If I could pick three words to describe my time in Canada they would be: food, oral history, and Star Wars. Odd? Maybe.
This is the second half of a two part post about my field trip to museums in Vermont and Montreal, Canada. The Cooperstown Graduate Program takes second year students on a professional development excursion at the beginning of every new school year. After exploring the Shelburne Museum and Shelburne Farms, and learning about the importance of a strong institutional mission, my sixteen classmates and I packed up the vans and headed to the border! Four days were spent walking the cobblestones of the old city and exploring museums, cafes, and historic sites. I have to admit that I may or may not have eaten my way through Montreal. The ethnic food was delicious! Chinese, polish, jewish and french cuisines book-ended visits to the Centre d’histoire de Montreal, Montreal Science Centre, Pointe-a-Calliere Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History, Sir George-Etienne Cartier National Historic Site, and Ecomusee Du Fier Monde! Phew! What a busy week!
At the Centre d’histoire we met with a CGP alum, Catherine Charlebois, who is the curator collections, exhibitions, and oral history. We toured the museum, which uses oral histories for community documentation and public exhibitions, and discussed the power that photographs and personal stories can have in cultural institutions. Two special exhibits, one on lost neighborhoods in Montreal and another on current immigration to the city, were on temporary display. I especially enjoyed the amount of racial and socioeconomic diversity present in the participants of the oral histories. I found it fascinating that using a diverse group of people’s experience can increase the number of visitors to a museum. Integrating oral histories into exhibits and programming is something I want to continue to explore in the future.
Another notable event of the trip was our time spent at the Montreal Museum of Science. A special exhibition entitled Star Wars and Identity recently opened and as a lifelong Star Wars fan – I couldn’t resist! Though the artifacts in the exhibit were thrilling, the visitor experience entering and exiting the venue was poor. The workers did not give instructions for the listening device or bracelet arm band and the introductory movie was malfunctioning! Paying 23$ for an exhibit to be broken was definitely a bummer. Overall, there seemed to be a disconnect between the movie and theme of identity. Each visitor picked a Star Wars character to make there own and could then scan a bracelet on different kiosks to add in the details to that character’s identity. You could choose your friends, your job, the way you were raised, the influences in your life, your personality, etc. I wished that the props from the movies and the costumes were more closely tied in to the idea of identity. I know that if I hadn’t gone I would have regretted it – no Star Wars fan could have passed up such an opportunity. I applaud the curators for attempting to do something other than the technology behind the movies or a show just about the “stuff” from the films. Sometimes you’ve got to take a chance!
So there you have it – I’ve started the semester off with an expanding waist-line, strengthened alumni network and love of Star Wars! Time to start my new internship adventure at the New York State Historical Association and create a few new memories.