Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum - the Little Museum that Could by Donna M Smith
When Thomas I. (Uncle Tom) Spidell
II set up his collection of old and interesting things in Avard
Foster's retired barn on the newly opened Parkdale-Maplewood Community
Fair Grounds in 1950 he probably never dreamed that his little
"museum" would one day grow to be one of the best community
museums in the province. Set in the rolling drumlin hills between
Blockhouse and New Ross, the "Twin Cities" are vibrant
communities that remain busy although the farming and logging
that were once their mainstay are much reduced today.
In 1953" Uncle Tom" raised
$300 and persuaded the community to build a 12'x20' metal sided
building to house his collection on the Community Fair Grounds.
When "Uncle Tom" died in 1963 he left his collection
to "the people of Parkdale-Maplewood" and his niece
and nephew Muriel and Lloyd Wentzel took on the care of the collection.
In 1957 the old house and barn on the
Fair Grounds had been torn down and the Maccabee Lodge Hall, originally
located down the road in Maplewood was moved onto the site to
be used as a dining room.
In 1973/74 the present Community Hall
was opened. The Museum quickly took over the Maccabee Hall and filled it with
artifacts. In 1980, the Museum Society was officially registered
as a Charity with Lloyd Wentzel as Chairman and Muriel as Museum
As artifacts continued to pour in,
the drawbacks to unheated, un-insulated buildings became apparent.
Once more the Wentzels and the Board of Directors went to work
holding suppers, selling tickets and borrowing money. A plain
but functional "hall", attached to the old Maccabee
building was opened in 1984. It had insulation, a furnace and
yes, even a dehumidifier for use in the summer. The Nova Scotia
Museum donated some furnishings and a local carpenter built some
basic display "kiosks" and the most perishable items
in the collection were moved into the new "digs".
Once the building was open, Muriel
Wentzel announced her retirement as Curator. This writer, Donna
Smith was new to the Community and had attended a few meetings
of the Museum Society. Totally lacking in qualifications and not
knowing any better she accepted the job of Curator. Her first
priority was to find a Secretary-Treasurer as both positions were
vacant - and she didn't want them! A real treasure in the person
of Wendy Looke, then a new mother and business genius, was persuaded
to take the job. She remains the financial and organizational
rock on which today's Museum stands.
The first "Heidlebeerfest"
was held in 1985 serving a selection of local "German"
dishes buffet style. Now called "The
Heritage Blueberry Festival," attendance had grown from
less than 150 in 1985 to between 500 and 700 in the 21st century.
It is held every year on the Saturday following Labour Day and
is an all day event with lots of vendors, musical entertainment
and demonstrations. The buffet style meal is served from 12:00
noon to 6PM. Just go to our web-site to find us.
Inspired by the acquisition of a 4'x4'
folk art carving of a "sap camp" created by local wood
carver Willie Mansfield in 1989, we began collecting artifacts
from living artisans. The artifacts are exhibited with a photo
and short biography of the maker. These now include basketry,
paintings, bird carvings, knitting, hooked mats and quilting.
The collection also includes displays
on the Mikmaq, midwifery, the country store, shoe making, dairying,
logging and horses, homemaking, toys and music including a hand
written music book and pitch pipe from which one of the earliest
settlers taught "singing school". The photo archive
contains many old photos and the research centre holds many community
histories and genealogies which are available to the public for
In the early 1990s we began publishing
a Newsletter for our membership
several times a year as well as keeping our "news" in
the public eye through the "Friends
and Neighbours" column of the local weekly papers.
An increase in funding when the Community
Museums Assistance Program (CMAP) was revamped in 1995 brought
a welcome increase in our operating grant and an on-site Curator
was hired in 1996. Donna Smith took the title of Administrator
leaving the care of the collection and daily museum operations
in Barbara Veinot's (now Wentzell) highly capable hands. A permanent
part-time "Museum Assistant" in the person of Donna
Wentzell Arenburg was hired in 2000.
Around 2001 we began to plan for an
expansion. An application for ACOA funding for an expansion was
submitted in 2003 - coinciding with our 50th anniversary - without
great hopes of success. When, in the spring of 2004 we received
approval of our application we did not even have a real building
plan and were told the project had to be completed by January
2005! A frantic, crazy, confusing, exhausting and turbulent six
months followed. Somehow we managed to get a well dug, a septic
system installed, the old Maccabee Hall moved and a new building
erected while operating the Museum as usual. We even held the
Heritage Blueberry Festival in the middle of 'the mess'.
In the past four years much has been
accomplished. The expansion
has given us toilets, a meeting room, kitchenette, office space,
shop, storage spaces and new heating system. This has allowed
major improvements in the exhibit space. A fine granite cobblestone
walk and patio at the new entrance have been completed and other
landscaping around "the mess" has been done. We have
even managed to pay off our debts thanks to a generous bequest
received in 2008. That same year we received a very high score
on a Community Museums Assistance Program Site Evaluation. After 52 years as Chairman Lloyd Wentzell retired in 2005, Muriel
having died in 1992. A member of his extended family, Carolea
Kaulback in now Chair of our Museum Board. She is doing a great
job and among her duties has taken on the "care and feeding"
of our website. Just go to parkdale.ednet.ns.ca for up to date
news about 'the little museum that could'.