Busy year at Beaulne
Coaticook’s Beaulne Museum is having a bustling year, partly because the town is celebrating its 150th anniversary, but also because the Beaulne Museum is a busy and popular Coaticook institution, well supported by the local population. Besides its permanent
exhibition of the Chateau Arthur-Osmore-Norton, almost a dozen, diverse art exhibitions, a couple of festive, family fun days, and Wednesday afternoon teas during the summer, three special projects will highlight the town’s colorful history this year.
At the helm of it all is the Museum’s enthusiastic Curator and Director of the last six years, Francois Thierry Toé. “We have three important exhibits this year: a year-long exhibition on women’s fashion over the years that we created especially for the 150th anniversary; the Jardins de Pionniers which we worked on with the Table de Concertation ( Table de Concertation Culturelle de la MRC de Coaticook) and inaugurated recently; and the archaeological dig,” commented Mr. Toé in an interview with the Stanstead Journal that preceded a tour of the spacious Chateau and its numerous, captivating exhibits.
Originally from the Ivory Coast, Mr. Toé had been in Canada less than two years when he visited Coaticook for the first time to apply for his present position. “It was difficult to find museum work in Montreal, even with qualifications; it’s a very close-knit community. So I was advised to look for work in the regions and I saw an ad for the museum in Coaticook, so I applied. When you come to a new country you have to be ready for change and able to adapt - I’m good at adapting! But I fell in love very fast with the region, it’s close to Montreal and to Sherbrooke; it’s a nice quality of life,” said the Director.
“All of my family is back in the Ivory Coast, but they encourage me. I like to go back and visit, although it’s costly, but I can talk on the phone a lot with my family and I read newspapers from there. It’s possible these days to live almost anywhere without losing your identity. But it’s important to have an openness of spirit – without that you might as well stay home! Going to a new country is very enriching; you learn a lot from other cultures,” said Mr. Toé.
The Curator of the Beaulne also spoke about the important role the Museum has in the 150th celebration. “Our role is to promote and preserve the local heritage and history. All of our collections are the witnesses of that past, that history. We also have a social role in educating the public and explaining why certain artefacts are important.”
That mission is being well-served with one of this year’s big projects: the archaeological dig at the site of the Queen Hotel, right behind the Museum. “The Hotel operated between 1863 and 1897, then there was a fire and a terrace was built on the site. The idea was that there should be artefacts there, ones that would have been in the basement of the Hotel. Artefacts give a much more concrete idea of what life was like at the time,” explained Mr. Toé. The archaeologists who came in May to carry out the dig did indeed find some interesting objects. “They found old nails, jewellery, ceramics, bottles… When archaeologists find objects they interpret them and then make a report. They’ll be presenting a preliminary report next week in a press conference.”
The museum also hosted a public archaeological dig, where people had the chance to dig for artefacts themselves, which was attended by about two hundred and fifty diggers and curious onlookers. “The public really enjoyed the dig. The people, and they were mostly from Coaticook, were discovering their own history!”
Another important event that the Beaulne Museum is taking part in is coming up soon: Townshippers’ Day on September 13th. “We’ll be open for free to the public and we’ll hold our tea service. We’ll have live musical artists, too,” said Mr. Toé.
“I love everything about my job. I work for the people, for the past, the present and the future. In one hundred years the people will have even more pride in the artefacts that we are conserving today. Those artefacts become rare, they have more value and more history; there’s more humanity in the objects. You can’t put a price on those things.”
photo Victoria Vanier