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Carstairs Heritage Centre welcomes new staff

John Cole is the new interim curator at the facility
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The multi-building Carstairs Heritage Centre houses artifacts from throughout the region, some dating from more than 100 years ago. File photo/MVP Staff

CARSTAIRS - The Carstairs Heritage Centre museum is a busy place these days with two new staff members undertaking several tasks aimed at preserving local history.

John Cole is the new interim curator at the facility, with former centre curator Michael Dougherty coming on board as historical consultant.

“Carstairs is a town with a rich history,” Cole said. “Eighteen-eighty-three is the first time we have European settlement in the region and it’s a region that is defined by its location on one of the most important transportation corridors in the province, between Edmonton and Calgary.

“This transportation corridor is very old. First Nations were using it long before Europeans came and when the Europeans came they travelled beaten paths and adopted trails that already existed.”

Located at 1138 Nanton Street, the centre is a multi-building facility housing artifacts from throughout the region, some dating from more than 100 years ago. It is currently open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday.

Born and raised in the Carstairs area, Cole worked at the museum several years ago as a summer student and has now returned after receiving a master's degree in history from University of Alberta, specializing in western Canadian history.

“My family has actually been living in Carstairs since the 1880s. I’m several generations in. I actually live on my family farm just west of town. It’s nice to be able to work in the community I was raised in,” he said.

Cole and Dougherty started work at the facility last month on 16-month contracts.

The museum has many, many artifacts from the town and some from the surrounding area, he noted. 

“Some of the things are more than 100 years old and some are newer. There is a wide variety,” he said.

One of the projects now underway at the centre involves converting archives to digital format.

“The Carstairs museum has an extensive collection of artifacts, so cataloguing these artifacts is an ongoing task,” he said. “We are trying to get all of these into a digital interface working from a paper copy. We call it collections work, working with artifacts that we have in the collection.”

Another project now underway involves updating some of the current displays and creating new ones as well, he said.

“One thing we are really exited about is working towards new exhibit development ,” he said. “The museum has several exhibits that have been developed in the last three years but we do have some exhibits that we have had for the last 15 years. 

“So we are looking with a keen eye on ways we can represent the community and the history of the community better. This is really exciting. That is our primary focus right now and we are very happy to get to work."

The museum has an art gallery “that we are excited to develop some new exhibits for,” he said.

Cole says he is “really excited to get into the community and find ways to engage with the public” in preserving local history.

“The board of directors and the volunteer base at the Carstairs Heritage Centre are just excellent people who are really invested in the community and invested in the museum. It’s an excellent community of people to work with and to be engaged with,” he said.

The centre is open with COVID-19 safety measures in place, including masking.

“We are in the middle of applying for the Restrictions Exemption Program, so people will have to be double vaccinated,” he said. “We are optimistic to start some programming when it is safe to do so.”

It is free to visit the museum, with donation accepted, he said.

Dan Singleton

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