They might soon need to start a museum dedicated to the Applied Museum Studies (AMS) program at Algonquin College.
The program – the oldest continuously operating postsecondary museum program in the country – held a celebration Saturday night in honour of its 40th anniversary. The crowd of over 200 students, faculty, alumni, and industry partners gathered in the lobby of the Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence to ring in four successful decades, and to hear a keynote speech by Mark O’Neill, the President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
The event was emceed by third year students Kristie Bredfeldt and Kristen Stanley, and featured speeches from Councillor Rick Chiarelli on behalf of the Mayor of Ottawa, and Barb Foulds, the Dean of the Faculty of Health, Public Safety and Community Studies at Algonquin College. AMS Program Coordinator Michael Wheatley thanked the attendees on behalf of the program, saying, “As a faculty member and alumnus, I’m thrilled that we as a College continue to provide leading, hands-on education in the field of museum studies. Our museums are important institutions in our communities, and we are proud to be playing a role in training the future generations to make those connections to our past possible.”
As Mark O’Neill took to the stage, he spoke about the legacy and future of the Program in preserving Canada`s history and culture, and about the importance of institutional and community partnerships. “The graduates of this Program have contributed enormously to, and will continue to help shape the future development of Canada’s museums and heritage institutions,” said O’Neill.
Also in attendance at Saturday’s event was Judy Wohler, the wife of the late J. Patrick (Pat) Wohler, who founded the program in 1972. Originating as the Museum Technology program, Applied Museum Studies began as an answer to the need for formalized training for museum technicians. From modest beginnings in a barn which existed on the old Ryan Farm, the program evolved and continues to offer an academic framework with a strong hands-on component.
Even after 40 years, there are still plenty of ‘firsts’ taking place. The program launched its own speaker series this year, with Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal appearing before the students in October. The students and faculty are also involved in conservation treatment of nine of Cardinal’s models with Carleton University. The program will also be conserving three World War I victory bond posters and a Prince of Wales flag this year, and will be working with the College’s Print Shop and School of Health and Community Studies to reproduce human skeletons to assist their fellow students in their studies.
The program currently delivers museum training to 130 students each year in well-appointed lab facilities at the Woodroffe Campus. Over the years, more than 900 students have undertaken fieldwork placements across the country in a wide variety of cultural institutions. Graduates continue to spread across the country, finding employment in museums and galleries of all sizes, and some have even gone as far as Ghana and Australia.