Experiencing something first hand has the greatest influence on each one of us. It can be something as simple as taking a moment and admiring a tree, wondering how many children have climbed it, how many families have had picnics under it, how long it has been there providing shelter and protection for our wildlife, or whether this tree is part of someone’s story.
Or, these moments can be monumental, ones that stay with you forever, that inspire you and open your eyes to the world around you and the history that came before you. Standing on the beaches of Normandy and closing your eyes, hearing the faint sounds of soldiers and having an overwhelming sense of pride, gratitude and emotion while trying to hold onto the memories that have been passed down to us by our family members. Visiting an art gallery and being immersed by paintings, imagining the artist sitting in front of you making each brush stroke emitting emotion and allowing viewers to make a connection. Perusing through a historic home, picturing the original home owners or visitors standing in the exact spot you are standing. Wondering what their life was like, and if they thought people in the future would look back and be inspired by their life.
Taking in these moments to be grateful, to be mindful and to experience the world around you is what makes us truly appreciate our stories, it happens when we slow down, unplug and create an emotional connection.
With the world of technology changing around us, Museums are also changing. Adapting to the technological age is something that has a place within society and within preservation; however, it has the potential to remove that sense of firsthand experience. You can look at artifacts online, learn facts from internet searches, however the emotion cannot be felt in the same way.
The inherent feeling of amazement, sadness, disbelief and everything in between is what makes us connect to our past, and I believe this is the role Museums play. We exhibit artifacts, tell stories of triumph and pain, we provide the emotional connection for our visitors to the stories that are being told. Not that I am comparing the experience of visiting our little Museum to standing on the beaches of Normandy, however big things are still happening here and I truly believe our visitors are having those first hand experiences here in Lennox and Addington County too.
Over the last six weeks we shared the story of Anne Frank and WWII with our community by exhibiting Anne Frank: A History for Today and providing lectures, concerts and stories that expanded on the topic. This was not done with interactive displays, virtual reality, or technology. It was 100% unplugged. Yet we saw more people for this exhibit then for any traveling exhibit we have had before.
In addition to the extraordinary public response, we taught 1,400 students in 13 days, who stepped into our Museum and felt something real, something that they could not have experienced from technology. Ms. Jochebed Katan, a special guest who joined us for a selection of our visits, is the last Holocaust survivor from our area. She shared her story for those brief moments, helping us teach the importance of equality and dangers of antisemitism to students and adults alike. An experience I have never had before, and likely an experience most of our students will never have again. And in those brief moments, everyone who listened to her were completely engulfed by her words, and felt her emotion.
This is how I want all of our visitors to feel with our programs and events. I want them to hear stories that are different from anything they have heard, or music from genres that expand beyond the everyday favorites. Not to just hear the message but to listen, and absorb the wonderful feeling you get when you learn about something new. To have tactile experiences and be immersed in a part of history that makes you feel and want to know more.
With the complex and difficult history of Anne Frank engrained in my being, we are turning the page to share another story, however not without impact that I hope will never leave my thoughts. Our holiday season is a time for commemorating and celebrating with our community. To come together beyond the materialistic events and enjoy experiences with our friends, family and neighbors. Our next exhibit on display at the L&A County Museum is a community Nutcracker exhibit, which has set the tone for our holiday events throughout December.
Kris and Dee will be performing LIVE at the Museum on Thursday November 28th kicking off our holiday season. The show starts at 7pm and tickets are only $3 available at the door. December 7th the Kingston Conservatory will be facilitating our free Museum Kids event which starts at 10am, teaching all of our guests a holiday dance, giving children the opportunity to try on costumes and make their own nutcracker and ballerina ornaments to bring home.
Local artist Howard Sandles will be teaching visitors how to make stained glass ornaments on December 14th from 10-2; kits are $10 and will make one ornament. Last, but definitely not least, is our wonderful annual Christmas Tree Celebration, which will be taking place on December 17th between 6-8. This joyous community tradition is expanding this year. In addition to the 14 community decorated trees and mingling with Father Christmas, guests will hear the sweet sounds of a junior orchestra, and meet The Nutcracker Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy inside. Hold on though, the excitement does not stop there. Guests will be able to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate while watching a world-renowned figure skating performance that takes place in a giant snow globe in our courtyard! Glisse on Ice skaters will be performing and sharing stories throughout the evening. For more information, please visit our website www.CountyMuseum.ca or follow us on Facebook.
This holiday enjoy the moments, make the memories and share your stories. Bring cookies to a nursing home, or shovel a stranger’s driveway. Make family traditions of your very own: visiting a museum, feeding the birds or caroling at your friends doors. Encourage the littles (and bigs too) in your life that kindness and empathy is the best gift you can give. If we continue this tradition, we will be inspiring the next generation to open our hearts to everyone. As one student put it perfectly during a recent visit to the Museum “even though we can’t be friends with everyone, it doesn’t mean we can’t be kind to everyone”. Well said kiddo, you are my hope.
Happy holidays to the people of Lennox and Addington County and beyond, thank you for allowing us be a part of your story and I look forward to celebrating this season with you.