First year-round employee now at Hay River museum

Sharla Carroll is the first co-ordinator at the Hay River Heritage Centre.
– Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Something new has happened this summer among all the artifacts from the past at the Hay River Heritage Centre – the community’s museum.

For the first time ever, the Hay River Museum Society has hired a co-ordinator for the centre.

Sharla Carroll started working in the position on June 1.

One of her goals is to raise awareness of the centre in the community.

“I love the fact that the museum is in the Old Town,” Carroll said. “It’s a nice setting, although I think that can be one of its challenges, too, because it’s an out-of-sight, out-of-mind kind of thing. In order to increase the visibility, you have to make sure people have it in mind.”

She will also be creating an online presence for the museum.

“Prior to now, the museum has never even had internet, let alone a web presence,” she said.

The museum was hooked up to the Internet on Aug. 9 and Carroll will be creating a basic web page to launch its online presence.

She will also be encouraging people to donate or loan items for display.

“I think people are aware the museum exists so that when they’re, for example, clearing out their old stuff, they approach with donations, and some people are very kind in thinking of the museum with some significant items,” she said, explaining people can also loan items for display without having to make the commitment to give them away.

Carroll will also plan and set up various themes for exhibits of work by local artists.

That includes this summer’s display of art and crafts, including photography, paintings, jewelry and more.

Since opening in 2000, the museum had been manned by a summer student and volunteers who greeted people. This year, a student is only working from time to time on the grounds.

The co-ordinator’s position was filled this year because the museum society received GNWT funding and one of the criteria was that the museum be staffed.

Peter Osted, chair of the Hay River Museum Society, welcomes the addition of a co-ordinator.

“It takes the pressure off the executive that we have someone there that can take ideas and carry on with what we suggest,” he said.

Osted said operating the heritage centre has been quite a bit of work over the years for volunteers.

Among her many tasks, Carroll is setting up an office at the museum, cataloguing items in the collection, promoting the museum as a location for various events and encouraging people to volunteer.

“We’ve got a great big list of things that need to be done here, from sandblasting, painting and restoring an old boat to working on the library,” she said, referring to an old building which was the community’s original library and now sits on the museum grounds.

Her work will be almost full-time in the summer and part-time in the winter, when the museum is closed. In the off-season, she will help organize Hay River Museum Society events held at other venues.

“This is something totally new for me,” said Carroll, who was born in Fort Simpson and raised in Hay River.

The 45-year-old’s work background focused on social work, both as a frontline worker and as a policy advisor with the GNWT in Yellowknife.

“I just saw this and I thought this might be something fun and new,” she said of her new role.

Carroll noted she has always been interested in history and loves museums.

She is currently working on a one-year contract, and hopes it will be renewed for next year.