldn't define what you can and cannot do."
For more information, please visit The Sea In Her Blood exhibit at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. The exhibit runs until February 2020.
Digging Deeper: New Research
This summer the Fundy Geological Museum began a new season of local beach tours with a new program that allowed the public to follow along with staff to see where fossils and minerals are most common and exactly what is special enough to be put into the museum's collection. Recently a cast of a Baropezia (a tetrapod footprint) happened to fall from the cliffs at the East Bay site. The well-preserved footprint is being used to illustrate to the public how a seemingly innocent sedimentary rock can be flipped over and suddenly be an important find.
The attached image shows the Baropezia after being found in the field. Notice how the texture and patterns of the rock match that of the ground.
Image Courtesy of . . .
The Nova Scotia Museum image collection is used by researchers, publishers, businesses, and other museums, to name a few. Recently, Christian LaForce, photographer for the Nova Scotia Museum, photographed this Mi'kmaq Quillwork Chair (62.35.1A). The chair is featured in The Hearts of Our Peoples exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and is receiving significant attention.
Christian's photograph of the chair is included in the exhibit catalogue. Christian comments: "When documenting such an eloquent object so rich in texture, craftsmanship, and history, it's important to take all the steps necessary for its accurate representation."
Hot off the Press
The museum is always finding new ways to share its information beyond exhibits and programs, such as these new resources.
- Darrell Burke's research article Documenting the Mills of Matheson Brook has been published in the current issue of Journal of The Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society (volume 22).
- Watercolour paintings in the museum's collection were recently examined as part of the international Watercolour World project, which is working to preserve and digitize watercolors painted before 1900.
- Museum of Industry launched an online database naming the 2500 men who died in Nova Scotia Coal Mines (www.ngnews.ca)
- The Spanish Flu virtual exhibit ("Remembering our Forgotten Dead") is now available online. Martin Hubley was one of the leads on the project team, which also included museum staff Victoria Castle and Matt Meuse-Dallien.
- Two new curatorial reports are available on the E-publications page:
Every edition of NSM Currents will highlight a new or remind us of one existing NSM policy, procedure, or strategy.
- This summer, the Nova Scotia Museum worked with ICTS (Information, Communications, and Technology Services) to launch a Request for Proposals for the replacement of our MIMS collections management system. Currently, staff is negotiating with a vendor. A new collections management system will provide greater access to information about our collections, and we look forward to updating you as this project moves along.
From the Director's Desk
Opportunities to Get Involved In:
- The Association of Nova Scotia Museums (ANSM) is looking for Evaluators to participate in the Museum Evaluation Program for Summer 2020. Museum professionals are encouraged to apply to take part in this worthwhile opportunity. Job description and application form can be found on the ANSM webpage. Application close January 2020.
Remember These Resources:
- "Most social change starts with a story" - Barack Obama. Museums should consider this idea as we look at how to move forward. We know that storytelling lies at the heart of what we do, but are we using it to its maximum potential? The Nova Scotia Museum tells our diverse stories about our natural history, our people's history, our seafaring traditions, our industrial heritage, and our artistic life. We do this using, artifacts, specimens, traditions, skills and knowledge, songs and more. But to experience the true diversity and differing perspectives of all Nova Scotians, we also need to continue to collect and understand the stories and significant objects of today for the benefit of future generations.
Next Time in NSM Currents:
- Exploring Culture Action Plan Theme 4: Promote Creativity and Innovation
- Do you have an idea you think should be included in NSM Currents? Email NovaScotiaMuseum@novascotia.ca
To subscribe to this list, send a blank email to NovaScotiaMuseum@novascotia.ca with the subject line subscribe.