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.

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