Wood Islands Lighthouse. All photos — Johanne Vigneault

Communities and their heritage: at the heart of our mission

Johanne Vigneault

Even if it is Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island offers its 156,947 inhabitants (and tourists—not to be forgotten), some sixty museums, genealogical centres and heritage sites from one tip of the island to the other. Former factories and churches, historic homes, country schoolhouses, lighthouses and other sites present history, handicrafts, leisure activities and daily life over the centuries in the many communities that have shaped the island.

Many of these heritage sites were established through the initiative and perseverance of history buffs and collectors eager to share their interests, which explains why most of these sites are community museums. A few employees, a group of volunteers and, during the summer season, students carry out the various museum functions. In recent years, there has been a decline in volunteer recruitment. Since the teams already in place are aging (chalk it up to the human condition), some of these institutions could find themselves in a precarious situation.

Kensington Veterans Military Museum

Bishop Machine Shop Museum in Summerside

The Community Museums Association of Prince Edward Island (CMA-PEI) has therefore focused on cultivating community support and partnerships. In 2018-2019, CMA-PEI conducted surveys and interviews with museums to determine their needs. The pulse of the general population was also monitored to discover their interests in the community. The main aim of these efforts was to raise public awareness and identify what younger generations expect of museums.

Among its findings was that most people are only aware of the function of receptionist and guide-facilitator within heritage institutions. To correct this perception, the Association took part in employment and volunteer fairs on behalf of its members, meeting with close to 800 people during three events of this kind.

Orwell Corner Historic Village

Alberton Museum

In addition, a strategy for community mobilization and volunteering will be presented at the heritage sites in late March. The content will focus on the various ways to get involved at a museum, obstacles to involvement, as well as solutions and best practices for recruiting and retaining volunteers. Lastly, workshops on managing oral history collections are scheduled for this fall to encourage greater use of oral history and the development of new relationships with the communities. Through these actions, the Community Museums Association of Prince Edward Island hopes to inspire more people to get involved in the museum community to ensure the survival of our heritage. 

About the Community Museums Association of Prince Edward Island

Created in 1983, the Community Museums Association of Prince Edward Island (CMA-PEI) contributes to the enhancement, promotion and protection of Prince Edward Island’s heritage through the use of leadership in training, innovation and empowerment. The Association conducts workshops, seminars and study tours; promotes a public awareness of the museums’ contributions; develops and manages a museum resource centre; adjudicates special grants to community museums and undertakes a number of initiatives with the Island museum community. The Association would like to thank the PEI Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture and the Federal Department of Canadian Heritage for their support.

Doucet House is an Acadian heritage site and 2020 celebrates the 300 years of Acadian presence on the Island.

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