A ‘Natural’ Selection
The Stanstead Historical Society has found its new Director/Curator of the Colby-Curtis Museum: an enthusiastic North Hatley native who brings a ‘world’ of experience to the position. Chloë Southam has studied and worked in the fields of
Art and Museology in several countries, after first getting a Liberal Arts degree at Champlain College and an Art History degree from Concordia University.
“It was after working as a guide at the Musee des Beaux Arts (Montreal) that I decided I wanted to work in the museum world,” said Ms. Southam who then went to Holland to get a Master’s Degree in Museology. “I wanted to be with international students, to learn how museums work in different countries. I had travelled a lot when I was young, so I became really interested in other cultures and very curious to discover more. It was really good to study there, in Holland, but I’m happy to be able to apply what I know here in the Eastern Townships.”
Ms. Southam had just returned from spending two years in Mexico, learning Spanish then studying towards a graduate diploma in Curating and Museum Management from Casa Lamm, when she saw the Colby- Curtis position advertised. “I had decided to come back to do something more consistent. I’m glad to be here because I’m very familiar with the area, the counties, and I like the heritage of the region.”
Besides her firsthand experience growing up in the area, Ms. Southam also discovered a lot about the Eastern Townships when she guest-curated a summer exhibition, featuring her hometown of North Hatley, for the Stanstead Historical Society. “It was an exhibition about the people living in North Hatley and the Americans who came up to spend their summers there; there are still many vestiges of that time. What I found really interesting was interviewing locals about the past for the project.”
Bringing the history of the region to the area’s children is something Ms. Southam is eager about. “Two years ago, the Stanstead/ Hatley Women’s Institute donated the Mansur oneroom schoolhouse to the Stanstead Historical Society,” said Ms. Southam who has previous experience developing educational activities for children with the Uplands Museum, in Lennoxville. “I’d like to work with the local schools, to really develop a program. I think it’s important to reach out to different generations and I’m convinced there are ways to get children interested in local history,” she continued.
Another ‘idea in progress’ would have the museum shedding some light on the history south of the line. “I’d also like to have more contact with the museums on the other side of the border.”
Although new to the job, Ms. Southam knows what a resource the local community is for the Museum. “Some people are really passionate about the area and the local history. We’re open to receive suggestions from the community, and in having partnerships, collaborations. The Museum is for everyone; it’s really a part of the community and it’s important to respond to the needs and interests of the community.”
“I’m looking forward to reaching out to access a wider public, to have more intergenerational activities. I have to get to know the collection, and think of new exhibitions. We’re now revising the three-year plan and that’s very exciting for me.”
Museum visitors have until the end of October to see Orford MNA Pierre Reid’s coin exhibit, curated by the Museum’s former Curator, Pierre Rastoul. “The coins in the collection go back to Antiquity,” said the Director as we toured the instructive exhibit. Along with the well-researched texts that accompany the collection, explaining the beginnings and evolution of coin currencies, enlarged photos of the coins, taken by Mr. Reid, reveal fascinating details on the coins often too difficult to appreciate with the naked eye. The Print Making exhibition at the museum will continue until the end of the fall.
Tea is served daily, from Monday to Friday, in the Museum’s solarium, and lunch is also available but must be reserved ahead of time. “We have all of our usual outreach activities coming up, like the apple festival, Halloween, and story-telling before the Christmas holidays. We’ll also be planning something to take place at the Mansur schoolhouse next May or June,” said Ms. Southam.
“We’re always looking for more volunteers at the Museum. They can help in areas based on their interests: doing research with Kathy Curtis in the archives; being a tour guide; helping in the Tea Room. We’re also looking for volunteers to help us with our outreach activities,” she added.
For more information about the Museum or about volunteering, call 819 8767322.
Chloë Southam, seen here in the sitting room of Carrollcroft, is the new Director/Curator of the Colby-Curtis Museum.