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Pat Moulson brings ideas to life with exhibit at North Bay Museum

'I’ve worked on other exhibits and it takes me about six months. This is my fourth photographic exhibit'

This is one of a series of articles, as part of the feature called "Helpers", which focuses on people and organizations that help make our community better.

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“Right in the beginning I really thought of the phrase ‘like many northern communities, our biggest export is our people’ and that was true 20 years ago and it's true now.”

Pat Moulson took that idea and turned it into a photographic exhibit called “Where are They Now?” at the North Bay Museum featuring 12 stories of success.

The exhibit features names such as Shirantha Beddage, a Juno Award-winning Jazz musician, and John Randle, an orthopaedic surgeon who has developed a shoulder reconstructive product. It's called an anchor which is sold worldwide and has revolutionized rotator cuff surgery.

And while the focus of the exhibit is on these 12 individuals (with an Honor Roll of nominees also recognizing 36 others North Bayites) the story behind putting this together is also worth telling and Moulson is no stranger to having pieces showcased at the museum on Oak Street.

“I’ve worked on other exhibits and it takes me about six months. This is my fourth photographic exhibit.”

It is six months of work all on a volunteer basis and Moulson thoroughly enjoys the process.  

“I got approved and step one was to get nominations. I put a little article in BayToday and I got one nomination. So, I had to think of who would remember the outstanding people that have moved on to something and it was retired teachers that I thought of.”

This was just the beginning of the actual footwork Moulson had to undertake to find those nominations.

“It was Christmas time and all the retired teachers' associations were having Christmas parties and I pulled a few strings and got to be a speaker at these parties, and I got probably five to six more nominations. Then we just tried to do a media blitz and through word of mouth the news started to get passed around and I started to try and get the younger generation involved.”

From there she received close to 50 nominations, and then it was a process of whittling it down to who the exhibit should feature, and for that, she chose a team of panelists which included Jeff Celentano, Heather Chambers, and Judy Elston.  Moulson says they all have experience with this kind of work.

“Heather Chambers is a member of the Sports Hall of Fame selection committee, so she knows what this selection process is all about and interestingly enough she wasn’t advocating to only have sports people as part of the exhibit, she was not biased in that direction at all,” says Moulson.

“Jeff is very aware of the history of North Bay and is a member of Rotary North Bay and they were one of the service clubs I went to when I was looking for nominations. Judy was a Librarian in town and a member of the museum committee, and she is aware of what an exhibit should look like on the walls.”

They also had Jillian Gear as a full voting member who was an intern at the museum. The committee then had the task of reading over the research Moulson had compiled together on each of the nominations and coming up with 12 people that would be featured.

“I forwarded to them a package for all of the nominees and arranged a day when everyone could come together and at that meeting, all I asked for was a yes or a no or a maybe after we read the name out loud,” says Moulson.

“After the first go-around, we had nine that we had a solid yes. We got down to the last two and I asked Jillian which one she liked the best seeing as she was the youngest out of our selection committee, and again I felt it was important to highlight the younger generation and so she chose Allison. She thought that was really interesting and different.”

Allison Bennett is the first female water bomber pilot for the Ministry of Natural Resources. She began her career in aviation training at the Algonquin Flight Centre in North Bay. Her career has taken her to the Maldives where she captained a twin Otter seaplane.

She is one of the younger people featured in the exhibit with all the nominees being between the ages of 35 to 55 and not only is their career up to 2019 captured but they share stories of their fondest memories of living and growing up in North Bay. Gathering all of that information was where Moulson really had to dig into her research techniques.

“We had to send out a thank you note to everyone who had made a nomination saying, ‘Thank you for your nomination, other people have been chosen, we hope you can make it to the opening.’ We had to send out a notice to the people who were nominated and start to gather information. In many instances, I had to go to the parents for some of that information or for the old pictures, because who else will carry around pictures of you when you were a nerdy teenage?” Moulson says with a laugh.

“Frequently they would give me some tips as well but thank heavens for the internet as all of these people are on there. I had to look through multiple websites to make sure I was getting factual information, a lot of that also came through their own LinkedIn pages. I accumulated all of that and asked them to have their biographies in to me by March 15th and we got one person who made that deadline. Mostly because they were busy, but also because COVID-19 threw a curveball into their lives. So I said ‘I’m going to write their biographies and send it to them and say here’s what we’re going to use, if you don’t like it you better tell me and in most cases they said ‘that’s fine,’ and others they made some adjustments.”

The exhibit is up now and will stay on display until next spring according to the Museum’s Director/Curator Naomi Hehn, who was asked about how beneficial it is to the museum to have people like Moulson who want to bring these ideas forward.

She says, “At the North Bay Museum we have a small staff (2 full-time), and so volunteers are very important within the organization. Pat is the type of volunteer who is always coming up with new exhibit ideas and has the drive and connections within the community to help do the work to make exhibits like this a reality,” she says.

Hehn adds “Volunteers like Pat help provide fresh ideas and explore various aspects of North Bay’s history, and also help contribute to fundraising initiatives, front desk and visitor services duties, providing tours, and more.”

Some of the other people who have been recognized in the exhibit include Actress/Writer/Director Tamara Bernier Evans who was recently featured in our Rooted series on BayToday as well as Kadie Ward, an International Economic Development Executive with Build Strong Cities Corp. Her job is to work with cities around the world and define successful measurable economic development strategies. Ward was recognized as a next-gen thought-leader in Canada’s Top 40 under 40 rankings in 2013.

Moulson set out to show off some of the best of a generation that North Bay had to offer and a trip through the “Where are They Now?” exhibit truly defines that goal.

"They were really pleased, and they were honoured and it’s nice to be able to put something together for them,” says Moulson.

If you have a story suggestion for the “helpers” series, send Matt an email at m.sookram@outlook.com.