Friday, 29 May 2015

Five Weeks at the Colchester Historeum

Five Weeks at the Colchester Historeum

Before I dive right into talking about my five weeks at the Colchester Historeum, I want to explain my reasoning in choosing the museum for my work term. I am graduating from the Business Administration program at the NSCC Truro Campus in June, 2015. In order to graduate, I needed to complete certain milestones. One of the milestones was a five week work term and I wanted to work in a business setting that wasn’t going to be just about accounting. I thought I’d drive around to see if anything spoke to me and then I saw the Colchester Historeum. I wasn’t sure if the museum would be a viable job placement but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to find out. I went in and spoke to the curator, Jordan Leblanc, and he seemed eager to have me aboard. After getting approval from Jordan, I had to get approval from the academic board. After submitting my request it took a day for them to get back to me. They had had approved the placement. I contacted Jordan immediately to inform him that everything went well and that I’d be able to start my placement mid April. Now that all of the background details have been said, let’s get on to the actual work term.

                                      Aaron hard at work "crunching" our marketing figures

My experience at the museum is something that will stay with me for years to come, influencing many of my future decisions. I thought I would just be doing data entry and cataloguing artifacts but there was much more to it than that. I had to set up for events, interact with tourists, direct the public to various locations around the museum, process transactions, and much more. I was told before that working for a small business and/or a non-profit organization is completely different than a corporation. I was told that if I was going to work for a small business and/or organization that I would have to wear many hats, be excellent at multitasking, and possess great human relation skills. I thought I had a grasp of what that meant but I was wrong. I had the smallest understanding of the concept but my time at the museum has given me a greater appreciation and understanding of what those courageous and tenacious people have to do daily.

The Colchester Historeum relies on volunteers to help keep everything running smoothly. All of the volunteers are great people who either possess a passion for history or possess a passion for community. That is something I didn’t expect to see when I knew I’d be working here. I simply thought that the volunteers and employees would be interested in history and concerned with preserving it for future generations. But they also have a great sense of community and have many community events at the Colchester Historeum each year. They have a knit-in, canasta game nights, book sales, and more. These events happen at least each month and really instill a sense of community pride. Also, even though I am only going to be working at the museum for five weeks, I felt that all of the staff took the time to get to know me a little. Most of them didn’t need to do this since I would hardly, if ever, be called upon to interact with them but they did it anyway. It felt like I was being welcomed into a family.

It is now my last week at the museum and I am saying my goodbyes. Everyone seems interested in my future endeavors and is wishing me luck. I know that with the knowledge and experience I have gained, I will be ready for anything. I will truly miss my time spent here. If any students are reading this and are in need of a work term, I highly recommend the Colchester Historeum. You’ll never know what to expect and you’ll be tested daily on what you can handle. It’s a great place to work and an even better place to learn. 

by Aaron Pearce
NSCC grad, continuing onto St. Mary's

Friday, 31 October 2014

Paranormal Investigations Nova Scotia October 18, 2014

On October 18, 2014 Paranormal Investigations Nova Scotia spent the evening at the Colchester Historeum. The following is their findings:

Date and Time: October 18 2014 – 7:00 PM – 10:30 PM
Moon Phase: Waning Crescent 23% of full
Weather: Mild and cloudy, +16 C
Location: Colchester Historeum 29 Young Street Truro Nova Scotia
Investigators: Earl Lattie, Darcy O’Neill, Dawn-Leigh Werenka, Amanda Dyke + 16 guests and paranormal fans.

Paranormal History of Area: The Colchester Historeum is a location that Paranormal Investigations Nova Scotia has investigated in the past and gotten evidence. The common story told about the building is that a labourer that was working on the exterior of the building was on his scaffolding platform when he saw the face of an elderly woman looking out of the archive window. Startled, he went inside the building and up to archives only to find not only nobody present, but the windows were papered over on the inside. There was no way he could have seen anybody looking out at him. A previous curator of the historeum was constantly losing scissors in the building, and was also firmly convinced that the building was haunted.

Baseline Temperature:  The ambient room temperature varied between each floor, which is to be expected (cooler in the basement, quite warm in the attic.) Several people mentioned walking through cold spots, and the sensation of a cold draft passing by them.

Baseline EM Readings:  While baseline EM readings were quite low, each group throughout the night experienced spikes in the EM field. These readings registered on both the K2 meters as well as the MEL meter. Many of the strongest readings were registered around historic items and artifacts, none of which would be emitting a power source. The highest readings of the night were registered in the attic meeting room.
Camera Evidence: No anomalies were caught on camera.
Video Evidence: No anomalies were caught on night vision or full spectrum video camera.
EVP – Ghost Box: Relevant answers and names were recorded during EVP and spirit box sessions, including the same voices and names that we recorded during our first investigation at the Colchester Historeum in 2013. On several occasions our K2 meters were showing high readings as the responses were being recorded. 

Laser Grid Evidence:  Several guests reported seeing something moving through the beams of the grid, showing movement. A group also reported seeing weird lights near the windows that the workman reported seeing the older woman looking out at him. I and other members of my team have seen something similar to this at a location we investigate in Hants County.

Investigator/Guest Evidence: Throughout the evening guests that were working with the members of Paranormal Investigations Nova Scotia reported a lot of activity in meeting room on the top floor as well as in archives. Several guests had the sensation of something touching them or moving through them during the investigation, as well as noticing physical objects moving on their own. On two separate occasions a picture and a bassinet/carriage moved on their own in front of witnesses who swore nobody was touching the objects at the time. 

The laser grid was set up to shine its beams across the length of the archives, with particular attention to the windows that the worker saw someone looking out at him from. Movement and odd lights were reported by guests watching the grid, and roughly at the same time one of my investigators saw what she reported as a shadow figure moving through the basement, in the area where the wood working equipment is stored.

We greatly enjoyed our second investigation of the building, and are looking forward to continuing with find raising events with museum staff in the future. All of the feedback that I have gotten from the people who participated has been positive, with many glowing comments about the event and the building itself. Several people who attended the event have messaged me asking how to get involved with Paranormal Investigations Nova Scotia as well as where to buy gear of their own.

Thank you to the curator and staff at the museum for once again being so eager to host us, it is an event that we look forward to eagerly each year. Thank you also to the great crowd that showed up to investigate with us, it was amazing to meet everyone and to share this fascinating hobby with members of the public. 

Friday, 24 January 2014

What exactly do you do all day?

That's a question I get from a lot of my friends, especially in the slower winter months. My usual response is "curator stuff" followed by an admission of other administrative tasks. On a side topic I was asked recently by one of our volunteers Beth (I'm going to name drop with volunteers so you get a slight sense of how many people are involved here) to try out bogging a little more, to give people an idea of what goes on in the museum.

For some reason it hit me the other day (Jan. 20, 2014) when I arrived at work that I should keep track of my tasks so that I could properly convey how I spend my time. Please keep in mind that Mondays are an entirely different beast than other days during the week, because on Mondays I am at work but the museum is not open to the public. Also, every single day here is different, which is a big part of the appeal for me. I love having something different going on to keep things interesting.

I will try to keep this somewhat entertaining. Lets begin!

9:00am. Arrive at work right on time (in case the bosses are reading this)

9am to 9:45am - shovel snow and put out salt. We hire a person to shovel our snow for us, but there wasn't a lot down. I try to keep it as tidy as possible though, the volunteers appreciate it.

9:45am - 10am. TEA TIME and helping our Archivist Nan with our digital database of collections (photographs and artefacts). Quickly checked some emails to see if anything was urgent.

Couldn't get through my day without it.

10am - 11:30am preparing items for donation to a local museum with the CHS Secretary Pauline. Normally I don't get to actually focus on a project for this duration of time. Usually there over 9000 distractions but Monday I was lucky and was able to keep at the job. 

By preparing items I mean; cataloguing what is being given, photographing, moving and of course all of the paper work that goes along with that. Pauline is currently leading the charge to get our basement organized.

Oh the paperwork....

11:30am - 12pm help our exhibit developers Elinor and Donna with our collections database (the same database mentioned above) and reply to a few emails before lunch.

12pm - 1pm. Lunch. I did one of these 4 things:
a) worked through lunch because I am a curating machine
b) went home and prepared a wonderfully healthy meal
c) grabbed some groceries at Sobeys and read comic books in my office
d) Cpt. Sub and a short walk through Victoria Park

1pm -2:10pm many random tasks, SPEED ROUND: updating office calendar, meeting with volunteers (Jim and Carol), scheduling appointments, more exhibit committee talks, filing, more filing, etc.

I also make sure to check out the Truro Daily on a daily basis. I think its important to keep up with the community. Besides, I get asked every other day if I read "that article in the Truro Daily" so its good to keep current. As luck would have it there was an article that the Historeum helped out with a little bit. The article can be found here.

The Glebe House

2:10pm - 2:30pm TEA TIME and picking a photo for our Facebook page. I could write an entire blog article on picking and posting pictures to the facebook page. It is not nearly the easy task that one would image. First of all picking a picture is political, I try to ensure that I don't flood our page with Truro photos given that we are a county museum. I actually do try to spread out the geographical backgrounds of our photos.

Its also hard not to be biased. Example: I love posting pictures of dogs or pictures of wooden ships (if you have a photo of the 2 combined from Colchester please send it!). But I understand people want to see different things. I have found that people love classy house architecture, so I found what I considered a beautiful house photo from not-Truro. Turns out that everyone has heard of this house and loved it, the post was one of my most popular to date.

Farnham Road. R.H. Doane House, Bible Hill.

2:30pm - 3:45pm. Setting up exhibit hallway and chairs.
One of our volunteers Terry stopped by to help move the big heavy walls in the gallery to accommodate the next exhibit The Lewis Family: Truro's Titans of Industry. The walls in question form an interior shell of our gallery, a room within a room. Moving them is a task reserved for 2 or more, and involves a bit of work.

Moving the walls can be compared to hanging a painting on a wall. You set them up, then move them again, and again. Afterwards I set up the 3rd floor for Dr. Malcolm MacLeod's upcoming lecture. Again Mondays are the best day to do out of office tasks like this.

3:45pm - 4:30pm preparing press release and contacting media publications
Making sure the public knows about our upcoming events is very important to the livelihood of our organization. We strive to get as much exposure as possible, and the various publications have been very good to us. 

That being said there are a lot of places to contact, and you have to know the print schedule for all of them. This is especially important for monthly publications, where if you miss the deadline you completely miss that issue/month.

4:30pm-5:00pm  head to the post office and then home.

So that is my grand exciting day as Curator/Administrator for the Colchester Historeum. As you can tell the role is very supportive. I spend the largest part of my time facilitating and helping our volunteers with their various projects, which are the backbone of the Society.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Fiddlehead 14'

This is a follow up to a story that began in 2012, the story of a man and the boat that was built at the Colchester Historeum. It should be noted that I joined the Historeum in April 2013 so there are some gaps that I will try to fill in.

In the summer of 2012 Colchester Historical Society member David Boehm decided to undertake the task of building a canoe, a model known as a Fiddlehead 14’. Our current exhibit at the time was “Out of the Woodwork” which chronicled the efforts of the people of Colchester County to craft an economy and build an entire society out of the vast and daunting forest that surrounded them. Building a wooden canoe fit rather well with the exhibit.
We also knew that in November 2012 we would be opening the exhibit “A Camera on the Banks”, a display we borrowed from the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. The exhibit would feature photographs from Frederick William Wallace of the last days of Nova Scotia’s schooner fishing industry. Again a perfect fit for canoe building.

For those of you wondering the Fiddlehead 14’ is based on a design by Harry Bryan of Letete, New Brunswick. These canoes were very popular at the turn of the last century in New England and up into the Thousand Islands region where variations on the theme were rigged for sail and raced.  This one too could be rigged to sail with the addition of a centerboard—they often used a paddle instead of a rudder for steering.  The traditional design that most of these decked canoes are based on is a design called the Wee Lassie.  It is flat bottomed like a dory for ease of construction as well as making it easy to pull up on a beach.
                              A Fiddlehead 14' built by New Brunswick boat designer Harry Bryan

So in came David with his tools and his lumber. He set up shop in the corner of our museum and began putting together his canoe. While the Fiddlehead 14’ was not completely built onsite, the frame and most of its coverings were assembled here. So if a visitor came in during the winter of 2012/2013 there was a good chance they would see David working away on his project. Once summer arrived David was able transport the vessel home and complete the job there.

I’ll let David finish off the story in his own words:
“I finished the canoe in early September of this year and it had its
maiden voyage on McElmon's Pond in Debert. Since then I've had it on
Lake Kinsac in Fall River and down the Stewiacke River.

It is just a little heavier than I can safely lift onto the car by
myself, but it is a two person canoe so I suppose I'll usually be able
to find someone willing to go paddling with me. What with climate
change I might soon have waterfront here on Alice Street.

I would like to thank everyone at the museum and the historical
society who gave me moral and other assistance while I was working
there and for letting me whistle while I worked. Without the space to
work to get the frame built right I might have ended up with a
kidney-shaped canoe--that would have been hard to cartop and would
have kept me going in circles once in the water.

I like to think my project is a continuation of the boat building
heritage of Colchester County. There were in the past, as in the
present, master builders and novices who cobbled together what they
could with what they had. I'm pleased enough to continue the line of
the latter.

David Boehm”

The craft was christened "Irene"
David and Irene

Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Colchester County Home

Photograph courtesy of Allan E.Marble

An Article by Margaret Wagstaff.

             As I was growing up, now and then I heard poor farms mentioned (usually as a dire warning to maintain a good work ethic). A picture of the Colchester County Home was posted on the Colchester Historeum’s Facebook page and had attracted a lot of attention. I mentioned to a friend about seeing the picture and “what a large, beautiful building it was”. My friend then began telling me that he grew up across the street from the site. At that time the road went by the name Poor Farm Road (now Mountain Lee Road). Not knowing much about the Poor Farm in the first place, he told me just enough to pique my interest. It was then that I began my research on what was once called the Poor Farm.

In 1896, the Town of Truro built a Poor Farm on Willow Street to “care for the poor, the aged, the infirm, and indeed anyone who could not survive on their own in the community.”[1]  This was the traditional English way. At that time there was 32 poor houses in Nova Scotia. The Willow Street home was closed in 1928 when better social programs were beginning to be implemented. The building is still there (next to the former Acadian Lines bus station) and now houses several apartments.

Colchester County built the more elaborate home, pictured here, in 1908. This home was built in North River, across from the present day North River Elementary School. It was considered to be “a place to keep our poor, and to humanely care for our harmless insane”.[2] It had also became a dumping ground for a large number of “harmless” mental patients from the more expensive accommodation and overcrowded Dartmouth mental hospital. Society didn’t know what to do with the aged who required care, tramps and vagrants, unwed mothers, homeless, Orphaned and severely handicapped children.[3] The solution was the poor farm.

 Other names for the County Home were The Institution for the Insane and Poor, Home of the Poor, Colchester County Asylum, The Home, County Home, Home for Old People, and the Bug House.[4] These names reflect the way people thought in that time.

 The staff consisted of a superintendent and matron (usually a married couple), cook, cook’s helper, male attendant, nurse, farm manager, seamstress, male night watchman, and female helper and their families. They were housed in one whole wing of the building. Reginald Butcher and his wife were superintendents for over 27 years at the Colchester County Home. Thirty residents of the County Home were bedridden. The residents, who were able, were expected to work on the farm. The Farm supplied hay, grain, potatoes, carrots, apples, cattle, pigs, and chickens - most of the food needed to keep the residents fed.

Often inmates (or paupers) were sold at auction to the lowest bidder to be workers in return for their bed and board. Since this was less expensive option than the home, the government would sometimes pay a small stipend for their keep. The winning bidder agreed to take the lowest amount.

When someone died, the men housed there would carry the bodies down to a cold room in the basement. If the bodies were not claimed by family, they were often donated to scientific research in Halifax. Burials were done on site at most poor farms, with the graves often unmarked. Records of those buried behind the County Home in North River were lost in a fire that destroyed the beautiful building in 1954. The fire left over 105 inmates (including six children), the staff and their families’ homeless. Unfortunately, there was a man’s life lost.[5] 

The property was bought later by William A. Sutherland in 1955, and is still in the family. Mr. Sutherland cleaned up the burial site in 2001, and put up a monument to those buried and forgotten there.

[1] Senior Scribes of NS. Nova Scotia Poverty Poor Houses and Private Philanthropy. N.p.: A new Horizon Project, 1996. Print.
[2] Peter Allen. "The Poor Farm" to the "Country Home": A Sociological Study of the Poorhouse in Colchester County. N.p.: n.p., 1988. Print.
[3] Butcher, Gordon. 1988.
[4] William Sutherland, History of the County Home, (2002).
[5] " ." The Griffin . no. 04 (2012).

 Photograph courtesy of Kevin Wood 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Scotia Breeze

Pictured: an unopened can of Scotia Breeze.

Recently one of our volunteers, Elinor Maher, has been expanding upon the Onions to Opera Inglis Street exhibit now showing at the Colchester Historeum. In researching the "Sugar Bowl" restaurant on Inglis Street, Elinor contacted Bill Hay, son of the Sugar Bowl owners Betty and Don 'Bun' Hay. Bill was kind enough to loan us a can of Scotia Breeze, which is what I would like to talk more about.

If you haven't guessed by now the item is a gag gift, meant to both poke fun and instil pride in the Nova Scotia way of life. The directions on the can state "Can't you scent the mixture of Salt Air - Rum - Poverty - and Fresh Cod that is so typical of our Beloved Province?"

We were also fortunate enough to get a copy of the cook book as well. 

The recipe book came out small, but here is the directions for "Fried Scotia Breeze"

Place 1 pt. Scotia Breeze in hot (or cold) pan, cook for five minutes. If contents of pan resemble illustration on right (picture of empty frying pan), it is done. Remove from stove, let stand for 30 minutes. By this time it will be tired, so let it set for 30 minutes. Stick nose over pan. Inhale deeply, not forgetting to exhale also.

I hope to see the can of Scotia Breeze and cook book incorporated into the Inglis Street display. When it came into my office I knew I wanted to share it with our fans. Thank you Bill Hay for this blast from the past, of Scotia Breeze air!