There is a feeling in the air that is more than the transition from summer to fall.
Facebook posts remind us of the beauty in the fall leaves, the changing colours and cooler nights.
But for those of us who love summer and already feel the melancholy change in the air, there is also the change in work and home schedules. Perhaps it is more evident this year because of COVID19. Students are returning to school after a six month break, and parents are adjusting to the new schedule and the changes that have come along with world pandemic. Never has the world seemed so small, yet so big at the same time.
This was a summer of stay-cations and sunsets. We saw new photos and experiences in Nova Scotians being shared on social media. We visited the hidden gems in our province that we never knew existed and learned that the very best vacations can be spent within our own ‘Atlantic Bubble’. We started our own local bucket lists of things to see and do. Travel restrictions allowed us to explore our hometowns and neighbouring communities a bit more. It slowed down our pace and made us realize the importance of what we have.
Museums were no different. We saw new faces that we never saw before, although we knew their name. We saw young adults grown up since their last visit to us when they were a part of a class trip. No longer could we rely on American tourists and visitors from Alberta and Ontario. Naturally, the visitation numbers dropped significantly and so, therefore, did the bottom line.
A delayed opening this year meant shorter work terms for our student staff. But their energy and vitality added the spark we all needed to adjust to the new ways of providing tours, doing research and promoting Pictou County. We all took the changes in stride, but watching the younger staff tackle these changes face-on was encouraging.
Fewer visitors meant that the summer staff could focus on accessioning documents and recent donations (Amelia), set up a new Instagram account (Shanae), handling research inquiries (Susan), or providing tours (Cyenna), and the few appointments that we did have to use the archives. I can remember on one occasion, watching Amelia working side by side with an older lady from Town, and noticing the gentle rapport they both had for each other despite the 50+ year age difference.
Having summer staff on hand to help out, despite the day to day quietness – allowed the senior staff to focus on administration, funding projects, and larger research inquiries that required substantial time and resources.
When we apply for summer grants to hire students, I check the box to mentor, supervise and teach students, but it is often I who learn the most from our younger staff. Our students dedicate themselves to their assigned projects which results in a personal ownership to many different aspects of the museum. I try to encourage independence and self- confidence to our staff, and they often lead the change that we require to grow in our industry. Whether this is changing our website, using social media or incorporating kid’s events into our summer activities. Our students may be here for a short time but their days are well spent and missed by all of us when September rolls around. Witnessing their excitement to be returning to school and seeing their friends is contagious and remindful of my own younger years, yet it also becomes bittersweet to see another season change and our lives, and businesses continue to change and adapt to these changes. If it is daunting for me to think about what it might look like in 2021, I can imagine what the youth of 2020 are feeling.
Many tourism and small businesses would be lost without their summer students. We all need an extra hand or two during our busy season to get the work done, but even more than that – we need them to remind us of why we are doing what we do and how to enjoy each day to its fullest.
Good luck & best wishes to our 2020 staff, Susan, Amelia, Shanae & Cyenna.
“We had joy, we had fun. We had seasons in the sun.”