October 26, 2018
Meet Taryn Foss, the new Assistant Director/Curator of the Winnipeg River Heritage Museum. A newcomer to the area, she’ll be living in the community and working at the museum until Spring 2019. Coming from the City of Toronto, Foss earned her Master of Museum Studies degree from the University of Toronto (2017) and has worked with museums such as Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum and the Bata Shoe Museum. Ever since her arrival, she’s taken a deep-dive into local history.
“I think what most attracted me to take on this job was the chance to work on rebuilding this important community landmark and really make a mark in the process. It’s a unique situation, and an experience you couldn’t get anywhere else. It’s a change of scenery from the city to be sure, but I welcome a challenge.”
The first two weeks of work have seen Foss familiarizing herself with the museum, getting to know the history of the community, and starting work on a special upcoming project. This is of course the “RE-ORG” project that the WRHM recently signed onto, along with five other museums in Western Canada. Foss has been working closely with WRHM Director, Diane Dubé, preparing for the project’s official kickoff.
In just under a month’s time, Dubé and Foss will be joined by their Canadian RE-ORG program mentor, Simon Lambert, Senior Advisor of Collection Preservation from the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI). “RE-ORG” is the name for a step-by-step method designed to help museums tackle the re-organization of their storage areas for better access, visibility, and space efficiency. Lambert was one of the key developers of the RE-ORG method in collaboration with colleagues at the International Centre for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments (ICCROM) and UNESCO.
Lambert will spend a day with museum staff assessing the storage spaces, providing guidance on next steps, and most importantly, providing much-needed perspective born of experience. But before they can move forward, Dubé and Foss must overcome their first big challenge as a pair: tackling the sea of archival documents Dubé and hardworking volunteers were able to salvage from the 2014 fire.
“It’s important that we get a handle on our archives before the new museum building is ready so we know a) what we have, b) what needs to be documented, and c) how best to prepare the new space so we can take proper care of the collection,” said Foss. So far, this has involved sifting through thousands of photographs and stacks of records, rehousing them and making challenging decisions about their future in the collection. And archives are just the tip of the iceberg.
The WRHM is in a somewhat unique situation when it comes to applying the RE-ORG method due to the fire’s destruction and the surviving collection’s subsequent move to a number of temporary storage locations. However, Dubé and Foss are confident that with the expertise of Lambert and the help of colleagues from local partner, the St. Joseph Heritage Museum, the future of the WRHM collection is in good hands.
But there’s one thing that’s making the biggest stir in the museum lately: a little dog named Charlie. Charlie is Foss’s two-year-old cavapoo, and he’s the cutest new “museum dog” on the block. Charlie has been making people smile and breaking hearts in the St-Georges CDC office ever since he arrived. With Charlie on the team, the WRHM is sure to have a paw-sitively fetching year.