Familiar face on Argyle heritage scene retires
Peter Crowell says he will miss working at archives but it was time to go
Had things unfolded a little differently a few years back, Peter Crowell might have retired at 60, but it didn’t work out that way, so his tenure as Argyle municipal archivist continued a little longer.
Nov. 30, though, was his last day on the job.
While he plans to remain connected to the Argyle Municipality Historical and Genealogical Society in a volunteer capacity, his time as a paid staff person is over. It is, one could say, the end of an era, given the fixture Crowell has been on the local historical and genealogical scene for close to three-and-a-half decades, going back to March 1985. (His job initially was to work on the Municipality of Argyle’s heritage property inventory.)
Lately, Crowell had been sharing the duties of municipal archivist with Kaitlin Wood, his successor in the position.
“For the last two years, I’ve been working six months on, six months off,” Crowell said. “We’ve been preparing ourselves ... We were test-driving whether I was really ready for retirement and whether Kaitlin was ready to step in and take the whole position and it’s worked out very nicely, perfectly.”
Two days prior to his last day at work, Crowell reflected a bit on his career. Among other things, he talked about the relationship between the Municipality of Argyle, which owns the historic Tusket courthouse, and the Argyle Municipality Historical and Genealogical Society, which owns the archival facility next door.
“Both organizations spent a lot of time and a great deal of thought on a succession plan,” he said. “About six years ago Judy Frotten was hired as a second person and Judy is our heritage development officer, and she’s in charge of both complexes – the museum and the archives – and gradually I became the archivist, rather than having to manage both properties.”
Together, those properties are known as the Argyle Township Court House and Archives. Crowell says he will miss working there, but he feels it’s time for him to move on and for someone new to take over for him.
He will remain involved as a volunteer, having committed to serve as the historical society’s membership secretary for a year. The society has a membership of about 500.
Asked to share a couple of memories from the past 33-plus years, Crowell speaks of the transformation he saw in the municipality’s view of the courthouse.
“In the early days, I would say the courthouse was viewed more as a liability,” he said. “Today, there’s a great deal of pride on the part of the municipal council in owning that building, and now it’s a national historic site, which happened during my tenure, so I’m quite happy with that.”
A major development was turning the former church next door to the courthouse into an archival facility.
“It’s not only been wonderful for everybody involved,” Crowell said,
“but it’s been a real facelift for the centre of Tusket.”
But he said if he had to pick one thing in particular as far as accomplishments go, it wouldn’t be the new archives. Instead it would be The Argus, the Argyle historical/genealogical society’s quarterly newsletter.
“There’s no end to what can be written about in terms of telling the story of Argyle and its people, so I think the newsletter will go on for a long time,” he said, adding The Argus – with more than three decades’ worth of back issues – has become an encyclopedia of sorts about the Municipality of Argyle’s history, featuring articles written by local people.
While he views it as a high-quality, serious product, Crowell notes The Argus is not an academic publication and was never meant to be. “That’s not our audience,” he said.
Crowell says he has some writing and research projects he plans to pursue in his retirement years.
“I came to this job with a real interest and passion for both local history and family history and that’s never gone away,” he said, “but when you do this type of work all day, you don’t always have the energy left at the end of the day (to work on your own projects).”
A native of East Kemptville who attended Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School, Crowell did post-secondary studies at the University of British Columbia, as did Kaitlin Wood, who succeeds him as Argyle municipal archivist.
“Kaitlin comes with very good credentials,” Crowell said. “I leave with a light heart.”
From left, Judy Frotten, heritage development officer, Argyle Township Court House & Archives; Peter Crowell, retiring Argyle municipal archivist; Kaitlin Wood, the new municipal archivist. Among other things, visitors to the archival facility in Tusket will find copies of The Argus, the quarterly newsletter of the Argyle Municipality Historical and Genealogical Society.
Peter Crowell, pictured on Nov. 28, two days before his last scheduled day as Argyle municipal archivist.