Building History: Community Programmer Laura How Recounts Her Summer

I found my summer at Heritage Park Museum both challenging and rewarding. I gave interpretive tours of the museum on a daily basis as well as leading two historical walking tours as Heritage Park’s Community Programmer. I also collaborated with the Marketing and Events Coordinator on many of our events and workshops, and promoted the museum through social media.

I researched and developed the Historic Downtown Walking Tour, building on the previous Community Programmer’s script and incorporating new anecdotes and locations. The two-kilometre walk included fourteen different locations, including the home of founder George Little, the site of a bank robbery, and military buildings dating from the Second World War. The buildings themselves helped to reify the historical anecdotes that I shared throughout the tour, making participants feel more in touch with local history. I gave this tour three times throughout the summer, receiving a positive response each time.

I also developed a walking tour of Terrace’s Kitsumgallum Pioneer Cemetery, which highlighted the graves of early residents of the area and their contributions to local history. I recounted stories about a number of figures, including Emil Haugland, the former reeve of Terrace, Captain John Bowen-Colthurst, member of the Imperial Army and fugitive from Ireland, and Charles and Emma Nelson, a First Nations couple who took the future founder of Terrace into their home. This tour was given three times during the summer; the last tour, which was during Riverboat Days, was an incredible success with over twenty participants. Many participants at the final event also shared their own recollections of the individuals included in the tour, which added to the feeling of community.

While researching for the walking tours I found that it was often difficult to find much information on some of the topics I was most interested in. Some of Terrace’s history is undocumented or has been censored because of the personal beliefs of historians. However, I found that many of the participants on my tours were willing to confirm previously unsubstantiated rumours. I was also aided in my research by community members, Heritage Park Museum’s curator, Kelsey Wiebe, and other local historians.

One of the assignments I enjoyed most this summer was writing an article for the Terrace Standard. My article concerned three pipeline proposals that were made during the 1970s and how people reacted to them at the time. I used this information to frame the current Northern Gateway pipeline debate historically and to convey to the community that this is not a new issue. I used the Terrace Public Library’s newspaper database to find articles written at that time, as well as speaking to a number of people who have continued to be involved in the debate over the decades.

Social media played a huge part in my work this summer. I posted many historical photos of the area on Historypin, which not only served as a perfect companion to my Historic Downtown Walking Tour, but also made local history more readily accessible to community members who are more interested in solo exploration. I also composed a number of social media updates scheduled to be posted throughout the next year via Hootsuite. I learned a great deal about composing updates that are concise, interesting, and relevant.

Throughout the summer Heritage Park hosts many special events and programs, and this summer I had the opportunity to help in the organization of a number of them. I was responsible for organizing the Artists in Residence and the musicians for our Canada Day celebration, which was a huge success with over 2000 attendees. I also helped plan a genealogy workshop, which was so well-received that we quickly organized a second for all those who were on the waiting list. In addition to these events, I chose a documentary to be shown at the museum, contacted the filmmaker, and hosted the screening.

My favourite of the museum’s programs was, without a doubt, the Kids Culture Camps. I had so much fun taking care of and playing with the children who attended. I was very apprehensive at first, but I settled into my role as a counsellor after realizing that they were some of the most wonderful kids I had ever met. I’m so glad to have had this amazing opportunity to develop my skills in leadership and understanding.

My final project was the redesign of Heritage Park Museum’s website. Working through WordPress, I created a site that was accessible, appealing, and functional. I incorporated social media widgets into the website, making it easy for users to stay up-to-date. I also paid special attention to our events calendar, as that particular area of the previous website had not been functioning. My hope is that the new design will encourage an increase in website traffic and consequently an increase in visitors to the museum.

I am currently studying French at the University of British Columbia and I plan to eventually become a secondary school teacher. My job at Heritage Park has made me step outside of my comfort zone in the best way possible. Public speaking is a skill that I have been working hard to improve my entire life, and being in charge of the walking tours has given me greater confidence and made me more comfortable with leading large groups of people. I have also gained invaluable experience working with children, which will no doubt help me in my efforts to become a teacher. The research skills that I gained while developing my tours and writing my newspaper article will also be very useful during my time in university.

Working at Heritage Park Museum has been one of the most enjoyable and worthwhile experiences I’ve ever had. I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to work in such an amazing environment and to have met so many passionate and inspiring people.