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Successful QAHN Convention in Stanbridge East

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--July 30, 2014.

A record-setting 70 delegates, members and guests from around Quebec took part in the annual convention of the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network. The event took place under sunny skies on June 7 in historic Stanbridge East in the Eastern Townships.

larger_52739568.jpgThe annual general meeting was held within the cool confines of Stanbridge East United Church. Built in 1885, the lovely brick church has an unusual feature: a floor that slopes gently towards the pulpit, theatre-style, providing for greater visibility.

Treasurer Richard Evans emphasized the good financial health of the organization and the continuing support from the funders. He also said that he was “pleased to see among the familiar faces some new ones, suggesting that QAHN is continuing to reach new people who share our interests.”

President Simon Jacobs outlined the strategies that QAHN would be adopting in the coming years. Tthese, he said, include increasing outreach, improving communications, broadening QAHN’s connections with organizations outside of traditional circles, and collaboration with the Fédération Histoire Québec.

The president welcomed several new member-organizations that had recently joined the network. He then explained that QAHN would be adopting a new strategic plan during the meeting. The result of months of study, he said the plan “would guide QAHN through the next five years.”

larger_img_6112.jpgExecutive Director Matthew Farfan reported on the year’s activities. Despite the new strategic plan, he said, QAHN’s mission remains as valid today as when it was adopted back in 2009. “To quote,” he said, “‘QAHN is a non-profit, non-partisan organization engaged in promoting the preservation of the built, cultural and natural heritage of Quebec, that aims to advance the knowledge of the history of Quebec’s English-speaking communities by informing and connecting people through its activities. Membership is open to anyone with an interest in Quebec history, heritage and culture.’”

Farfan said that QAHN had organized or partnered in four different student contests during the year. He mentioned the Mapping the Mosaic website, which had received a prestigious award, and which was the subject of a speech in the Senate, where it was praised as “a community-driven chronicle of cultural identity and place.” He outlined recent outreach, which took QAHN to events across the province. He mentioned the Arts, Culture and Heritage Summit, organized in Montreal in partnership with the English Language Arts Network and the Department of Canadian Heritage.”

Finally, the executive director mentioned QAHN’s efforts on the part of local heritage. He cited properties that had not fared so well -- like the Redpath Mansion. “The fate of these sites,” he said, “is a reminder that heritage preservation is an uphill battle, and in many cases, a losing battle. But it is a battle that we as a group cannot give up on, and one that we will continue to wage on behalf of the heritage community of Quebec.”

larger_img_6165.jpgQAHN Montreal Committee member Carol Meindl outlined her committee’s activities. She highlighted the Wine and Cheese held at the Black Community Resource Centre in Montreal in April. “That event,” she said, “was so successful, we plan to make it an annual thing.”

Heather Darch discussed the 15-month “Security for Heritage Outreach and Workshop Initiative” (SHOWI). She and Dwane Wilkin, she said, had organized conferences on various aspects of security at heritage sites, including the security of premises, collections, personnel and websites. To date, she said, conferences had taken place in Quebec City, New Richmond, Eaton Corner, Montreal and Wakefield, with another scheduled for Stanbridge East. She mentioned also that a series of 10 handbooks had been published and that a CD was in the works.

Following an overview by Simon Jacobs, QAHN’s new 5-year strategic plan was then adopted unanimously by delegates. The meeting concluded with elections, with all directors returned and former director Sandra Stock elected to a vacant seat on the board.

After the meeting, participants gathered at the Stanbridge East Community Centre for an awards ceremony and a delicious banquet catered by Les Saveurs d’Antan of Bedford. Following words of welcome from Stanbridge East Deputy Mayor Ron Stewart and MRC Brome-Missisquoi Cultural Agent Edward Humphrey, guests were treated to a presentation on the McGill-Des Rivières Family of Notre-Dame-de-Stanbridge. Brian Young, an emeritus professor at McGill University, and Béatrice Kowaliczko, a passionate local historian, enthralled guests with a chronicle of a heritage property known as Malmaison.

A highlight of the day was the presentation of QAHN’s annual heritage achievement awards. For the first time, the Marion Phelps Award, named after Quebec’s doyenne of local history, was presented to two people – two remarkable sisters, in fact. The award, which honours outstanding long-term contributions by individuals to the preservation and promotion of Anglophone heritage in Quebec, went to Louise Hall and Adelaide Lanktree.

Between them, the sisters have totaled over a century's worth of outstanding volunteer contributions to local community and heritage organizations. For over 20 years, they have been members of the Sir John Johnson Centennial Branch of the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada. Lanktree is the treasurer of La Société de restauration du patrimoine Johnson, a group working to restore the Sir John Johnson burial vault on Mont Saint-Grégoire. Hall has volunteered at the Brome-Missisquoi Perkins Hospital in Cowansville for an astonishing 70 years. Since 2002, she has been a member of Le Petit Musée BMP Heritage, a museum committed to preserving the hospital's history. Both sisters have served on the Comité du patrimoine in their hometown of Farnham. Hall founded the Farnham library, which now bears her name. Both women have been supporters of QAHN since the beginning.

larger_img_6148.jpgAccording to nominator Jim Caputo of Heritage Gaspé, "No one more deserves this honour and displays what Marion Phelps stood for." Michel Racicot, of the Sir John Johnson Centennial Branch, said they ranked "among the finest examples of true volunteerism."

During their acceptance speech, Lanktree and Hall said that they were surprised and humbled when they heard they were receiving the award. “We knew Marion Phelps personally, and we feel very honoured,” they said. “We have been members of QAHN since it was founded in 2000, and we have many happy memories of this wonderful organization.”

The Richard Evans Award, named after QAHN’s founding president (and current treasurer), is presented annually to an organization or group of volunteers who, collectively, have contributed to preserving or promoting their community history, including some aspect of Quebec’s Anglophone heritage. This year, the Missisquoi Historical Society of Stanbridge East was selected for the honour.

larger_dsc_0072.kt_.jpgEstablished in 1899, the MHS is one of the oldest historical societies in Quebec. The Missisquoi Museum, established by the historical society 50 years ago this year, includes the Cornell Grist Mill on Pike River (1830); Hodge's General Store (1841); and the 12-Sided Walbridge Barn in Mystic (1882). In the words of the Hemmingford Archives, one of the nominators, the MHS is "an inspiring example of community museums at their best."

Or, as historians Brian Young and Béatrice Kowaliczko (themselves residents of Stanbridge East) wrote in their nomination, "the museum's exhibitions have been central factors in encouraging an understanding of Missisquoi history, and objects from its collection have traveled to exhibitions across Canada... Over the past years, the historical society has accelerated its involvement in local heritage. In 2010, for example, it erected a panel on the Eccles Hill site of a Fenian Raid. Hodge’s Store was redesigned in 2012 and is now equipped with a multi-media system. Perhaps the historical society’s most exciting recent innovation was the installation in 2010 of its agricultural collection at the Walbridge Barn. This marriage of an outstanding agricultural collection with one of the architectural gems of rural Quebec represents perfectly the historical society’s commitment to its heritage mission, its capacity to adapt to changing conditions, and its facility in collaborating with other heritage partners. Now in its 116th year, the historical society is a fitting recipient of the Richard Evans Award.”

larger_dsc_5299.jpgMHS president Michel Barrette accepted the award on behalf of the historical society. The MHS, he said, was honoured, and he extended an invitation to all to visit the museum, which is currently featuring an exhibition called “50 Objects for 50 Years: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Missisquoi Museum.”

Following the awards ceremony, attendees were treated to guided tours of Hodge’s General Store and the Cornell Mill, both within short walking distance of the community centre. Staff and volunteers with the historical society then led a convoy to the nearby village of Mystic, where visitors explored the splendid Walbridge Barn, which is unique in the world.

This year’s convention was supported in part by the MRC of Brome-Missisquoi, the Municipality of Stanbridge East, and local MP Pierre Jacob. Feedback from participants has been very positive. One delegate reported that her group had been “blown away” and “inspired,” and that “everything was very professional.” Another told us that “everyone had enjoyed themselves thoroughly.” Still another called the AGM “one of the best I have been to.”

For more pictures from QAHN's 2014 convention, click here!