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Busy year ahead as North Bay Museum preps for big exhibits

'We’ve discussed ideas such as North Bay through the seasons, photo exhibits and 100 years of music in North Bay'

Rooted is all about the people and the places that make us proud to call our community home.              

The North Bay Museum always has something to see for everyone and there are a couple of major milestones happening in and around North Bay over the next few years which the museum will be recognizing as they come up.  

2024 is the year of the 100th anniversary of the RCAF.  

“That’s going to be a great exhibit where we’re going to include interactive exhibits around the Snowbirds, and that’s being donated by the National Air Force Museum,” says Curator Naomi Hehn, adding that half of the exhibits to mark this occasion will be at their location in downtown North Bay and the other half will be at CFB North Bay at the Museum of Aerospace in November and December.  

Hehn was a recent guest on “To North Bay With Love” with Lisa Boivin on the Echo Podcast Network. Hehn told Boivin that a year from now the city will be holding its Centennial Celebrations, marking 100 years since North Bay was incorporated, and Hehn is on the committee for the city planning for that event.  

“We’re in the very early stages of coordinating things like grant applications and talking about different plans. We’ve discussed ideas such as North Bay through the seasons, photo exhibits, and 100 years of music in North Bay.” 

Hehn says that the last idea is a topic that could cover a wide range of events. 

“You could have an exhibit, you could have live performances, maybe even a few small performances here at the museum and bigger names at the Capitol Centre and incorporate the theme into the summer concert series at the Kiwanis bandshell.”  

It has already been a big year for Hehn who is coming off maternity leave with her first child. Hehn has been with the museum since 2012, and says this was a career she had an interest in, going back to high school.   

“I always liked history and I had a chance in high school to go do a course that included an archaeological dig, and I just really enjoyed it and I decided to pursue it,” says Hehn who went to Wilfrid Laurier University and earned an Honours Degree in Archeology before getting her Masters Degree at the University of Toronto in Museum Studies.   

Hehn says there are many different careers you can pursue with those degrees, but she always had a desire to work at a museum.   

“I did have an interest in field research and after gaining experience through a course field school, I ended up working for Parks Canada for a summer at Fort Henry in Kingston,” says Hehn.    

“I really enjoyed the work but wasn't sure I wanted to move around constantly, and I had the impression that it could be hard to find work in the winters as an archaeologist.”   

Hehn says she took it upon herself to get as much experience as possible while earning her degree in Museum Studies and says she saw the job come up in North Bay and applied for it.   

“I was already very interested in local history and working out of a smaller museum,” she says.   

“Even though I worked in Toronto, those museums were similar to the North Bay Museum in some ways as they were small museums focused on local history. I also got experience working with volunteers there as well. Being from just north of Barrie, North Bay did not seem too huge of a leap for me. I had been to North Bay before and I quite enjoyed it. I liked the idea of living somewhere where you could access all the lakes and have nature around you but you could still drive and be in a bigger city in a few hours.”  

She says smaller museums such as the North Bay Museum really rely on a strong core of volunteers to put together exhibits.   

“We have a coffee and conversations group every month, most of the members are in their 70s and 80s and a lot of them grew up in North Bay and remember a lot of the things that we’re researching. If they don't know something directly they may know someone who does and be able to point us in the right direction” says Hehn. “We also have a small core group of volunteers with different specialties.”  

“You can't pursue every idea and so you need to find the right projects and work with staff and volunteers to help you make those ideas a reality.” 

Some of those ideas have blossomed into recurring exhibits such as the Retro Video Games exhibit 

“We’re bringing that back again for March Break,” says Hehn. “This exhibit is totally dependent on volunteers Dan and Laura who are a couple that are very passionate about retro video games. They are bringing in most of the consoles and helping to staff that exhibit.” 

Hehn says this has become a very popular attraction for the Museum.  

“You’ll be able to sign up ahead of time at to make sure that you get the spot that you want. We do walk-ins as well for that exhibit, but you might be told the exhibits are full and the reason we do that is that we want to make sure that when you’re there, you get a chance to play on the consoles, instead of just standing around waiting for one to become free.” 

Most recently, the North Bay Museum was the site of the book launch for local historian Nestor Prisco’s new book about North Bay’s first Crown Attorney, Arthur George Browning, who first came to Widdifield in 1888 and resigned in 1911 to pursue career-expanding opportunities. 

“Nestor is one of those people who is just super passionate about North Bay's local history and from a legal perspective, he's a very passionate historian, and he's done a lot of research on North Bay's first Crown Attorney,” says Hehn.  

“When you read this book you are getting it straight from the person who knows the most in the world about this topic.” 

All proceeds from the sale of the books will be donated to the North Bay Museum. 

If you have a story idea for “Rooted” send Matt an email at [email protected] 

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Matt Sookram

About the Author: Matt Sookram

Matthew Sookram is a Canadore College graduate. He has lived and worked in North Bay since 2009 covering different beats; everything from City Council to North Bay Battalion.
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