The York Sunbury Historical Society has been collecting artefacts and documents since 1932, which in terms of the museum industry is a long time. They have a vast collection of three dimensional artefacts, photographs and documents that have all been carefully catalogued and tucked away for safekeeping. This incredible collection is the foundation of the exhibits built for the public to enjoy. It is also used to illustrate articles in publications and by researchers from across North America and the globe.
A museum is generally in the business of collecting artefacts but with each of those artefacts comes a story and museum people love stories. We relish the moments when we open an object’s file and discover its age, who owned it, how they used it; or when we read an aged document and we are pulled into someone else’s life. It is an amazing feeling!
For the most part, the museum’s collection has grown organically over the years. We usually collect items that have been donated by people who are looking for us to preserve their histories through their objects. This has resulted in a building full of chairs, trunks, dishes, clothing and many other things. These objects usually come to us many years after their owners have passed and we have to work harder to preserve their story.
This year, the museum is going to start placing an emphasis on actively collecting stories. We want to capture a glimpse of our lives right here, right now to be shared and then stored safely away in our archival collection for future generations to explore. We plan to choose a different theme each year and co-create an exhibit with our community around that topic.
Our first theme is cancer. Unfortunately, it may not be the most uplifting choice but when we selected it, it was out of inspiration. A few years ago, a most remarkable person donated a large Swarovski crystal collection to the museum. Joan Maybee has been fighting a battle with cancer for a few years and when she downsized her home, she wanted her collection to stay together. The museum does not usually collect contemporary objects such as these, but Joan’s fight with cancer inspired us and we wanted to do something. It was just a matter of what!
We decided that we would build an exhibit but put a different spin on it. Instead of the traditional historical exhibit normally found at the Fredericton Region Museum, we decided to build a display based on the content that we receive from the members of our community. In essence, the people who contribute to the exhibit become co-creators by providing us with the material that they want presented.
The content will be in the form of written stories, poems and scrapbook pages; or, in the case of younger children, we would love to display their art. Pieces from the crystal collection will act as the centerpiece of the exhibit and information about cancer will be displayed alongside the contributions. Visitors to the gallery will be able to participate in person! We will have supplies available to write an essay / poem or to create a scrapbook page and contributions created at the museum will be added as we receive them. This will give the exhibit the ability to take on a life of its own as it grows.
Our curators are Dr. Krista Wilkins from the University of New Brunswick and our Intern, Jordan Harnish. Dr. Wilkins works in the Faculty of Nursing and collects stories from individuals that have had cancer more than once. She will be sharing parts of her research along with photographs in the exhibit.
The museum is very fortunate to have several collaborators on this project. We are grateful for the support of the Canadian Cancer Society New Brunswick, the New Brunswick Literacy Coalition, the Fredericton Public Library, the City of Fredericton, the Crowne Plaza, Lynn Richards from a Pile of Scrap and local writer Biff Mitchell who have all jumped in to help us with this project!
If your life has been affected by cancer and you are willing to share your story to be placed in the exhibit, please call the museum at 455-6041 or send an email for information. Monetary donations would also be greatly appreciated as we are unsure how large this exhibit will become. The museum is operated by the York Sunbury Historical Society, a registered charity, and can offer tax receipts for donations.
The Fredericton Region Museum is an amazing downtown gem with a dozen galleries displaying over 700 artefacts. Our summer hours are Sunday to Saturday, 10am-5pm. We plan to open our cancer exhibit on September 5th and though we have several great stories, we would love to share your story too!