Monday, November 29, 2010

Decorations at St Luke's Anglican - Circa 1910

At this time of year I tend to spend a fair amount of of time discussing traditional Christmas decorations. I realize that this is because of the way that we decorate the O'Dell House Museum for Victorian Christmas, but there is more to it than that. After visitors have a look at the decorations around the museum, I invariably have a conversation or two about memories of other buildings in Annapolis Royal that were ornately decorated. The one building which almost always comes up in these conversations is St Luke's Anglican Church. In every one of these conversations I have mentioned that we have some archival images of St Luke's in full Christmas decoration mode. I figured that this would be an appropriate opportunity to find one of these photographs.

What strikes me about this picture is the amazing amount of balsam fir garland that has been made. Even in capable hands creating garland can be a time consuming process. In addition to the long strands sweeping upward toward the ceiling, under magnification you can see that the chancel has been extensively decorated. Strands of garland sweep gracefully around the alter and the organ. In a tradition that has evidently been carried on into more recent days, the eagle standing at the front of the congregation as a piece of holly in its mouth. Normally a pretty building, St Luke's must have been very impressive when all of the Christmas decorations were up. This photograph comes from the Charlotte Perkins collection held by the Annapolis Heritage Society Archives. Ms. Perkins' great, great grandfather was Rev. Cyrus Perkins, Rector of St Luke's.

All for now,

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Victorian Christmas 2010 - First Weekend Highlights

It almost seems like a blur but, the first weekend of the O'Dell House Museum's annual Victorian Christmas is now over. Despite a bit of less than desirable weather on Friday and Saturday evenings, we greeted a great number of happy faces. We also sang some carols, drank some hot mulled cider and ate some cookies. Those of us who were lucky enough to find a piece even got to sample some traditional brown sugar fudge on Friday night.

On Saturday evening we made some new friends when the Man the Capstan crew from Kentville paid us a visit. As someone who has spent a great deal of time reading both fiction and non-fiction written about the Royal Navy, it was nice to have these costumes on display. In the days when Fort Anne was an active military base it would not have been uncommon to see this sort of uniform on the streets of Annapolis Royal. Today it is decidedly a treat. I must admit that I felt a bit unaddressed in my simple 1870s tavern keeper costume but, we all have a role to play.

If you would like to experience Victorian Christmas, there are a few more opportunities. Make plans to join us at the O'Dell House Museum next weekend.

All for now,

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Interpretation through Q R Codes

Ok, how many of you are wondering what the image in this post is all about? No, I have not entered my abstract black and white phase as an artist. Nor have I taken to patchwork quilt design. This image is what is known as a QR code (quick response code) and it will have some importance for museum interpretation in the future. Codes like this can be scanned with a smart phone to provide many different sorts of information. For example, by scanning the code in this post you will be brought directly to the Annapolis Heritage Society website. This could just as easily have been a link to a relevant video, archival images or an audio file. In Japan where codes of this sort are in more common usage, they can be found everywhere from grocery store shelves to cemeteries. Give it a try all of you iPhone / BlackBerry users. If it didn't work, you may need to download an application for your phone.

Now, how does this emerging technology fit into the museums of the Annapolis Heritage Society? Earlier today we had a couple of interesting visitors from the Association of Nova Scotia Museums. Alexandra and Josh were in Annapolis Royal as part of a pilot project to test QR codes at various museum sites across Nova Scotia. We are using this opportunity to make some of our local experts available to museum visitors through the technology they carry in their pockets. For example, we recorded enough footage to make three short videos with local architect Harry Jost. Harry has been instrumental to the development of the Sinclair Inn Museum. The videos will have him talking about the modern support structure we have chosen to use in this 300 year old building and why we used this material. At the O'Dell House Museum we invited Geoff Butler to discuss his painting of the Order of Good Cheer which is located at the top of the stairs. This whimsical painting always draws the attention of visitors. Now these visitors will be able to hear Geoff discussing why he created the painting and some of its iconography. As you can imagine, there is great potential for inexpensively bringing forward stories and information that would not have been possible previously. Imagine having access to experts, artists and behind the scenes resources as you make your way through the museum.

All for now,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Victorian Christmas 2010 - Decorating Part 2

For a certain portion of our community there are three areas of concern with our annual Victorian Christmas celebrations at the O'Dell House Museum. These concerns are created by expectations developed over many of attending this event. What are people wondering about you ask? What will the newel post at the bottom of the stairs look like? What are you doing for a centerpiece on the dining room table? Most importantly, are you having a fruit pyramid this year?

At this point, I can answer two of these pressing questions. We will indeed have a fruit pyramid. Earlier today this eye catching construction was assembled by Garry Freeman. This year the design is more toward the humble side with apples, boxwood and a pear forming the pyramid. The centerpiece is an pineapple sitting in a nest of apples, oranges and boxwood. The pineapple is a traditional symbol of welcome and hospitality so we normally try to include one in our Christmas decorations. As for the newel post, I am not able to offer an answer just yet. I will offer a hint that earlier today we made a special trip to the woods to collect a miniature Christmas tree. Garry will be back at the museum tomorrow to finish this much anticipated part of the decor.

All for now,

Monday, November 22, 2010

Victorian Christmas 2010 - Decorating Part 1

A group of approximately 20 bright eyed volunteers descended on the O'Dell House Museum early this morning. This was the day where we attempt to bring various bags full of greenery together in an attractive and festive manner. This is perhaps the busiest day of the entire Victorian Christmas season. With pruning shears in hand our volunteers clipped, tied, wrapped and hung. Soon swags were hanging over the doors, paintings were draped with garland and the museum smelled like a forest. Just when the activity was reaching a frenzied peak, someone determined that the tea was ready and everyone sat down to a very pleasant lunch.

Once the laughter of lunch had subsided, the crew were quickly back to work. Two Christmas trees were put in place and cherished decorations were brought out of storage. By the end of the afternoon the museum was looking like it was indeed time for Victorian Christmas. The decorating fun will continue at a slower pace over the next few days. I will be making another trip to the woods to collect fir boughs because we did not quite have enough. By the time we open to the public on Friday evening we should be in full splendor. Thanks to all of our talented decorator elves who make this event possible.

All for now,

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Victorian Christmas 2010 - The Gathering

It was a busy afternoon in the woods around Annapolis Royal. Just after lunch a small group gathered at the O'Dell House Museum with a mission. We (four adults, one teenager and two six-year-olds) had volunteered to find enough material to decorate the museum for Victorian Christmas. With our pruning shears, garbage bags and orange coloured clothing we ventured forth into the countryside. In addition to being a distinctive fashion statement, the orange clothing tends to let hunters know that we are not deer. Call me crazy for thinking so but, nothing ruins a trip to the woods to gather branches like an accidental gunshot wound.

Our first destination was a residence along the Granville Road where we could collect holly and boxwood. This was the first time that we had been to this property for our pre-Christmas harvest. We were delighted to find mature holly and boxwood plants which made our job very easy. Within a half hour we had filled our bags and we were off to the top of the North Mountain in search of club mosses.

With the change in elevation this was a much colder stop. The ground still had a covering of snow from yesterday's flurries and all of the puddles had frozen. This made for some interesting walking since most of the ground is covered with spahgnum moss. Sphagnum naturally holds a good deal of water and at these temperatures the water in the moss was partially frozen. I say partially frozen because it was not actually solid enough to support your weight when you stepped. This made for precarious walking in spots. At some point on this stop we lost the attention of the youngsters who decided that trying to break the ice in the frozen puddles was more fun than looking for plants growing on the ground. I promise you that both sticks and rocks were flying. After we filled the remaining space in the cars with copper beech leaves and we headed back to the museum to unload.

After emptying the cars we headed to our traditional fir bough collecting area on the South Mountain. Hiking into the woods we quickly found enough balsam fir to start filling our bags. Without any ice to break, the boys decided to harvest pine combs. This stop always poses the biggest problem because this is where we need to find a couple of Christmas trees. Christmas trees seem to be one of those areas of life where everyone has a definite opinion. This opinion is based on things as far ranging as the location you grew up, your admiration for specific species of trees and your feelings on the Charlie Brown Christmas special. We are usually looking for a small tree for downstairs and a larger tree for the second floor. At the museum our trees tend toward the more sparse and natural look. As usual, we did some wandering and pointing at various trees before our selections were made.

Tomorrow all of these random bits of greenery will be combined to decorate the museum. I will be taking pictures of the process as it unfolds so there should be lots to see in tomorrow's post. By the way, Victorian Christmas is always the last weekend of November and the first weekend of December. The museum is open 7-9 on Friday and Saturday nights and 2-4 on Sunday afternoons.

All for now,