Archivist Michael Dawe gets ‘new’ job after 40 years

Changing jobs after 40 years with the Red Deer City Archives is getting a mixed reaction from the man who helped create his own position.

Changing jobs after 40 years with the Red Deer City Archives is getting a mixed reaction from the man who helped create his own position.

But then, in the Bible, 40 is where you stop counting, says Michael Dawe, 53, who will become the new Curator of History for the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery after 40 years with the archives.

Dawe said on Wednesday that he’s finding it tough to leave a job whose foundations were laid in 1970 when, at the age of 14, he joined the city’s archives committee as its first junior associate member.

In September of 1979, Dawe became Red Deer’s first full-time archivist — a position which has earned him the undisputed reputation as the premier authority on the history of Red Deer and the surrounding area.

“It’s kind of mixed feelings. I always enjoyed helping answer people’s questions. But it’s a change,” said Dawe.

“I look forward to working with Lorna, I regret leaving the archives after this many years, so we’ll see.”

Lorna Johnson, executive director of the museum and art gallery, said she actively pursued Dawe because he is by far the best qualified person anywhere to take the new post. He will play a key role in the drive toward 2013, when Red Deer celebrates its 100th anniversary as a city.

The museum had at first asked Dawe to write a book about Red Deer’s 100 years as a city. That led to the decision to bring him over to the museum, said Johnson.

“We are also interested in doing more of a blend between what’s in the museum and what’s in the archives, so we needed someone who could tell those stories, and Michael is our best story teller in the community.”

Placing Dawe as Curator of History reflects the museum’s interest in placing more emphasis on the historical aspects of its exhibits, said Johnson.

“The bulk of our changing exhibition programming was art based, and our history exhibits really had not changed very much in a very long time. And yet, there are a lot of stories to be told,” she said.

Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling, former director of the museum, said Dawe will be working with a committee of people looking at ways of celebrating 2013.

“Naturally, we’re going to be drawing heavily on historical pieces, and there isn’t anybody in town who has a better grasp of a history and heritage and understanding of all of that, and all of the possibilities, than Michael,” said Flewwelling.

He said the museum’s new direction is “absolutely” the way to go.

“All of the very best celebrations that I have ever seen have always been rooted in cultural heritage, in the past,” he said.

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