Monday, 22 June 2015

CHANGE IS THE ONLY CONSTANT IN LIFE - AND IN MUSEUM STUDIES

INTERNSHIP CHECK-IN



BY: MADELEINE ADAMSON

Happy second day of (official) summer, Musings readers! For this edition of Internship Check-In, we’ll travel west to Alberta, north to Milton, Ontario—and, finally, wander downtown to Toronto’s Baldwin Street. MMSt students from each location have shared internship experiences in their own words. Though the experiences are diverse, all four students emphasize their passion for objects, stories, communities, and exciting new undertakings—an essential attitude for any serious museum professional.

“Becoming Heritage Services”: The Halton Region Museum’s Plan to Adapt and Transform
By Camille-Mary Sharp and Veronica Stoneman

Like any other community museum, the Halton Region Museum (HRM) in Milton, Ontario has been quietly developing programs and collecting artifacts in an effort to preserve the history of its region for several decades now. It was neither particularly innovative nor a leader in the field of museology. But that is about to change!

The growing realization that the museum does not reflect what Halton is today has led museum staff and the Regional Municipality of Halton to re-think how it can engagingly communicate heritage in a relevant manner. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Heritage Services for the Region of Halton! 

HRM Barn. Photo by Veronica Stoneman.

As part of a 25-year Master Plan, the HRM will transition into Heritage Services, which will ideally lead to the establishment of the Halton Heritage Centre in the later stages of development. Heritage Services will provide an innovative resource for anyone in the community looking to tell a story, whether that means guiding interpretive plans, assisting with conservation, or providing public access to an organized collection of several thousand artifacts and the Regional Archives.

Needless to say, this transition will not happen overnight and much of the groundwork is being executed now. As part of our summer internships, we are involved in the development of new Collection and Interpretive plans for Heritage Services, which also entails analyzing the HRM’s current collection, re-organizing the Archives, updating museum policies, and developing public programs.

The Halton Heritage Services project is an exciting development for both the Region and the museum field. In letting go of its museum function, the HRM commits to supporting the remaining museums and heritage venues in Halton by providing storage, conservation services, and curatorial input.

Can this altruistic transformation be the solution to our field’s growing number of challenges? While the future Halton Heritage Centre may not be the first of its kind in Canada (see the Metis Culture Heritage and Resource Centre in Winnipeg, among others), it will be innovative in its development of travelling exhibits to unconventional venues across the Region. The HRM acknowledges that, in its current state, the Regional Collection is left unseen by a significant portion of Halton’s population. Thus, by transitioning into Heritage Services, the HRM not only seeks to solve collective issues of insufficient storage and inadequate conservation resources; it aims to redefine public access and engagement with regard to its collection.

As museum professionals, it is often said that we are excessively attached to things, largely due to our work in overcrowded collections. But are we as attached to our buildings? Should more museums renounce part of their functions in order to support the struggling institutions around them?

Pre-dinosaur Projects at the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum
By Rowena McGowan

What do you do when your dinosaur museum doesn’t have any dinosaurs in it? That was the situation I faced this May. My internship is at the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, which has the slightly bizarre distinction of not actually being open yet.

So, what do you do when your dinosaur museum has no dinosaurs? As it turns out, a lot. My main project has been the creation of a mini exhibition at our local airport. I’ve been personally undertaking everything from initial concept design to getting quotes and communicating with sellers to (fingers crossed) final installation at the end of July. My favourite aspect of the project has been this guy here:

Photo by Brian Cooley.

Meet Troodon formosus. He’s two metres long, one metre high and, come August, will be hanging out on the luggage carousel at Grande Prairie airport. Sourcing a dinosaur statue is a complicated process. I ended up contacting a local model maker, Brian Cooley. After a bit of negotiating we ended up signing a contract. Although Dr. Currie and our consulting paleontologist get final say when it comes to accuracy, one of the biggest thrills about this project is that I get to make decisions about the model. You see that pose in the sketch above? I picked it! (Well, I picked the sketch I liked best out of two).

Being responsible for this model and the airport exhibition at large means being involved every step of the way. Which means I get regular updates on how my model is doing. The current Troodon? Looking a little scrawny at the moment!

Photo by Brian Cooley.

(Oh, and by the way: yes, I did get my dinosaurs eventually).

Photo by Laura Beauchamp

Mission: Engagement!
By Kit MacManus

As the Museum Community Engagement Assistant (what a mouth-full!), I am working with the Ontario Museum Association in developing and delivering the museum toolkit, Engaging Your Community. The toolkit exists to help institutions reach out to their surrounding community and think critically about their purpose as a museum. In preparing this toolkit, I have had the opportunity to speak to multiple institutions regarding programming and different types of community outreach. Learning how institutions as varied as 19th century castles to contemporary art galleries are tackling the issue of community engagement has been fascinating and often touching to this particular museum nerd. 

Photo courtesy of Kit MacManus.
Though most of my days consist of community engagement research and sitting on internal council meetings, through the OMA I will be able to attend some of the larger museum sector events. This includes the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association and Ontario Nonprofit Network (no wonder acronyms are so popular in government) workshop, Partnering to Plan and Enhance Community Impact. This workshop will cover methods of building sustainable partnerships with surrounding communities. I cannot wait to hear about the successes and issues surrounding Ontario non-profits and hopefully, I will be able to impart some of that wisdom into my current and future work. Another event that I am very excited for is the Toronto Museum Network meeting where many of the Toronto museums and galleries are gathering to discuss the formation of a city-wide network. 

Thanks for checking out another edition of Internship Check-In! Make sure you stay tuned for the fourth--and final--check-in post on July 13. Or email me at madeleine.adamson@mail.utoronto.ca if you'd like to share your story. 

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