Cultivating Community Partners

BY: WILL HOLLINGSHEAD
COLUMN: SPOTLIGHT

Reaching out within your museum’s community can be a challenging and daunting task to take up. It often doesn’t matter if you’ve found work in your hometown, a place you’re probably very familiar with, or somewhere across the province that you’ve moved to for work that you’re just getting to know. Municipalities take on many shapes and forms, so it can be difficult to pinpoint community groups to collaborate with. By putting in the hard work to find groups who share a similar belief or values as your museum and reaching out to them, some fantastic opportunities can arise. I wanted to share a case study example of a project I am currently involved with in my current position to provide an example of what successful partnership can look like.

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The Ermatinger Old Stone House. Photo Credit: Quinn Green

This year marks the second year that Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site (ECNHS) in Sault Ste Marie has offered its diverse and exciting winter workshop series Fridays By The Fire. I am currently working as the site’s Heritage Programmer, so I’m quite involved in this project. Fridays By The Fire are a series of two-hour workshops that provide visitors with a historic talk and demonstration while enjoying a warm, homemade lunch. This year, the program has been pushed even further due to partnerships with various community groups, each hosting a themed workshop. Through working with these groups within the community such as Oral History Sault Ste Marie, the Sault Ste Marie Public Library and Archives, and various local artisans, the needs of the program were not only met, but awareness was created towards the talents and opportunities each individual or organization provides as well.

These partnerships have led to both recurring and new exciting connections within the community that cross generational and organizational lines. Groups like Theatre in Motion are going on their second year performing a Group of Seven performance in the ECNHS’s theatre. Arts and Culture Major students from White Pines Collegiate take various workshops on curatorial techniques and then return to assist in Fall Rendezvous, the largest education programming festival at ECNHS. The Art Gallery of Algoma and Digital Creator North have also partnered with the site for new and exciting programming combining the arts and digital media with cultural heritage in our summer camps as well as newly developed workshops.

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Photo Credit: Will Hollingshead

As an emerging museum professional, you are an asset when it comes to partnerships. You have an advantage because your “fresh eyes” can help you see partnership possibilities that your museum may not have considered tapping into before. Do some research and don’t be afraid to let your creativity fly; you’ll be all the more confident bringing your ideas to the meeting table. By developing and growing community partnerships for a museum, you help create, diversify, and expand upon the opportunities your site currently offers to your visitors and the community. This process is important because addressing the needs of your community leads to more vital museums, and you and your colleagues have the added benefit of becoming a more effective workforce. All great partnerships start with an idea – maybe the next one will be yours!

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