One of the best parts of working at the Cranbrook History Centre is getting to welcome students to our team every summer season. This year, our two historical interpreters, Michaela and Georgia, are bringing enthusiasm, a love for history and a critical eye to their train tours. When you visit the museum, choose to take part in one (or all) of our train tours, and you’ll get a chance to meet them in person.

For now, you can keep reading below to get to know our two wonderful interpreters better.

-Nathalie Picard, Programming Coordinator

Michaela Eckersley

Hi everyone! My name is Michaela, and this is my first year working at the Cranbrook History Centre. Although I have only been here for a short while, I already have learned so much. I am currently attending the University of Lethbridge and am gearing up to receive a degree in both English and Education, so the History Centre seemed like a perfect fit to me! I consider myself a lifelong learner, and I believe that there is something here at the museum for everybody to learn, no matter their age or experience. The people I work alongside with here at the Centre have such a passion for preserving the past and for sharing information about Cranbrook that I cannot imagine a better team of folks to have the privilege of working with.

Georgia Hamilton

Hi there, I’m Georgia! It’s been such a blast working at the History Centre as an interpreter. I’ve learned so much alongside my teammates as the culture of education and love for history here is palpable. I’ve always been interested in railway history, but I never thought about how deeply we can pick it apart!

I’ve just completed my first year at Humber College in the comedy writing and performance program with a focus in children’s entertainment. What I’ve studied there has been helpful in creating an eclectic atmosphere where visitors can have fun while deepening their understanding of the tour topics. (Don’t worry, I leave my clown nose at home. :o)

I’m excited for our guests to experience what we’ve been cooking up. I think it’s going to be a fantastic summer!

Not Just a Museum Tour Guide

What is the role of a museum interpreter?

Michaela: For me, I think the role of a museum interpreter is like a middle man. I take in all of the information and resources that I can find and have learned through my job about the trains and the history they embody, and then I relay that information on to our guests during my tours in a way that best suits them and their needs.

Georgia: An interpreter is kind of like a library you can have a conversation with. You can ask questions, give feedback, and share your own experience as well. The best part of being an interpreter are the discussions we get to open with our guests, and the freedom we have to explore every side of the history we’re given. As an interpreter, I can deliver historical facts to a tour group and hear their perspective as well.

What are you studying in school? What are your goals? How will your work as an interpreter further your goals?

Michaela: I am coming close to finishing my Bachelor’s Degree in both English and Education, and I believe that my work as a teacher and an educator give me a unique perspective when it comes to being an interpreter. They allow me to think critically about the information I am receiving, and the classroom management skills definitely come in handy out on the tours as well! My goals in life are to always keep learning and gaining perspective, so that I am able to hold myself accountable for knowing what is happening in the world around me. My tours focus on tying in the experiences of everybody on the trains, not just those who rode them as passengers, and I try to explore the history of the trains with a critical lens that really allows people to see how far we have come. I hope to apply this to every aspect of my life – through my tours, as well as my future teaching career. It is always important to keep learning!

Georgia: I’m studying comedy writing! It’s given me a way of building a relationship with guests to help carry out my tours while keeping things relevant to their experience. My trajectory is to go into children’s entertainment. Since that is such a didactic field, history interpretation is the perfect way to sharpen my skills in conveying information and storytelling. Being out in the trains has inspired a lot of my writing this summer, too.

Why are interpreters important?

Michaela: interpreters are important because we are the people who are able to be handed a pile of information and sift through it with a critical lens, and then we have to be able to take the information we have learned and make it relevant and important to the people on our tours. I think that although a tour can definitely be done without an interpreter present, it makes it more meaningful and individualized for each group if I am able to screen through all of the information that I have learned and been given and hand pick the facts that relate most to the people on each specific tour.

Georgia: We round out the experience of the museum with stories and facts you just can’t get anywhere else. We spark inquiry and get your brain synapses fired up with way more ideas than if you were to wander on your own.  Interpreters will lead you through the sometimes-daunting amount of information and set it out nice and neat for you to enjoy.

What are challenges interpreters face today?

Michaela: I think that some of the things that impact us as interpreters are the same things that impact mainstream society. Right now, we are living in a time and space where we are discovering that many of the things we have previously learned – in school, from our families, or other common sources- is untrue or perpetuates harm towards other groups of people. This can often lead to feelings of discomfort, but I believe that it is important that we as people sit with these feelings of discomfort and learn from them, instead of using them to fuel our ignorance. Sometimes what we talk about on our train tours, like black porters, for example, can add to these feelings of guilt or discomfort, but I believe that it is just as important for me as an interpreter to talk about the porters as it is for our guests to listen to the facts that I tell. One of the best ways to learn is to listen, no matter what your preconceived notions about something are.

Georgia: The biggest challenge I’ve found is this terrible affliction that happens to a lot of people and that’s Can’t Listen Disease. At the History Centre we talk about how rail history ties in with social history, labour history, and, in turn, national history. People who suffer from Can’t Listen Disease tend to turn their nose up at these topics and instead only look at the trains at face value, diminishing the impact that the rail cars hold in our country. It’s vital that we examine all facets of this history so that we can understand the world around us, not just the horsepower of a 1952 locomotive (though that’s pretty cool too).

What made you want to be an interpreter/choose to work at a museum?

Michaela: In all honesty, before I started working here I never really saw myself working in a museum.  But now that I’ve started working here, I cannot imagine it any other way. I’ve always loved history, so much so that I’ve often debated changing my major, but I always envisioned museums as very uptight and stuffy, and not exactly friendly towards the general population. I always felt like I wasn’t fancy enough to go into a museum, or really appreciate what it has to offer, but I couldn’t be more wrong, especially about the Cranbrook History Centre. It has something to offer for every single person, whether that be a toddler who wants to see what the locomotive looks like or a fossil fanatic who wants to see a trilobite up close. We are all a part of history in the making, so it only makes sense that we all get equal opportunity to see the history of the things and people who came before us.

Georgia: I’m passionate about travel and have been to a lot of museums, so I wanted to see what makes a good museum tick. There’s an inexplicable feeling you get when a centre like this makes you walk away with something to chew on. I have a great admiration for this place because it has a unique pinpoint on the pulse of this town. We connect with a variety of people to flesh out our programs and that made me excited to work here.

What skills does a good interpreter need to have?

Michaela: Excellent people skills, that’s for sure. You work quite closely with the public on a daily basis. A good heart and a lot of passion goes a long way too. The tours you give are so much more passionate and entertaining if you love what you are talking about. If you find it interesting, so will the people on your tour.

Georgia: A whip-fast memory for sure. There’s so much information to digest and it’s important that we know it through and through.

What is special about the interpreter role at the Cranbrook History Centre (compared to other institutions)?

Michaela: I think that part of the charm that Cranbrook carries is that it is a small town, and the same thing applies to the History Centre. We are able to provide a more direct and personal experience because we know exactly how the trains in our collection impacted Cranbrook as we know it today.

Georgia: The Cranbrook History Centre has so much to offer that we as interpreters get to be a part of. We create our tours using the information provided and we get to put our own signature on them. In the interpreter role I can collaborate with my teammates l bounce ideas off of each other in a way that wasn’t implemented in other historical societies I have been a part of.

What’s your favourite thing about being an interpreter at the CHC?

Michaela: ooo, that’s a tough one. I think probably getting to share all of the knowledge I’ve accumulated, and just getting to know more about the history of Cranbrook itself. I’ve lived in Cranbrook my entire life, and it still feels like every day I come to work and I learn something new.

Georgia: In Cranbrook we have a lot of great stories, many I hadn’t heard before I started working here despite living here my whole life. Now, I feel like a certified local! Working on my walking tour has especially helped me appreciate where I live and has given me a totally new outlook on living here. I also can’t appreciate the mentorship I’ve received here more. My coworkers have challenged me and encouraged me to grow exponentially as the summer has progressed and I can’t wait to see how the rest of the season unfolds!

Their Summer Soundtrack

Just for kicks and giggles, Georgia and Michaela have created a ‘Cranbrook History Centre Soundtrack’ for your listening pleasure. This eclectic mix of songs are train themed, have train in the title, or our two interpreters believe they emulate the History Centre’s energy in some way, shape, or form. We hope you enjoy them!

All the staff at the History Centre are looking forward to welcoming you to the museum. We hope to see you soon!