Posted: Wednesday March 22, 2023
Natalie is a local young professional who grew up in Eastern Ontario who found herself in Brockville when she was offered her dream job as Curator and Director of the Brockville Museum.
“In 2013 I was offered the position of Curator/Director at the Brockville Museum. At the time, I was still living in the Kingston area and commuting, but by the end of that first year I committed to making the move to Brockville – not just to eliminate the commute or because of job demands, but because I truly felt at home here and found that everything I was looking for was here.” – Natalie Wood
We met up with Natalie to find out more about her professional background, what led her to apply for a position in Brockville, and how she gets involved in the community:
What city or town did you grow up in?
I grew up in the Kingston area.
What is your professional background?
I had decided in 6th grade that I wanted to work in a museum when I grew up. Of course, I didn’t really know what that would entail. But growing up in an old city like Kingston, I developed a passion for sharing history with others. I went to school for history and after obtaining an honours degree I worked at a number of Kingston-area museums on short-term contracts exploring different aspects of museum operations and building my resume. I then spent five years as the Museum Manager at the Old Stone Mill National Historic Site in Delta, Ontario, during which time I also completed a Certificate in Museum Studies from the Ontario Museum Association. I have now been at the Brockville Museum since 2013.
After college/university/on-the-job training, what did you look for in a city to relocate to?
I knew that I didn’t really want to go too far out of south-eastern Ontario for family reasons, but I also knew that I would have to go where there was work in my field. After gaining experience working in the rural village of Delta, Ontario, I became very attracted to the sense of community that comes from being in a small-town.I didn’t really want to be in a big, noisy city, and ideally, I wanted to keep my commute to a minimum.
“I was looking for a place with a sense of community and history (of course), where I would be able to afford a home and one day raise a family. Walkability and natural surroundings were also important to me.” – Natalie Wood
Can you provide a brief overview of your workplace and what you do?
The Brockville Museum preserves and promotes the history of Brockville with exhibits and programs, and with a growing collection of related artifacts and archival material. We grow with, and for the community, providing a source of knowledge on the heritage of Brockville for present and future generations.
As the Curator/Director of the museum, I am responsible for managing the museum’s daily operations as well as long term strategic initiatives, including supervising staff, reporting to a board and council, drafting and monitoring the museum’s budget, developing exhibitions, coordinating museum programming, research and collection activities, as well as developing policy, the museum’s brand and its vision.
What do you like most about where you work?
I have the pleasure and good fortune to be living my childhood dream of working in a museum and sharing my passion for history (and passion for the role that museums play in our communities) with others. Every day offers new challenges and opportunities. I get to be creative and strategic all while being surrounding by the stories and objects that make up this community. I feel honoured to be serving as a steward of Brockville’s past.
What is something most people don’t know about your industry?
Honestly, that it is a very professional field that requires considerable education and technical training. We are required to follow standards set out by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sport, as well as best practices and guidelines adopted from museums around the world. It is also a rapidly changing industry that requires us to be on top of sector,government,and technological trends, as well as public expectations, all while balancing the unique needs of the collection.
What do you like to do when you are not at work?
“I love taking my dogs for walks on the Brock Trail, along the waterfront, and through Mac Johnson Wildlife Area. If there is a movie playing at the Arts Centre, I am probably there. On weekend mornings I am probably enjoying brunch at one of the downtown restaurants.” – Natalie Wood
What is your favourite part about living and working in Brockville?
I really love the walkability of this city and the beauty of the river. Even walking, my commute is only 23 minutes, and that commute is alongside babbling brooks and tree-filled parks on the Brock Trail. I am lucky enough to have a river view from my office window that is always changing based on the weather and the ships passing by.
“It is also pretty awesome to take a walk down King Street and pop into shops where shop owners know you and care about this community as much as you do.” – Natalie Wood
What do you think the biggest misconception is about living in Brockville?
That there is nothing to do here. I have been amazed by all the things that there is to do, from festivals and events, to shows and shopping, to hiking and skating. All the amenities are here and so are the service clubs to support an active activity calendar. Just pick up an issue of Snap’d and flip to the event calendar- it is always jam-packed. Game nights, live music at local pubs and cafes, shows at the Arts Centre, outdoor activities at Mac Johnson Wildlife Area and St. Lawrence Park, shopping on King Street and at the Farmers’ Market, food festivals, museums, galleries, and so much more!
What would you say is the “best kept secret” about Brockville?
Speaking as the curator of a museum I find Brockville’s history pretty neat. Sure, everyone knows that Brockville is a “historic” town – it is old and it has old buildings – but some of the stories that go with that history are pretty unique and unknown by most: like the fact that Brockville once manufactured automobiles and that the once prominent Stetson hat factory was the exclusive manufacturer of the iconic “Mountie” hat. But also that industry is not dead in Brockville! There are still some very unique and significant products being manufactured here that are being shipped around the world- just look at some of the products being produced by Ketchum Manufacturing, for example.
What would you tell other young professionals who are considering moving to Brockville?
It is hard to be anonymous in Brockville, but if you are looking for a sense of community, and are willing to embrace being a part of that community, Brockville is a wonderful place to establish yourself.
Contact the Brockville Museum:
Find out more about their ongoing programs, special events, exhibits and more on the Brockville Museum’s website.