Kayla Leschert (2011-2013)
It is crazy to think that the Millet and District Museum and Archives has been in operation for 35 years! I am so honored to have been a part of their history, even with my short time with them.
I have always had an interest in local history, and for some reason was always drawn to the Millet Museum. I remember working for the Town of Millet in the summer of 2010 on their archives and was so intrigued by the team working at the Museum. The following summer, 2011, I watched the local newspaper, The Wetaskiwin Times, for the posting about their summer positions and applied as soon as possible. I remember feeling bombarded in my interview when they asked me about the Sisterhood of Mary, the pamphlet they gave me when I first got there; I did not even look at it, not realizing that would be part of the interview. Being a Human Resources major, I should have known better. I did not feel great about my interview, but to my surprise they called and offered me the position, and I was so excited to start!
Without the help of Young Canada Works and Canada Summer Jobs funding, I likely would not have had an opportunity at the museum, as that is their main source of income for staffing. I am so thankful the Millet Museum was able to participate in and obtain those grants so that I was able to make money during my summers in-between school. I was also fortunate enough to work with the Museum part time while still attending post-secondary schooling during some winters because of Canada Summer Jobs funding. For students looking for summer work, don’t overlook your local not-for-profit organizations like museums. You may not make “big money”, but the skills and content you will be exposed to is unmatched and will help round out your education in a more valuable way then you could imagine.
The Executive Director, Tracey, was phenomenal in assigning us projects that would relate to our schooling. I was given projects like updating the exhibit “how to”, creating a volunteer orientation package, designing a volunteer recruitment program, and updating and formalizing interview processes for summer students and volunteers, to name a few. I know she gave specific projects to those who were in teaching; they were to design the kids’ programs for the summer. We also had a house project that was assigned to an architect tech. It is a very unique situation where your summer job will align with the skills you are learning in school, and programs like Young Canada Works and Canada Summer Jobs allow not-for-profit organizations to create opportunities like this.
My first summer was the first installment of the Pioneer Women exhibit, where we were tasked with researching these influential local women and put together an exhibit. All the summer staff were new that year, so it was an interesting learning curve for us all. In the end, we were all so very proud of our work, and grateful to our volunteers, especially Linda Webber, who helped lead us in our exhibit designs. My favorite part of the Pioneer Women exhibits were the exhibit openings and bringing the families of these women together to tell their stories. It was a great honor to attend the opening as a guest in 2018 when the Millet Museum honored my grandmother Irene Knull’s contribution to Millet.
Another one of my favorite exhibits was the Chinese Restaurant exhibit. There was so much time and attention that went into it for our own exhibit, but also for the Royal Alberta Museum’s exhibit. I was honored that my research for the Chinese Restaurant exhibit was displayed in the Royal Alberta Museum; it really solidified how important collecting historical information is to preserving history as well as telling these stories so we don’t forget. It was incredible to have the Chinese dancers and dragons attend our exhibit opening and perform in the museum (even if the drums broke some exhibit items). They brought a unique perspective to the culture and how we presented it to our guests.
My time at the Museum helped me hone in on my organizational skills. Being a museum and archives, everything has a very specific identification process so it makes it easy to find later. I have since transferred these skills to my daily work, ensuring documents and resources are labelled and saved in a way that makes them easy to find later.
Since my time at the museum and graduating from post-secondary education I have been living and working in Wetaskiwin as a Human Resource Coordinator at the local Co-operative. I married my husband, Rob, in June of 2014 and we welcomed our son, Luca, in June 2018. We are excited to welcome a second baby in October 2020. Our time is spent working on our home and yard, spending time with our son and dog, and just enjoying our family at this time. When we travel in the summers, I always try to stop in at a local museum to help support them and learn about their communities. I am excited to show our children the important histories around Alberta in the future.