Fall is for ex­plor­ing

Town­ships his­tory groups gather for in­au­gu­ral Her­itage Fair

Sherbrooke Record - - LOCAL NEWS - Sub­mit­ted by Dwane Wilkin, QAHN

More than au­tumn’s bril­liant hues await dis­cov­ery this season on the by­ways and back­roads of Que­bec’s Eastern Town­ships.

A wide range of his­toric col­lec­tions, ex­hi­bi­tions and built-her­itage trea­sures will also be on dis­play as mu­se­ums and his­tor­i­cal so­ci­eties from across the re­gion gather in the tiny vil­lage of Ea­ton Cor­ner for the first-ever edi­tion of the Eastern Town­ships Her­itage Fair.

The event, jointly spon­sored by Town­ship­pers’ As­so­ci­a­tion and the Que­bec An­glo­phone Her­itage Net­work (QAHN), takes place on Fri­day, Oc­to­ber 13, from 1 to 4 p.m.

“Think of it as a taste of Town­ships his­tory and cul­ture,” said fair co-or­ga­nizer and mu­seum cu­ra­tor Heather Darch.

Darch and her col­leagues from Mis­sisquoi Mu­seum in Stan­bridge East will join mem­bers of a dozen or so his­tory and cul­tural so­ci­eties to meet area res­i­dents, vis­i­tors, teach­ers, and any­one else with an in­ter­est in Town­ships her­itage – in­clud­ing leaf-peep­ers – fol­low­ing a morn­ing dis­cus­sion with Qahn-mem­ber groups about cre­ative ways to fi­nance their work in lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

Ea­ton Cor­ner Mu­seum is host­ing the fair in its re­cently re­stored Foss House (circa 1820s), part of a unique colo­nialera build­ing com­plex that in­cludes a beau­ti­fully pre­served for­mer Con­gre­ga­tional Church (1841) and the lo­cal Academy (1864). Both are strik­ing ex­am­ples of the Amer­i­can in­flu­ence on 19th cen­tury Town­ships ar­chi­tec­ture, and provin­cially des­ig­nated his­toric sites.

Other dis­plays in­clude Knowl­ton’s Brome County His­tor­i­cal Mu­seum; Up­lands Cul­tural and Her­itage Cen­tre and the Len­noxville-as­cot His­tor­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion; Stanstead’s Colby-cur­tis Mu­seum; Rich­mond County His­tor­i­cal Society Mu­seum; and the new­est ad­di­tion to the Town­ships’ net­work of com­mu­nity her­itage or­ga­ni­za­tions, the Copp’s Ferry Mu­seum in Ge­orgeville.

Au­thor and Town­ships his­to­rian Nick Fonda will be on hand to sign copies of his lat­est book of sto­ries, Rich­mond: Now and Then: An Anec­do­tal His­tory, and lo­cal fid­dler Terry Howel will fur­nish the tunes.

Be­ing si­t­u­ated in a part of south­ern Que­bec cel­e­brated for its stun­ning fall colours is at once a bless­ing and a curse for small-mu­seum op­er­a­tors in the re­gion, as the sea­sonal uptick in vis­i­tor traf­fic tends to be driven by a thirst for scenery, rather than his­tor­i­cal cu­rios­ity.

“We’re for­tu­nate to live in a part of the coun­try where lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties still find value in know­ing about the past,” said Darch, who has worked with QAHN in re­cent years to help train non­profit groups in fundrais­ing and vol­un­teer-man­age­ment skills, “but I think most of us would ad­mit that get­ting peo­ple in the door re­mains our big­gest chal­lenge.”

Ea­ton Cor­ner Mu­seum’s own per­ma­nent ex­hibit – a con­cep­tu­ally im­pres­sive and fresh telling of the area’s set­tle­ment and agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment – will be open to ev­ery­one on the day of the fair. Vis­i­tors will also find ac­cess to a wealth of in­for­ma­tion on re­gional and lo­cal his­tory, in­clud­ing pre­views of cur­rent and up­com­ing ex­hibits tak­ing place at mu­se­ums through­out the Town­ships, ge­neao­log­i­cal re­sources and even tips for safe­guard­ing fam­ily heir­looms and old photos. Some­thing to sat­isfy ev­ery­one, from the cu­ri­ous day-trip­per to the diehard his­tory buff.

A key mes­sage that fair spon­sors and or­ga­niz­ers hope to get across is that lo­cal his­tory so­ci­eties do not ex­ist merely to pre­serve stuff and sto­ries from the past; they also make it pos­si­ble for the com­mu­ni­ties they serve to ex­plore and un­der­stand that her­itage.

Which is why Darch and her fel­low ex­hibitors hope to hear this ques­tion a lot from vis­i­tors through­out the af­ter­noon: “How can I get in­volved?” The an­swer in most cases will prob­a­bly be, “Start by tak­ing out a mem­ber­ship.”

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