Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX students see the power of objects to bring people together at Dutch Heritage Night and Pop-Up Museum

November 4th, 2019
Some of the many objects on display at the Dutch Heritage Night and Pop-Up Museum

Klompen, recipes, wicker baby baskets, family photograph albums, and artillery shell art. These were some of the many and varied objects that local community members displayed for the Dutch Heritage Night and Pop-Up Museum held on Sunday, October 27 at the Royal Canadian Legion Arras Branch 59 in Antigonish. 

StFX students in Anthropology 492: Museums helped plan and host the event in collaboration with the local Legion as a course-based service learning project. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Holland during World War II, and the Legion is hosting a series of commemorative events. Over 150 people were in attendance at the pop-up museum, and Pier 21, Canada’s immigration museum, also participated in the event. 

“A pop-up museum is created and experienced by those who show up to participate,” explains Dr. Meghann Jack, who is teaching the museums course as a special topics offering this semester in the Anthropology Department. “It brings people together in conversation through stories, memories, history, and especially objects. We can think of a pop-up museum as kind of like a potluck, but instead of everyone bringing a dish of food, everyone brings an object or story to share with others.” 

Students in the course have been exploring the important role that objects, stories, and heritage play in shaping personal identity, sense of community, and sense of place and belonging. “I wanted students to see first-hand the power of objects and stories in bringing people together,” explains Dr. Jack. “Planning and facilitating the pop-up museum also helped students have a better sense of the work that goes into exhibit curation, from project planning to marketing to set-up to engaging with visitors,” she explained.  

Visitors view the exhibit tables. Over 150 people were in attendance.

Nazi-occupied Holland was liberated by Canadian soldiers in the Spring of 1945. Following the war, thousands of Dutch immigrants, largely agriculturalists, came to Canada seeking better opportunities. Many settled in the Antigonish area with the support of the Catholic church, and went on to establish successful farms and make other important contributions to the community. “The story of postwar Dutch immigration to Antigonish is a really important one,” says Dr. Jack. “The intent of the pop-up museum was to be an opportunity for the local Dutch community to reminiscence and share, to come together and remember, to feel rooted in both Canada and The Netherlands,” she says. 

“It was amazing to see how close the Dutch community is, and I learned a lot about their role in Canadian history," says StFX anthropology student Melissa Quintero-Lazo.

Back row, l-r: James Matheson, Royal Canadian Legion Arras Branch 59 President; StFX anthropology students Diane Scott, Edward MacDonald, and Samantha Dunsworth; StFX professor Dr. Meghann Jack; and Garry Fleuren. Front: StFX anthropology students Emily Scott and Melissa Quintero-Lazo and Pier 21 Public Programs coordinator Melissa Matheson.

“We had excellent corporation from StFX students helping to host this event,” says James Matheson, Legion branch president. “Many people from the Dutch community have thanked us for putting on this event. This was the first year that we have ever tackled anything like this so we had no idea of what to expect. We were thrilled with the turnout of the public and their enthusiasm." 

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