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President's Report 2022

10 a.m., SATURDAY, MARCH 26, 2022, VIA ZOOM



This is my final annual report as president, after almost four extremely eventful and successful years.

Despite all we have accomplished together, I can’t help thinking of what Sir Isaac Newton said towards the end of his long life, almost 400 years ago:

I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself, in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

We have set for ourselves a very ambitious goal, namely to be the best community museum and archives in Canada.  We have made great strides towards achieving that goal, but we are really only just beginning.  Nevertheless I am convinced that we will get there in due course, under the strong leadership of our excellent board of directors and our professional staff.  We have already adopted a new modern logo, and a new simplified bilingual identity for our museum: Lac-Brome Museum, or Musée Lac-Brome.  And we are one of a handful of institutions in Quebec to have received official government recognition of both our museum and our archives.

We established a Major Project Committee chaired by our visionary director John Bennett.  The committee’s most important recommendation was to hire the Museum Planners Group of Toronto to prepare a feasibility study for the long-term future of our museum and archives.  In response to this comprehensive study, the board recently approved a search for a full-time Director General or Chief Executive Officer of the BCHS, which is currently underway.  One of our board members has generously offered to cover the related costs until other funding is obtained.  

Meanwhile, this year we will apply for a substantial grant from the Quebec government to assist with our operating costs, under the Programme pour l’aide au fonctionnement des institutions muséales, or PAFIM.  While not a certainty, we have an excellent chance of being approved for this multi-year subsidy.  Our director Alan Eastley is most ably heading up the preparation of our very complex and demanding application.  If our application is approved, it will greatly alleviate our chronic need for operating funds.

Thanks to a generous grant from Quebec Ministry of Culture under their Aide aux Immobilisations program, we are making good progress to being able to offer a virtual tour of the museum online.

In late September 2021 we held another well-attended Fall Foliage Cavalcade, led this year by Jack Walker.

On Saturday March 19 at 1 p.m. we held a very successful book launch on Zoom for Jim Manson’s new book The Eastern Townships Between the Two World Wars: Transition and Tragedy, published by the Brome County Historical Society.   The book is on sale at the Centennial Building for $18 a copy.



Our former curator Jeremy Reeves resigned at the beginning of 2021 to take up a very generous scholarship in New York City.  We were very sorry to see him go.  Jeremy did an excellent and professional job, and set high standards that we fully intend to maintain.  After an extensive search, we were fortunate to be able to hire Rachel Lambie as our new curator.  Rachel has a degree in museology and has worked as an interpretive planner.  She is dedicated to the continued preservation of Brome County's history.  She also has family ties to the Eastern Townships.

Our archivist Anne-Marie Charuest continues to perform brilliantly in bringing order and modern methods to our voluminous and invaluable archives, with the help of her dedicated assistant Nikolas Lamarre, a certified information professional.  Our managing director Arlene Royea, now in her forty-fifth year at the BCHS, continues make sure everything runs smoothly, now with the help of Lisa Belanger, our very efficient executive assistant.

We had an excellent group of summer students in 2021, and we thank them for their diligence: 

               Charles-Etienne Coté - Visitor Services
               Elizabeth Osborne O'Donnell - Visitor Services
               Thomas O'Donnell - Visitor Services
               Hannah Osborne O'Donnell - Museum short contract
               Anika Neuroth - Museum Technician


Earlier in the year, our generous benefactor Claire Léger decided to retire from the board for personal reasons.  We will always be grateful for her invaluable support.  This month two long-time directors have also decided to retire from the board: Chris Marks and Richard Santo.  Chris is very well known in our community, and has long been the conscience of the BCHS, always reminding us of our responsibilities and challenges and of our great opportunities.  Chris has a particular interest in our famous Fokker D VII, which in 2021 celebrated its 100th year in our museum.  Richard Santo, with the unfailing help of our former director Jack Walker, has kept a close eye on the condition of all our buildings, making constant recommendations for improvements.  Also retiring this month is Dyanne Carenza, who has contributed her wide experience in human resources management for the past three years.  I would like to thank Chris, Richard and Dyanne for their many years of dedicated service.  

Following the retirement of our former treasurer Alison Kearns, our director Samantha Ciurlej stepped into the job of treasurer.  With her background in banking, Samantha is ideally qualified for this role.  Alison continues to oversee our gift shop, with the help of a committee of diligent volunteers.   And of course I would like to thank all our seven other continuing board members who have been so helpful and dedicated throughout the year – John Bennett, Alan Eastley, Adèle Hébert, Abbey Lacroix, Allan Mass, Gail Mullins, and Helgi Soutar.


Thanks to the initiative of Adèle Hébert, we once again received a very generous donation of $25,000 from the Bank of Montreal, whose president and CEO, Darryl White, is now a resident of Knowlton.  We have also received welcome funding from Documentary Heritage Communities Program, Museums Assistance Program, Town of Brome Lake, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec Canadian Museums Association and the Pacte Brome-Missisquoi. 

Despite the Covid-19 restrictions, we managed to hold two successful fundraisers in 2021: our annual Gala Night at the Museum and Adopt an Artefact, and our ever popular Bring & Bid event.  

As title sponsors of the Gala, we were fortunate to have Caisse Desjardins de Waterloo.  We enjoyed generous donations of food and drinks by Abbey Lacroix and Gabriel Bezeau, Allan Mass, La Knowlton Co., the Soutar family, Vignoble Domaine Bresee, and Vignoble Léon Courville and beautiful floral centerpieces for the tables by Fleurissima.  We thank the many volunteers and staff members who made this evening possible: Abbey Lacroix and Helgi Soutar, who co-chaired the Committee; Lisa Belanger, Gilles Fournier, Michel Lacroix, Cameron Mackenzie and Patricia Sylvester for their invaluable help throughout the evening; Anne-Marie Charuest and Rachel Lambie for providing excellent tours of the Museum and Archives and offering their assistance throughout the evening, as well as Anika Neuroth and Nikolas Lamarre; and Arlene Royea for her excellent management of the bookkeeping for both Adopt an Artefact and the Gala.

For the Bring & Bid fundraiser, we thank Alison Kearns, Janie and Steve Trew, Cam Brown, Jack and Jane Walker, Gail Mullins, Adèle Hébert, Helgi Soutar and Abbey Lacroix, as well as many other volunteers who made everything run smoothly.  In particular, Brian Davies' knowledge of art was invaluable to us.



The Town of Brome Lake continues to support the BCHS in a number of ways, including a very important annual grant.  As always, we are extremely grateful to the Town of Brome Lake for their support.



Thanks to the persistence and generosity of our director Richard Santo, new Panneau Bleu road signs for the Lac-Brome Museum are being erected at all approaches to Knowlton.  They are already in place at Exit 90 of the Autoroute, and are being put up in a number of other locations.  This is a major breakthrough in increasing our visibility, and will no doubt increase our visitor numbers.

Our very popular exhibit of the photographs of Brome County photographers Sally Wood and John Wheeler, conceived by Jeremy Reeves and Abbey Lacroix, will close on April 11, 2022.  The beautiful souvenir catalogue is still available at the Centennial Building.  We wish to thank the following sponsors of this exhibit: Quebec Ministry of Culture and Communications, Town of Brome Lake, S.M. Blair Family Foundation, Zeller Foundation, Bélanger-Gardner Foundation, R. Howard Webster Foundation, and Townshippers’ Research and Cultural Foundation.


Our next major exhibit will be our Abenaki exhibit, mounted with the cooperation of the Musée des Abénakis in Odanak, Quebec, near Sorel.  This exhibit will open on Saturday, May 21, 2022.

A reminder that under the leadership of Jeremy Reeves, in 2020 the board conducted a vision exercise, which resulted in the following Vision Statement for the BCHS:

“The Brome County Historical Society will be recognized throughout Quebec as a pre-eminent leader among museums and archives in the Eastern Townships, by offering an engaging gallery experience and the best available digital content, in order to make it a cultural anchor for its local community and an attractive destination for visitors and researchers.”

It is in this spirit that the BCHS is now making long-term plans, for up to the next ten years.  The hiring of a full-time Director General will make a huge difference.  If we then obtain the PAFIM grant and embark on major capital improvements of all kinds, as recommended by the Museum Planners Group, your Society will truly have advanced to a higher level of ambition and achievement.

Let me close by thanking all our faithful members for being such strong supporters of our very important and cherished Brome County Historical Society. I particularly want to thank our former director Jack Walker, who has been an ever-present help in time of trouble, and unfailingly generous with his time and advice. 

I have greatly enjoyed the honour of leading the BCHS through such momentous changes, and I am very grateful to you all for the opportunity to have done so.

Peter White

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