The museum of Antiquities at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon was a first-time Culture Days activity organizer in 2012. Michelle Brownridge had the opportunity to speak with Tracene Harvey, the director/curator at the museum about their Culture Days experience*.
MB: Can you tell me a little about the museum and what sort collections you have?
TH: The primary purpose of the museum is to foster awareness of the larger fabric of civilization into which our Canadian and provincial heritage is woven. The museum is primarily concerned with the collection and exhibition of artifacts pertaining to Western civilization between 3000 BCE and 1500 CE.
MB: What would a visitor experience when they visited the Museum during Culture Days?
TH: The theme for our Culture Days event was “Weapons and Warriors”. Volunteers dressed up in costumes and armor related to each specific culture and was part of displays in the museum’s gallery. Visitors could take part in chainmail-making demonstrations and could try on chainmail tunics and headgear. On the lawn in front of the museum, a Viking camp was set up where participants learned about the daily life of medieval Vikings. The highlight of the event was a Viking combat demonstration, which showed visitors the different kinds of weapons and fighting techniques used by Vikings. Another popular activity was the children’s helmet-making craft station, where kids could choose one of three types of helmets to make: samurai, Corinthian, and Viking. The helmet craft was so popular with the kids that we nearly ran out of supplies!
MB: Do you consider your Culture Days experience a success?
TH: Given that it was the first time doing the event, we were not sure as to the kind of response we would get. We were pleasantly surprised and very impressed by the number of people who came to our event. We had nearly 300 visitors pass through the museum that day, which was a record for us.
MB: What about Culture Days was valuable or positive for your organization?
TH: The turnout and response we received from visitors was very encouraging. The event helped us to target and bring in a new audience who had not heard of the museum of Antiquities before.
MB: Do you have any advice for first time activity organizers?
TH: Because this was our time doing Culture Days, we planned something on a fairly small scale, yet with diverse displays and activities. As a result, we were able to determine which types of activities or combinations of activities were most engaging for visitors.
MB: Do you plan to participate in Culture Days next year?
TH: We will most certainly be taking part in Culture Days next year. We plan to expand on this past year’s event by having a medieval camp set up in front of the museum made up of several tents with various activities related to daily life in the middle ages. We plan to include the weapons demonstrations as well, since these were very popular last year. We hope to continue to build on the event and eventually host it as an annual medieval festival.
MB: Is there anything else you would like tell our readers?
TH: The Culture Days weekend is a great outreach opportunity, which is of great benefit to a small museum such as ours. I strongly encourage other museums to take part in Culture Days if they have not already done so.
You can register your Culture Days activities here and don't forget to check out the Video Tour of the Museum of Antiquities produced by Media Access & Production (eMAP) at the University of Saskatchewan:
*This interview was originally published in Engage magazine.
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