Don Smith

Then and Now: What does a Museum Manager / Assoc. Curator do?

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People ask: “aren’t you bored in the quiet winter months?” After almost three years of employment experience with the Museum/Historical Society I’m never bored! I work here full-time and volunteer part-time because there is so much to do, and because I’m passionate about preserving and sharing our proud and rich heritage with you.

Only one or two staff members handle most of the work in small local history museums and archives. Duties include guiding interpretative tours, and answering phone, e-mail, mail and in-person requests. Interacting with you in various Facebook history groups (at all hours) provides inspiration for blog posts and articles.

Through people like you, I acquire and appraise items which complement the existing mature collections. Each artifact undergoes a multi-step cataloguing process and ongoing condition reports. Special events and exhibits must be planned, assembled and promoted with local print and television media.

Administrative work includes preparing grant applications, reports and tax receipts, as well as purchasing supplies and paying bills. One must also attend to routine cleaning and maintenance of the premises. In winter, more time is spent on research, teaching, writing, and editing books.

Through strengthened community ties with several partner groups, 2017 was the best year ever! Partnerships included the City’s new Visitor Centre; Quilters’ Guild; YM/YWCA condo board, the General Hospital nursing alumni, and Encore Seniors.

Provincial funding augments the City museum operating fee and Society fundraising. However, the most compelling evidence of public trust is the fact that this past year saw a record 55 donors. That support is a vote of confidence.

The title difference between a curator and an associate curator reflects the difference in the length of curatorial experience and pay scale. In the absence of a (senior) curator, the associate curator functions as the curator. I was honoured to be hired by the Society in 2015 and I’ve been studying formally as well as receiving on the job training. In 2017 the Board named me Associate Curator / Manager and I now enjoy performing all the duties defined by that role.

Please join me and the Historical Society in our efforts to preserve and showcase our heritage for present and future generations.

Don Smith is Manager / Associate Curator of the Cornwall Community Museum and a regular Seeker columnist

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