Passing of the torch at Park House Museum as long-time curator retiring

 

Valerie Buckie (left) is retiring Dec. 31 after 26 years as curator of the Park House Museum. Taking her place will be Stephanie Pouget-Papak (right).

Valerie Buckie (left) is retiring Dec. 31 after 26 years as curator of the Park House Museum. Taking her place will be Stephanie Pouget-Papak (right).

By Ron Giofu

 

After 26 years as curator of the Park House Museum, Valerie Buckie is moving on.

Buckie is retiring Dec. 31 and passing the torch onto the museum’s new curator Stephanie Pouget-Papak. Though believing it is time to retire, Buckie admits her feelings are “a bit mixed” as her career as the Park House’s curator winds down.

“I’ll miss the people,” said Buckie. “That’s what I’ll miss. I’ve met lots of people and made some nice friends.”

Buckie said she has always been around people as she grew up in and around her father’s pharmacy.

“I’ve always been around people,” she said. “I’m not sure how I’ll handle this. Time will tell.”

There are plans for retirement, stated Buckie, noting she plans to head to Scotland for a vacation and has thoughts of possibly opening up a bed and breakfast. She also hopes to volunteer with a different community organization but hasn’t made up her mind on that yet.

“I want to spend more time with my grandchildren,” said Buckie, noting both her grandson and granddaughter live in Michigan.

When she first took over as curator 26 years ago, Buckie said the museum wasn’t open full-time and she is proud of the fact she has been able to help the museum grow.

“I think more people have gotten to know about it,” said Buckie, adding that knowledge of the museum by the community “is important.”

Building the community museum’s collection was another triumph for Buckie during her career, noting the Park House Museum saves items of importance to the community.

Keeping the museum growing and operational hasn’t been the only challenge over the years. Buckie recalled the incident over a decade ago where a tree fell through the roof of the Park House and the ensuing legal battle with the town, which the Park House eventually lost. She added the job requires more paperwork than people realize and said more staff and volunteers would be helpful.

When she first took over 26 years ago, Buckie noted there was one typewriter and one rotary dial phone. Since then, computers, copiers and other modern technology has entered the museum’s operations.

“There’s been a huge change in that time period,” said Buckie.

Times have become increasingly busier, she added and that “Stephanie could do with a lot more help.”

Pouget-Papak said she has been working with museums and volunteer groups for the last 15 years or so, dating back to when she was in high school. Raised in Amherstburg, she said she started as a volunteer at Fort Malden National Historic Site before moving to Windsor at age 20 to be closer to school. Her family is pondering a move back to town.

“I loved growing up here,” said Pouget-Papak. “The community is fantastic. The schooling is great.”

Pouget-Papak, who officially takes over from Buckie Jan. 1, said she hopes the museum is able to do “grander things” but that takes money and visitors. Any donations are rolled back into the museum so donors are essentially supporting their community, she noted.

The focus of the Park House Museum will remain pretty much the same, she added, but she wants to increase awareness and remind the community it is a museum devoted to town history.

“I will be putting a larger focus that we are an Amherstburg community museum and not just the Park House,” said Pouget-Papak.

One of the first major exhibits Pouget-Papak has planned is a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of World War I and local involvement in that war.

“We have a quite substantial artifact exhibit coming in with original uniforms,” she said.

The exhibit also proposes to show what local people did during the war, battles local residents were involved in, and a look at county and national involvement. She added she would like to build a “small trench system” upstairs at the Park House.

The exhibit will run from July 1 through Labour Day.

Pouget-Papak has three university degrees including an honours degree in history, a master’s degree in history and a bachelor’s degree in education. She also has experience as a supply teacher and decided to apply for the opening as curator when it arose. She was hired in September and has been training alongside Buckie until she actually begins as curator in the new year. She also has experience working with her family’s historical collection and said she loves material culture and history.

“She’s perfect for the job,” said Buckie.

Pouget-Papak added she has long wanted to be employed at the Park House Museum.

“I’ve always wanted to work here since I first came here in Grade 1,” she said.

Pouget-Papak got a chance to put faces to names and meet a lot of people at the Park House Museum’s recent 40th anniversary dinner. She said the support she has received since coming aboard has been fantastic and is hoping to expand on the museum’s volunteer base as well.

“I’m excited to work with everyone,” said Pouget-Papak. “Everyone seems excited to work with me.”

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