Engaging people in history
By Sue Tiffin
Shannon Quigley has always loved history, but she said it wasn’t until her first job as a summer student at a Parks Canada national historic site that she realized it could be a career.
When she was younger, Quigley developed her passion while helping her great-aunt Nancy, who runs an archive at St. James’s Cathedral in Toronto, during events. After earning a degree in history and art history at Queen’s University in Kingston, she pursued a master’s in art gallery and museum studies in Manchester. Returning home, she worked at the Firefighters Museum of Calgary, and then spent four years living in the English Lake District in the United Kingdom, working at Lakeland Arts, where she developed school programs for museums and ran the In The Moment program of weekly and monthly art activities at Abbot Hall Art Gallery for people living with dementia.
And then, bringing her impressive education, experience and work history with her, she moved to Minden, where she became the curatorial programming assistant at the Minden Hills Cultural Centre.
“I moved to Minden at the end of July 2019 and am enjoying it so far – even in the winter,” she told the Times. “It’s easy to love living in such a beautiful place.”
You might have seen her bustling around the cultural centre ground, helping things run smoothly at gallery openings, nurturing the Three Sisters garden, or working with elementary school students to decorate a tree for the Festival of Trees, or other youngsters making unique crafts in the school house.
“As curatorial programming assistant I get to work with both people and historic artifacts,” she said. “Normally when you work in a museum, you have to pick one or the other. So I’m really excited by this opportunity to help care for historic collections and also develop community programming that brings stories from the collection to life.”
Quigley is also excited about engaging the community in the cultural centre, which she said she loves for its combination of “arts, heritage and nature.”
She’s a “really keen stitcher and embroiderer” and is looking forward to hosting textile workshops at the cultural centre, including an embroidery workshop inspired by Victorian Motto Samplers, and a series of drop-in embroidery workshops on Saturdays this summer.
Besides plans including the textile workshops, a currently ongoing monthly “unfinished objects” meet-up for those who want to join with others to work on their own projects, and two clothing repair workshops later this month, she said there is much opportunity to explore and be creative in different ways, welcoming volunteers from what she called “a supportive and vibrant community,” to get involved in whatever way that best suits their interest, whether that be gardening, or working on the board to help shape programs. Summer student positions have recently been posted, she notes, for anyone else who might have an interest in history and culture. And Quigley also extends an invitation to those who might have ideas “for how to preserve and connect with history in a creative way.”
“One of the things I’m really excited about is this idea of trying to capture and preserve Minden’s history before it slips away,” she said. “I’d like to turn this into a community project that connects Minden’s younger generation with the area’s older residents.”
Though she’s not sure what that project will look like yet, she’s excited for what the future might bring.
For more information about the Minden Hills Cultural Centre, which includes the Agnes Jamieson Gallery, Minden Hills Museum and Heritage Village and Nature’s Place, or to learn more about upcoming programming, visit https://mindenhills.ca/minden-hills-cultural-centre/.