Thursday, December 12, 2013

Museum Profile - Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum

Paul, Karin, Barbara and Barb
When I first started working with museums in Nova Scotia, I heard tales of a community museum in the southwest region that did amazing work. Even though they were unable to attend my Data Enrichment workshop, they were eager to participate in our Artefacts Canada project and selected records for inclusion. When I finally met them in person, I understood why they were so eager. That's just how they operate.

What I appreciate most about this museum is the positive attitude. In talking with Barbara about her experiences working in the museum field, she often remarks that you just have to keep moving forward. There is always room for improvement. If you get hung up on how much there is to do or how long it will take to accomplish something then you'll never get anywhere. This is very much in tune with how ANSM operates - we love tackling crazy huge projects, but we eat those elephants one bite at a time. Maybe that's why Barbara and I get along so well.

We also get along well because Barbara is a stickler for standards. She doesn't accept the excuse that volunteer-run or seasonal museums should be cut some slack because they have fewer resources than some of the larger sites. You just have to be smart about scaling the work and focus on moving forward. Because of this mindset, Parkdale has consistently been at the top of the CMAP score chart. As such a high scorer, and for her practical approach to the work, other museums have often been referred to her for help. And she has always been ready to share her knowledge and experience. If a group was thinking about starting a museum, Paul would tell them to talk to Barbara first so they would understand just how much work was involved. I have used this museum countless times when discussing game plans and best practice examples, even if I haven't named them (I try not to name names).

Community Engagement
When you walk through the door of the Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum, you are among friends. The warm welcome and request to know how you are doing aren't just platitudes. There have been several times during site visits when someone came in and Barbara and Donna have had a nice little chat with them. After they leave, I asked who the person was, and they had no idea. They'd never met them before. But in their eyes, anyone who comes through that door is a friend. I suspect that this is a big part of why their community is so invested in the museum. As you can see, Barbara's retirement part was packed! Even though Barbara was worried that no one would show up, they had to keep bringing out extra chairs to fit everyone.

The museum really is a focal point in the community; they host a number of very popular events throughout the year, including their famous Blueberry Tea. They have school groups in, are a CAP site, and have a lovely little gift shop with an ice cream freezer so the place is always buzzing with some activity or other. The focus isn't just on getting someone to go through the exhibits or engage in some sort of "museum activity". It's about serving their community, however the community needs to be served.

Sometimes when a fantastic long-standing Curator retires we get a little nervous. It can be very difficult for an organization to settle after losing someone with so much corporate knowledge. Again, Barbara was thinking ahead. Donna has been handed the reins and knows exactly what needs to be done. The two have worked closely together for years, and as her retirement approached, Barbara made sure to focus on succession planning and training. This kind of planning is unfortunately rare in our province, so once again Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum serves as a model for the rest of us.
So thanks to Barbara and Donna and the entire team at Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum for being such a bright light in the museum world.
All the best Barbara!

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