The City of North Vancouver is hiring a new museum director, but the job is much more than just looking around for old artifacts.
Ask Nancy Kirkpatrick. The director of North Vancouver Museum and Archives announced her retirement recently. Kirkpatrick spent the last 12 years as a director, guiding and shaping the new Museum that will open in Lower Lonsdale.
She says a more modern, contemporary approach is letting the museum tell the stories of the community rather than just collecting old artifacts. The nature of what the museum offers and how it engages with the community has been evolving for the last two decades.
“It’s a shift and many museums are going in this direction. The old-fashioned museum would have the curator tell people about things but now we are much more interested in having visitors tell us what they know. The museum staff puts themselves in the shoes of the visitor and that is a big shift,” she says.
That paradigm change will be reflected at the new museum in North Vancouver, which will celebrate the natural landscape and the history of the North Shore, from First Nations people to early pioneers and immigrants.
It will also focus on the evolution of economic development of the area, from port and shipping and logging to technology, film and tourism.
Kirkpatrick earned a Masters in Museum studies from University of Toronto and a second Masters in Arts administration from University of Wisconsin at Madison. She worked at the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago and later at Vancouver Art Gallery before joining the North Vancouver Museum and Archives as director in 2007.
While working with the community on the new museum has been a rewarding experience, being a museum director has also brought unique challenges, she says.
“Limited resources are a challenge as well as trying to develop a strong foundation for community support through volunteers and municipal staff. But it’s the community support and advocacy that finally got us to this place,” she says.
Kirkpatrick says it also took her some time to understand how municipal governance works in relation to the museum activities because of overlapping nature of governance for the museum.
“It can be doubly or rather a triple challenge because we have two municipalities and we are governed by a system that is separate from these two municipalities, and then we have our own charity,” she says.
Even though Kirkpatrick has announced her retirement, she will stay on for a few more months to make the transition smooth for the new director.
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