Welcome to the All Aboard with Laura: Behind the Scenes of Ministers Island blog!
My name is Laura Oland and I am the new Museum Intern working for the Van Horne Estates on Ministers Island. I started my new position at the beginning of May, and I am so thrilled to have been given this opportunity to be a part of the Ministers Island team, and to delve into research on Sir William Van Horne, his family, Ministers Island, the Passamaquoddy Peoples and so much more.
As a historian, I am constantly reading and writing, uncovering new information or angles to discuss historical material. The goal from this research is to discover stories and new information about Ministers Island and Sir William Van Horne in order to enrich the visitor experience on the island. To record my research, one of my new projects is to create a blog documenting my research over the next year!
Academically, I am currently working on my PhD in Art History at Concordia University. In 2018 I graduated from the University of Glasgow in Scotland with a Masters in Letters: Art History Dress & Textiles degree, and in 2017 I graduated from Acadia University with an Honours History degree with a minor in Classics. Professionally, I have been very fortunate to gain museum experience over the last seven years working in a handful of institutions including the New Brunswick Museum, The Victoria & Albert Museum, The Hunterian, and the Randall House Museum.
From my studies and work experience – I am sure it is easy to gather that I absolutely love history. For as long as I can remember, I have been enamoured with everything “from the olden days,” as I would say as a child. The stories of Anne Shirley and Laura Ingalls quickly grabbed my attention before I started school, and once I started reading I could not put down the Magic TreeHouse books, where each book went back in time to a different historical period or event. Particularly, I have always been captivated with being in history, by either taking part in theatre performances, attending the Visiting Cousins program at Kingslanding, or simply wearing 19th century costume dresses my grandmother made me.
Prior to May 3rd, 2021, the last time I stepped foot on Minister’s Island was in 2007, when I was eleven years old. I visited the island with my mother, grandmother and two younger brothers. As my memory recalls – I was fascinated with the grand estate, in particular the bathhouse. I can also recall being a tad creeped out by the animals’ busts – which I associated with as being a part of the hunting lodge. My youngest brother, who was seven at the time, was quite concerned with the size of the closet doors as he could not believe that people one hundred years ago were that small (not knowing he was looking at small closet doors or crawl spaces). Returning for the first time on May 3, 2021, I was instantly captivated with the entire island. First, my drive to work was so cool – where else do I get to drive across an ocean floor, and feel every element of history as I drive along the roads on the island up to Covenhoven? From walking around the rooms in Covenhoven, I quickly realized the amount of research into the estate, Van Horne’s story, and the entire history of the island is endless, and I can’t wait to get started!
I hope you will follow along over the next year as I document my research and the uncoverings of Van Horne and his fascinating island.