“I never thought there would be so much organization involved [in running a museum]. There are so many steps just to accept an artifact,” says Jasmyne Mac Rae, motioning to the filing cabinets behind her.
“Really? I was surprised by how little organization there is,” Sophie Lauzon replies with a laugh. “Sometimes people will just… leave us something. We try to get them to fill out all the forms,” she explains, but says that they often have to do most of the research themselves.
Lauzon and Mac Rae are the students working at the Vankleek Hill Museum this summer. The two girls have a pleasant chemistry, spending their days on the second story of the museum restoring and archiving artifacts until they’re called down to show a visitor around the exhibit.
“We get a lot of photographs,” explains Mac Rae, “And clothes, hats, postcards…”
In fact, one of their current projects is categorizing the contents of a photo survey of Main Street. In 1990, a film crew arrived in Vankleek Hill with the intention of using the village in a scene of the gangster movie “Billy Bathgate”; and though the set location was eventually changed, there remains the collection of photographs taken for the purpose. The students had to file more than 100 of these pictures, depicting a Vankleek Hill that has changed in surprising ways since then.
The work, however, isn’t always so straight forward.
“A lot of things are started, but never finished,” shares Lauzon.
“So a lot of what we do is trying to finish those projects — even if we leave some of our own, too.” When they hit a dead end, she continues, they’ll set aside the project until new information comes up.
Besides its continuous preservation projects, the museum also offers genealogy research to for families in the area. “Most of our research is local,” says Lauzon, “But if we don’t have the information, we’ll find out who does.”
Lauzon is an Honours student of Nipissing University, studying history, while Mac Rae will be starting at Dawson College in the fall.
In addition to the museum, 95 Main Street East also houses the Vankleek Hill Tourist and Information Centre, where student Victoria Saunders provides helpful information on local events and attractions.