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Cumberland County Museum lets staff go as part of restructuring

The Cumberland County Museum and Archives
The Cumberland County Museum and Archives - Google Earth

Manager/curator maintains she was released because of personality conflict with board member

AMHERST, N.S. – The board of directors of the Cumberland County Museum and Archives has released its full-time manager/curator and a part-time employee due to restructuring, but the curator is convinced there’s another reason.

The board met Thursday, Jan. 17 at which time Natasha Richard and her husband, Matthew, were told they were being released from their positions, effective immediately.

“They may call it a layoff, but that’s not what we’re considering it,” said Richard, who had seven years’ experience at the museum, five as manager/curator. “It’s really disappointing to say the least.”

Richard said last summer she came into conflict with a board member over a bag of mulch. She asked the board to address the situation with the board member but feels nothing was ever done. She sensed something was up earlier in the week but was still surprised when she and her husband were told by the board.

Richard said she and her husband, who did a lot of maintenance work around the building and refinished a number of the rooms, will take some time to consider their options. But she added she’s disappointed because she loved her job.

“It’s definitely not something I did for the money, I did it because I cared about the museum and the community,” she said.

Lisa Emery, president of the Cumberland County Museum and Archives Society, said the board has made the decision to reorganize the museum. That was the reason for letting its curator and part-time employee go.

She confirmed there was a conflict between Richard and a board member but said the board member apologized in writing and in person and the incident had absolutely nothing to do with the board’s decision.

“As a board, we decided to change how we operate the museum, in that we’re transitioning from being open year-round to more seasonal,” Emery said. “The numbers and the finances don’t match. The number of people that visit in the winter time just aren’t there.”

At present, she said, the museum is closed in January, except by appointment only. That practice will now be expanded for the rest of the winter, but it will be open by appointment with board members operating the facility.

“We’re not closed,” Emery said. “The operating hours will be appointment-only. We’re continuing with that. If someone wants to come and do some research, we can open up for them.”

She said the museum will continue to host exhibits such as one for African Heritage Month in February. It’s also hoped another exhibit featuring prisoner-of-war and internment camps will be held later this year, focusing on the Amherst camp that operated during the First World War.

Emery understands Richard and her husband are unhappy, but said the decision is based on the long-term viability and stability of the museum. It was not about personalities.

“Our goal is sustainability and that’s why this decision was made,” Emery said. “This was a tough decision to make.”

Moving forward, Emery said no decisions have been made on the long-term operation of the facility. She said the board will continue to meet and hopes to have a plan in place by spring.

She said anyone needing access to the museum can contact her at 902-664-7223 or vice-president Gordon Goodwin at 902-667-8134.

The museum, located in the former home of Father of Confederation R.B. Dickey on Church Street in Amherst, was purchased by the former Amherst Township Historical Society in 1981 from Betty Burgess. It was turned over to the province and converted into a museum.

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