Monday, 14 November 2016

Community Visits: Musée de St. Isidore

A wonderful perk of working for the Alberta Museums Association is the opportunity to travel across the province and experience various communities and their regional museums. The site visits we conduct with member institutions allow us to meet people involved in all aspects of museums as staff, volunteers, or board members. Last year, Lauren Wheeler and I were fortunate enough to also meet the community members whose stories and passions are exhibited within the museum walls. At the Musée de St. Isidore, located very close to Peace River, the truly unique history of the township is shown throughout the museum and can be experienced in the attached community complex. At the time of our visit, the museum had not yet opened its doors to the public, but other tenants in the Centre culturel de St. Isidore could already see their lives and work directly reflected in the museum.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The Witness Blanket

The Witness Blanket, by Kwagiulth / Salish Artist Carey Newman, is comprised of hundreds of artifacts, each with its own story, from and relating to Canada’s residential schools. The pieces are mounted on cedar panels and are ‘woven’ together to create a blanket of shared memories.

How did a small, rural museum like the Peace River Museum, Archives, and Mackenzie Centre (PRMA) become a host venue for the nationally-acclaimed exhibit The Witness Blanket? It was all due to the collective resourcing of three partners: Sagitawa Friendship Society, Peace River Correctional Centre, and the PRMA. By building on existing relationships and acknowledging the diversity each partner brought to achieving this goal, we were able to accomplish something that just one could not. We began in January 2015, and over the next 18 months prepared to receive ‘the Ancestors’, the Witness Blanket, on June 28, 2016.

Dave Matilpi, Aboriginal Elder, artist and teacher, mentored us at our meetings and through cultural teachings and a workshop he calls My Broken Journey. We learned of his life experiences, including as a residential school student. Most importantly, he shared the optimism he holds today for the healing and reconciliation that began across Canada.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Congratulations to Leadership Awards Recipients: Edmonton Heritage Council, Fort Museum of the North-West Mounted Police, Medicine Hat Clay Industries National Historic District

The Alberta Museums Association (AMA) is pleased to present the Edmonton Heritage Council, the Medicine Hat Clay Industries National Historic District, and the Fort Museum of the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) with Leadership Awards recognizing their exceptional work in creating value, accessibility, and relevance in their communities. The awards will be presented at the 2016 AMA Conference in Calgary as part of the Awards Ceremony on September 16, 2016.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Hammer - In, Hammer - On!

The volunteers at the Lacombe Blacksmith Shop have invited blacksmiths from around Alberta to join them in a Hammer-In this year during Alberta Open Farm Days August 20 and 21, 2016.

During this special event, spectators can watch blacksmiths showcase their extraordinary talents while they make two benches and help a great cause! One of the benches made during the event will be donated to the community of Fort McMurray and the other will be auctioned during the September Lacombe Culture & Harvest Festival with proceeds going to the Canadian Red Cross.

Volunteers Karl Beller, Jennifer Kirchner, Henrietta Verwey, and summer student Seth Burnard at the Lacombe Blacksmith Shop Museum. Photo credit: Tildy.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

AMA Conference 2016 Keynote Interview: Ryan Dodge, Digital Engagement Coordinator at the Royal Ontario Museum

As the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)’s Digital Engagement Coordinator, Ryan is focussed on digital content creation and campaign and community management as well as building digital capacity within the institution. Ryan is active in the global museum community and has volunteered with the Canadian Museums Association's Young Canada Works Project, the New Media Consortium's Horizon Report: Museum Edition and the board of ICOM Canada. Ryan is currently a board member of the Virtual Museum of Canada and the Museum Computer Network's part-time Digital Content and Community Manager.

In anticipation of his upcoming keynote and session at AMA Conference 2016, Lisa Making, Director of Exhibits and Communications at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, met with Ryan to discuss digital engagement in museums.

Lisa Making: ROM has taken a unique approach to managing social media by allowing multiple profiles for one organization. Can you share with us some of the strengths of this approach, as well as some of the challenges?

Ryan Dodge:The decision to open up multiple official twitter accounts was not one taken lightly and was in line with an overall strategic direction taken by the museum to organize our collections around Eight Centres of Discovery back in 2013. Before I came into the role in 2012, our @ROMPalaeo and @ROMBiodiversity teams had already started accounts with lively dialogue and engagement. The decision became whether to ask them to close those accounts or to start new ones for the remaining six Centres of Discovery once they were fully launched in 2014. In the end we chose to expand to give our public the opportunity to engage with the areas of the museum that they are most interested in. Our aim here was to allow people to self-select and engage with the content they want – more on that here:

Friday, 5 August 2016

AMA Conference 2016 Keynote Interview: Ry Moran, Director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

In 2008, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was established as part of a settlement agreement between the Government of Canada and survivors of the Indian Residential School System. Through the work of the TRC, many Canadians have now been able to learn more about this dark period of Canada’s history and the lasting impacts it has on our country and its people today.

Also part of the settlement, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) was created as a depository for the information and records gathered through the work of the Commission. The NCTR, housed at the University of Manitoba, carries on the work of the TRC by continuing to share the history of residential schools and create a foundation for reconciliation through truth.

Ry Moran is Director of the NCTR. Through his work with the TRC, Ry was responsible for gathering the history of the residential school system from more than twenty government departments and nearly 100 church archives - millions of records in all. As a prelude to his upcoming keynote address and session at the AMA Conference, Miranda Jimmy, Program Manager at the Edmonton Heritage Council and Co-Founder of RISE – Reconciliation in Solidarity Edmonton, met with Ry to learn more about the NCTR and the place for museums in the reconciliation process.

Miranda Jimmy: How did you become involved with the work of the TRC?

Ry Moran: I started talking to the first Commission after attending a ceremony at Rideau Hall in 2008. When that Commission ended, I picked up the conversation with the second Commission. Initially, I bid on the TRC’s Request for Proposals for statement gathering through the business I was running. They contacted me later through their recruiting firm, Higgins International, and the next thing I knew I was being interviewed in Winnipeg. That was early January 2010, and by late January I was working for the Commission. I fully relocated to Winnipeg in March of 2010, but all of my stuff showed up right in the middle of the first national event.

MJ: While working through the mandate of the TRC, what were your biggest challenges?

RM: It was emotional work – on a regular basis, you heard terrible stories of abuse. In that, you had to provide support, kindness, and empathy to everyone involved – even when my own tank was running on empty.  You had to dig deep. The work was complicated, and it involved many uncertainties and roadblocks. Document collection was extremely complicated, and we were in court on a number of occasions. We were quite a small team, but we had a tremendous amount of responsibility. There was a lot of work and the hours were intense – at a national event, it wasn’t uncommon to work sixteen to twenty hours in a day.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Does Pikachu count as a visitor? Museums and engagement in the whirlwind of mobile gaming

We need to talk about Pokémon Go. In case you haven’t looked at the news lately, Pokémon Go has taken over everything. Here at the Alberta Museums Association office, we are not immune from the excitement, and as a staff we have discussed it in many ways. Some of us fell hard for the nostalgia of a favourite childhood game adapted for today. Others madly googled “what is Pokémon Go?”. We discussed the obvious safety concerns, as news stories erupted about the chaos ensuing from people wandering around staring at their phones and not looking where they are going. And of course, we watched with interest as museums around the world started buzzing about Pokémon in and around their buildings.

Technically, I am a Millennial, but I was a little too old to be drawn into Pokémon when it arrived in North America in the 1990s. My limited knowledge was picked up second hand from my younger brother’s obsession – when he got a dog for his tenth birthday, he named her Eevee (after a Pokémon). However, the rapid spread of the app, even in Canada where it is not officially available yet [edit: as of today, it is available Canada-wide!], is fascinating. The augmented reality aspect of the app has brought a game out of the basement and into public spaces. As a public historian, I am especially interested in the implications and possibilities for museums when people start visiting museums and other heritage sites in search of elusive Pokémon. 

Two camps have already emerged in the museum world in relation to Pokémon Go; those encouraging people to visit by showing off which Pokémon can be found at their museum, and those politely asking people to refrain from catching Pokémon at their museum.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Vending machines in schools -- yay or nay? A heated debate at the the Kneehill Historical Museum Mock Legislature

On Friday, May 13, the Kneehill Historical Museum, the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, Three Hills School, and local community members joined together to host a mini-mock legislature. I took a road trip to the town of Three Hills for a front row seat to the proceedings.

A class of grade six students from the nearby Three Hills School acted as elected representatives, with local MLA Nathan Cooper playing the double role of premier and instructor. Presiding over the event was Richard Marz, previously the Deputy Speaker, who played the role in his own authentic robe and hat. Students were arranged into the ‘Sagebrush’ party, who acted as the government, and the ‘Oiler’ party, who acted as the official opposition, along with two independents. The stage was set for a riveting debate. 
The topic: should vending machines be banned in schools?

Friday, 6 May 2016

Alberta Museums Opening Doors for Fort McMurray Evacuees

The Alberta Museums Association is following the events in Fort McMurray closely. Our hearts and minds are with the community of Fort McMurray and those affected. 

A number of Alberta museums are offering free admission to residents of Fort McMurray and Wood Buffalo displaced by the fires. The following sites are free with proof of Fort McMurray residency (government issued ID preferred).