New director hopes to revitalize Cape Breton Miners' Museum

Staff ~ The Cape Breton Post
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GLACE BAY — Mary Pat Mombourquette's career has gone from the stage to underground.

Mary Pat Mombourquette, the new executive director of the Cape Breton Miners' Museum in Glace Bay, takes a stroll through the museum's village. Mombourquette hopes to revitalize the village by reopening the company store and company home.

The Glace Bay woman, the former business director of the Celtic Colours International Festival, began her new job as executive director of the Cape Breton Miners' Museum in early August.

Mombourquette said the two jobs have an important connection.

"In a sense the Cape Breton Miners' Museum is like Celtic Colours — it's a valuable asset to Cape Breton Island. It's all about our history, our culture, where we are and where we came from.

“Celtic Colours is much more than nine days of music, it’s about celebrating Cape Breton and the miners' museum is all about celebrating our history and our culture."

Mombourquette said she is excited about her new job and wants to see the museum revitilized.

"I want the Cape Breton Miners' Museum to be a core place to go in Cape Breton, I want to get people talking about it, coming through it, seeing this resource we have," she said. "I think it shows the culture and character of Cape Breton as nothing else on Cape Breton does. I want to draw attention to that fact.

“I also want more Cape Bretoners to come and see this resource that we have."

Mining heritage is not only in her office but also in her blood.

"I was brought up first in the Shipyard, then we moved to Sydney River when I was in high school," she said, adding her grandparents were from Glace Bay.

"I've been living back in Glace Bay the last five years. Having a grandfather who was a miner, it brings home that history, however there are probably very few people on Cape Breton who haven't been touched by that heritage."

Mombourquette said part of her focus now is to have the museum's company store and company house reopened after being closed for the last few years.

"They are fabulous, it's just a shame to see them not open. The stuff that's in those places you are never going to see anywhere else."

One side of the company house depicts a miner's home in 1850 and the other side is a miner's home from the mid-1900s.

Mombourquette said the buildings are closed due to a lack of workers to provide tours.

She said at one time provincial and federal money enabled the hiring of upwards of eight students for the summer months. Now the funding allows for three student workers.

"We need more students or volunteers to get that open."

Mombourquette said, including seasonal workers, there is a staff of about 14 at the miners' museum and she described the tour guides as the 'heart and soul' of the museum.

"As many tours as they do, you'd think it was the first tour they did. You'd think it was fresh for them."

The museum is open June 2-Oct. 26, seven days a week from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and on Tuesdays until 7 p.m. The Men of the Deeps hold a concert at the museum Tuesdays at 8 p.m. The last summer concert will be held Tuesday, Aug. 27.

During the winter, the museum is open Monday to Friday from 9 a .m.-4 p.m. with underground tours by appointment only.

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