By Emily Stonehouse
There’s a new face at the Minden Hills Cultural Centre.
Robert Wong is the programming coordinator at the centre, and hopes to bring fresh ideas, new perspectives, and further community involvement to the space, which includes the heritage village and museum, the Agnes Jamieson Art Gallery, and Nature’s Place. “I just love museums,” he smiled when he sat down with the Times, “I am always looking for ways to make them more welcoming to people.”
Wong hails from Hong Kong originally, and moved to Canada to attend the University of Windsor to do his undergrad in history. “I had never learned any Canadian history before coming here,” he said, “so I spent the first few years just really focusing on that, and learning about everything I could.”
Upon graduation from his undergrad, Wong attended Fleming College in Peterborough, where he focused on museum studies before completing the program and moving to Halifax, where he dove into curatorial work at the Maritime Museum in Halifax. “That job was really behind the scenes,” he said. “I was doing a lot of cataloging and working with the collection. It was a great experience, but I knew I wanted to do something where I could work with more people face to face.”
Wong then relocated to Quebec, where he worked as a teaching assistant to individuals learning English. It was here that he fell in love with the idea of working with people, and teaching them along the way.
Wong’s homebase has been Toronto for the past few years, working museum jobs and establishing programs for community centres across Ontario. He noted that the industry can be challenging, as there are often not permanent jobs in the museum sector; rather there are a series of contract positions continually on the go. He shared that while this can be frustrating, it has also given him a wealth of experiences that he intends to apply at the Cultural Centre.
The new coordinator hopes to put a different spin on much of the traditional programming the facility has offered, and would like to make it a destination for the community as a whole.
He also hopes to incorporate components of Indigenous heritage into consistent programming. “I have noticed a lack of narrative in this museum with Indigenous representations,” he told the Times, “I am looking to collaborate with local communities to make sure this is done properly. It’s a conversation that we are starting.”
Wong shared that his biggest measurement of success would be further involvement in the community, and he has already jumped in with two feet as he intends to offer March Break programming for the whole family, which will be based out of Nature’s Place. He is hoping to offer sessions on climate change and local natural habitats.
While Wong is eager to hit the ground running with new initiatives, he is also doing his Master’s Degree in museum education currently from the University of British Columbia online. He hopes that by completing this program, he will be able to apply the learnings from it to future initiatives at the Cultural Centre. He shared that the approach to these studies are still fairly new, but he sees them as beneficial, as they combine arts, sciences, history, and languages all together.
He hopes to make the facility a destination for all age groups and demographics to enjoy, and Wong is actively looking for ways to collaborate with others in the community who are offering programming. “This is a huge arts community and there’s so much happening here,” he said. “I look forward to finding ways we can work together.”