Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Catholic studies students curate exhibit at Antigonish Heritage Museum

November 27th, 2018
Students Lauren Henderson, Kenzie MacNeil, Ben von Muehldorfer, Catherine Culhane, Tyler Wilson and Sean Sullivan pose with Bishop Brian Dunn, Vicar of the Founder, and Barry MacKenzie, StFX Catholic studies and history professor

Students in CATH 298: Catholicism in Canada stepped outside the classroom this term for part of their major assignment, curating a new exhibit at the Antigonish Heritage Museum entitled “Venerable Objects: The Material Culture of Catholicism in Antigonish.”

“I wanted to provide the students with an opportunity to engage with different types of sources,” said course instructor, StFX Catholic studies and history professor Barry MacKenzie. 

“It is important that they learn to appreciate the incredible value of material culture. Whereas letters, diaries, newspapers and other print sources are wonderfully rich sources, they cannot tell us a story in quite the same way as physical artifacts.”

The exhibit, consisting of 30 artifacts from seven different local collections, is divided into nine different subject categories, all of which speak to some element of the story of Catholicism in Antigonish County. The category related to StFX University includes a ledger from the founding years of the university, a junior prom dance card from 1930, and an academic calendar from 1891-1892.

“It has been an exciting way to learn about history,” said Catherine Culhane, a fourth year honours history student who curated the artifacts relating to StFX. “This useful experience will be valuable to me in my future endeavours.”  

“It would be impossible for me to identify a favourite artifact from the exhibit,” Prof. MacKenzie said, “but there are a few which I think are particular highlights.” Among those are Moses Coady’s hat, a relic of St. Francis Xavier, and a beautiful lectern presented to John Cameron, Bishop of Antigonish and Chancellor of StFX from 1877 to 1910, by the Congregation of Notre Dame, which ran Mount St. Bernard Ladies Academy.  

“Professor MacKenzie has demonstrated that material culture is an exciting way to ignite students’ interests in Canadian history,” said Dr. Laurie Stanley-Blackwell of the Department of History.

“I was pleased to be able to assist with this class project,” said Jocelyn Gillis, director of the Antigonish Heritage Museum, who has enjoyed her collaborations with Catholic studies and history students. 

“Venerable Objects” will run at the Antigonish Heritage Museum until late January 2019.


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