Nokomis & District Museum

2021 MAS Awards Recipients Announced

Posted by Amber Hanover on September 29th, 2021

At a virtual awards presentation on September 29, 2021, MAS presented several awards to deserving museums and individuals. MAS would like to congratulate all the award winners in the following categories:

You can also see a full video recording of the presentation on YouTube (TBA).

Award of Merit – Institutional (project/budget under $50,000.00) - Indian Head Museum for their T-Shirt Fundraiser 

In Winter 2021, the Indian Head Museum Merchandise Committee was looking for a way to help raise funds during COVID-19. The Museum did not open during the 2020 season, and the much-needed revenue generated from visitor donations was missing. The committee decided to focus on a t-shirt fundraiser including a historical business - Leo's Barber & Billiards, the Museum's home - The Fire Hall and our Métis Family - Métis Proud.

The results of the project exceeded expectations, not only raising funds, (with not one, but two t-shirt runs) but rekindling warm memories about a family-run business, appreciating the architecture of this historic building, and recognizing the community contributions of the Métis community. 

The concept to have the t-shirt fundraiser came from the idea of having a safe way to hold a fundraiser during COVID-19. We had to think about designs that the community would really get excited about and support. It was hard to decide on just one idea so we decided to have three. The first would look at resurrecting a historical logo from a local business that left an impact in the community – Leo’s Barber and Billiards. Leo and his wide Lena ran the business (Haircuts and Pool) in town for over 40 years. They helped raise generations of kids in the community. Leo had passed away a few years ago. Lena was still alive and the museum made sure they had her permission before proceeding and when she learned it was a fundraiser for the museum, she supported the idea. 

In talking with Lena, it became a trip down memory lane for her and the museum had the opportunity to hear about her time running the pool hall with Leo. After hearing her stories, it was easy to understand why Leo’s was so important to the community.

It seemed more important to feature this business as the pool hall was slated to be demolished sometime in 2021. The physical building was about to be erased from the community and the t-shirt was a way to honour the couple, their business and the connections and relationships they made with the local people.

The second t-shirt design was a replica blueprint from the historical fire hall. Indian Head has a long history of fire protection in the community with the building being constructed in 1907. By bringing the fire hall to t-shirt form, it initiated dialogue and stories about it.

The third t-shirt design is to recognize and acknowledge the contributions of its Métis members to Indian Head and surrounding area. The Museum has been actively changing its conversation to include the Indigenous community and bring representation through exhibits, collecting oral history and strive to have board members of Indigenous descent. The shirt represents is the infinity sign representing Métis nation, strength, culture and pride.

The campaign was launched and within a week the Leo’s shirts sold out. The community requested to have a second run and so we took pre-orders and in total sold over 100 shirts.

Order pick-up was at the Museum and some of the people had not stepped through its doors in years. They were interested to see the renovations and most importantly they had stories to share about Leo’s. It was by far the shirt that made the most impact on the community. When they talked about their time at Leo’s, they became kids again. IHM brought a piece of their history back to life again. It was amazing to see how a t-shirt could create so much pride, renewed interest, and engagement in the Museum.

Award of Merit – Institutional for projects over $50,000.00 - Melfort & District Museum - Indigenous Peoples & Archaeology Building

Over the past 5 years, the Melfort & District Museum (MDM) has worked in the spirit of reconciliation to create an Indigenous exhibit that encompasses the plains history of the area. Through a strategic planning process and calls to action identified in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the museum board and staff set about initiating a significant resolve in matters related to Indigenous inclusivity. Through contact with the Saskatchewan Archaeological Society (SAS) and Dr. David Meyer, Professor Emeritus, University of Saskatchewan, the MDM became aware of a family collection of pre-contact and historical archaeological artifacts that had been collected years ago in the Melfort area. Through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the SAS/MDM, the family donated the collection of over 3000 artifacts, with the goal to identify, catalogue, record, interpret, curate, preserve and respectfully exhibit. Financial support from the Hrytzak Morgan family was matched by the MDM allowing for the repurposing of a self-contained building that became the Indigenous Peoples and Archaeology Building.

With interpretive leadership from professional archaeologists, this exciting exercise evolved with the assistance of interns, summer students and interested volunteers. Ongoing efforts to identify, inform and involve local Indigenous people from our area continued in good faith with encouraging results. Through financial support from Northern Lights Community Development Corp., the MDM successfully engaged local Indigenous artists for artwork.

As the Hyrtzak Morgan Collection matured, it caught the attention of another local avocational archaeologist who had as a young man on his farm, collected and documented an astonishingly significant collection of artifacts. At the age of 98, Tom Smith generously arranged for the MDM to acquire, catalogue and interpret his collection of 2000 artifacts for display within the new Indigenous Peoples and Archaeology Building.

The Indigenous Peoples and Archaeology Building has become a crowning exhibit within our museum grounds. It features Indigenous inclusivity with documented archaeological significance. The MDM provides visitors with a glimpse of life on the ancient plains, their culture, indigenous tool use, and the modern methods with which archaeologists uncover artifacts and seek to understand a way of life that cannot be easily encompassed within textbooks or schoolrooms. 

Normally museums ask visitors not to touch the exhibits but the Indigenous Peoples and Archaeology Building goes against that golden rule by allowing visitors to touch and handle some of the artifacts via a “touchbox”, a simulated archaeological excavation and an accessible replica Tipi. Thus, the MDM is attempting to preserve both the tangible and intangible culture of Indigenous people.

The inclusion of significant displays of Metis bead and leather artifacts, along with Indigenous artwork creates a comfortable environment in which anyone with a mind of wonder can consider striking examples of First Nation and Metis heritage.

On June 21, 2021 under a solstice sun, the MDM was proud to host a Bear Dancer and Drumming Circle from James Smith Cree Nation who respectfully smudged the new exhibit and led everyone in prayers of good spirit as we journey together on this path of consideration and reconciliation.

Award of Merit – Individual - Christy “Chris” Brayford Arnstead

As a lifelong, seasonal resident in Waskesiu, Chris Arnstead has extensive personal knowledge of the Community and Prince Albert National Park which she shares through her volunteer work with various organizations. Currently the curator of the Waskesiu Heritage Museum (WHM), she creates the displays and handles the acquisitions and cataloguing. She conducts and records oral history interviews. She organizes events like the annual Heritage Days, the celebration of the 90th anniversary of Prince Albert National Park, events demonstrating intangible cultural heritage, and programming for target audiences. Although the WHM is a seasonal museum, Chris works year-round on museum matters. She developed the first website for the museum and has upgraded it since. She handles traditional advertising and social media channels and has a growing following of people on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with whom she interacts. She created an audio guide with handheld devices to explain key artifacts in the displays for visitors. She applies for grants and this year, applied for and received a Tourism Saskatchewan grant to leverage technology and launch an online guide she created called Heritage Moments, featuring historic locations in Waskesiu. 

Heritage Moments is a project Chris created to make an accessible, electronic guide to historic locations in the townsite of Waskesiu. The content (stories, videos, audio files, archival photos and information) are housed on a website linked to the main museum website. People visiting Waskesiu can access the information appropriate to their exact location by using their smartphone’s camera to scan the QR code on an eye-catching, round sign. Forty-one locations are featured in-depth and thirty-two signs were designed and are hung at locations with the approval of local businesses and organizations. She also designed a brochure containing an interpretive map which is available for free at multiple locations in town for those who want to do a walking tour. For those wishing to access Heritage Moments from home, all the information is available on a dedicated website called

The main objective of Heritage Moments was to move history out of the Museum and offer it to people in small, entertaining amounts in locations where they are as they move around the townsite on their holidays. 

Another objective of the project was to share with the public the rich collection of photos from Parks Canada archives as well as the entertaining stories, information, oral history interviews and other media from the WHM collection. This project was planning to appeal to all ages and family groups as an outside activity during the pandemic, but its use and appeal is definitely not limited to pandemic times. Since the Museum buildings were closed to visitors for a period, it became a way to connect with visitors during the pandemic. 

Award of Merit – Individual - John & Linda Kort - Indian Head Museum

John and Linda Kort are the dynamic duo that have been actively involved with the Museum since 2010. During their time at the Indian Head Museum, they have not only performed various roles, but have committed themselves to in-depth understanding by performing research, taking university classes, being actively involved in the Museum’s Association of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivists. They advocated change to include in the IHM Mandate, our local Indigenous (Metis and First Nations) family and bringing forth the idea of creating a functional local archive for research.

Through their meaningful commitment to the Museum, John and Linda have helped contribute to the community narrative by bringing important parts of its history to life. Their footprint will be appreciated by locals, researchers, and visitors for many years to come.

Linda Kort, a retired teacher wore many hats over the years. She was secretary, program coordinator, wrote many grant applications, gave presentations, and helped with the general upkeep of the Museum. One of her most recent accomplishments was the Métis Oral History Project.

John, a retired biologist from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada jumped into the Museum volunteer work. He is a truly a jack of all trades as is Linda, wearing all kinds of hats at IHM. John was President for five years, grant writer, fundraiser & maintenance man. His passion shines through in researching and storytelling.

Both John and Linda officially retired from the Board in January 2021 but have stayed on in an advisory role helping mentor the new members and continue to help work on individual projects. 

These are just a few highlights of the work they have done over the years, but there is so much more that they would quietly do without hesitation or complaint. 

John and Linda Kort are well known and respected in Museum circles for their commitment to Indian Head and the Museum. They truly are one of the keepers of knowledge at the Museum, and the newer board members are so appreciative of their continued support after their retirement. They are amazing people and amazing volunteers.

Young Professional Award - Justin Williams - RCMP Heritage Centre


Justin Williams is a passionate individual who takes pride in pushing himself to innovate the educational experience within the culture sector. Originally from Ottawa and a graduate of both Acadia University and Algonquin College, Justin enjoys meeting people from all over Canada, hearing their stories, and being able to relate those stories to any subject matter. Allowing yourself to be a little silly also helps when talking with any age group just as long as you make their experience memorable. That is the real reason everyone is in this field.

Now Education and Public Programs Coordinator for the RCMP Heritage Centre, Justin has worn many hats in the museum field. Prior to moving to Saskatchewan to being his career with the Heritage Centre in 2019, Justin served as Visitor Services Coordinator and Education Assistant for the Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum, and Educational Program Interpreter for the Canadian Museum of Nature. Outside of work he can often be found volunteering his time coaching children’s sports teams, competing in rec leagues, or researching and recording for his own podcast, Sports Unite. 

Experienced in both front and back-of-house operations, Justin has been a model supervisor and mentor to all members of his team over the years. Not only that, but he has been an absolute pleasure to work with on collaborative projects between organizations. Open to new ideas, thinking outside the box, and always one to lend a hand, Justin Williams has demonstrated a level of passion and integrity rarely seen in the museum sector.

Joining the RCMP Heritage Centre in the fall of 2019, Justin has rejuvenated educational and family programming while also bringing a level of enthusiasm and creativity that is difficult to match. By demonstrating their relevance throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Justin and his colleagues have captured the attention of audiences across Canada and internationally. Fully appreciating that a museum must demonstrate relevance, Justin has sought to inspire growth and change alongside their audience. Enabling social interaction and participative engagement in a time of isolation and quarantine, this was no easy task, but it was one that Justin met head-on and not only succeeded but thrived.

Museum workers understand that the organizations in which we work and volunteer have the ability to create unity, whether politically, socially, or locally, but they also hold the capacity to shape our society. This is a concept that is demonstrated in nearly every task Justin sets his mind to. Do not be fooled by his playful social media posts, dressed as Montee the Moose while on adventure with social media sensation Indi the Heritage Centre dog. Just because he believes in the power of the museum does not mean he is a stranger to fun!

During the past year and a half, Justin has endeavoured to develop and share his experience, knowledge, and skills by participating in MAS Community Chat’s, while also reaching out to schools, community groups, and assisted living facilities. In fact, thanks to the initiative of Justin and his coworkers, the RCMP Heritage Centre saw over 7,000 virtual tour participants during the pandemic. A staggering amount given the limitations that the pandemic placed upon all institutions and communities. Not only that, but the virtual tours offered by Justin reached across the country and outside of Canada.

Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award - Chad Debert

Chad has been involved in the museum field since the 1990s becoming the Executive Director of the Biggar Museum & Gallery in 1999. His museum career evolved with a stint at the WDM – Moose Jaw as Museum Technician followed by time spent as the Preparator for the RCMP Historical Uni.  For the past eight years, Chad has been the Assistant Manager – Exhibits & Collections at Government House. 

Chad has always been an active participant in a wide range of MAS activities including the Networks, Special Interest Groups, Community Chats, and as an MGP Jury member in 2006 and 2007. Chad has also attended over 50 MAS Professional Development courses and workshops including nine Certificate Program courses.  In addition, Chad has taught the Collections Management CP course twice in 2006 & 2007.

Chad began his involvement with Boards and Committees while in Biggar where he served on the Biggar & District Arts Council, the Majestic Theatre, the Bear Hills Economic Development Office, and the Biggar & District Community Foundation among others.

Chad has served on the MAS Board of Directors on two separate occasions. First, from 2000 to 2004. Eight years, in 2012 Chad was again elected to the MAS Board serving for two terms.

During his first stint on the Board, he served as President for one the year 2003-04. As President, he represented MAS both nationally and provincially - most notably with the Canadian Museums Association’s Provincial/Territorial meetings at the national level and as part of SaskCulture’s Heritage Committee - the precursor to Heritage Saskatchewan.

Chad stepped down from the MAS Board in 2004 to take on the position of Interim Executive Director when then ED Joan Kanigan went on a year-long sabbatical.

Chad continues his leadership in Saskatchewan’s heritage sector as a member of the Heritage Saskatchewan Board of Directors where he is serving his second term.

‹ Heritage Symposium: Getting Real About Reconciliation

Retirement Notice: Wendy Fitch, Executive Director MAS ›

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