This post comes to us thanks to MD Salzberg, a student at the University of Toronto who recently visited the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre and shared her impressions of her visit. Thanks MD!
Hey Y’all! A couple weeks ago I visited the St. Catharines Museum & Welland Canals Centre as part of the annual Master in Museum Studies (University of Toronto) class trip. This museum was the first institution our group visited and, I must say, it certainly left an impression on me. In this museum review, I would like to share my top two reasons as to why the St. Catharines Museum is an exceptional place to visit. And I promise to keep my museum-geek from geeking-out too much!
1) The Volunteers are Top Notch
Did you know that the museum has 50 volunteers who work with the collection consistently? Now that number may not mean much, but I can assure you that more than one jaw dropped when my classmates learned this. This is an exceptional level of commitment for a small museum like St. Catharines. Let’s face facts, it is easy to want to make a volunteer commitment to a museum but the reality is that it can be difficult.
At St. Catharines, collections volunteers receive the kind of hands-on training that many emerging museum professionals salivate over. You could say that the museum trains their volunteers to be collections professionals. That being said, while the extensive training volunteers receive provides plenty of incentive to commit to the museum long-term, it takes an especially dedicated person to make it work. So, if you are one of St. Catharines’ volunteers, go ahead and pat yourself on the back! My classmates and I are in awe of you!
2) The Programs are Exciting
Have you seen the end of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark? When the “top men” store the Ark of the Covenant in a massive storage room full of crates? Well, that is how many people view museums: massive repositories of objects that no one gets to see. And unfortunately, there are some museums like that. Now, St. Catharines is clearly not one of those museums since they want to share as much of their collection as possible with the community!
With programs such as “Curator for a Day” and “aMUSE” (my personal favorite), the museum is trying to bring objects not normally seen out of storage and into the community. On average, only 10% of a museum’s collection is on display at a given time…and that is why museum-geeks such as me get so excited about programs like aMUSE!
So the next time you feel the need to brag about the St. Catharines Museum, please do not forget to mention their volunteers or their programs!
MD Salzberg is an American emerging museum professional and a second year Master of Museum Studies Candidate at University of Toronto.