Interview: Gallery Memories and Membership

Beaverbrook Art GallerySeptember 3, 20190 Comments

By: David Massey, Membership Department

This month, to celebrate our 60th anniversary, I sat down with Ann and Pam Morgan Lowthers and Bill Morrison, to chat about their Gallery membership and what they’ve loved about being a docent throughout the years. 

David Massey: Why did you become a member of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery?

Bill Morrison: My mother brought me here when I was nine. That would have been a month or two after it opened. I saw the paintings, and I remember some of them – the Dali, of course, and the Krieghoffs – and it just seemed like a natural thing once I started to earn money and so forth to become a member, and to have the access to come in now and then. I became a docent later on because Ann, my sister, was a docent! She had taken classes of mine, I was a teacher, and I was always impressed with what she knew. When I retired, she didn’t say anything or try to recruit me, but I got the feeling that I should probably do this. It’s a good thing for me to do because it still puts me up in front of kids, which I really liked when I taught. I don’t have to make up a lesson plan anymore; I just walk through and it comes out of my head, which is always the way I liked to teach.

D: Excellent! So it’s a great way to segue from working into retirement, while still staying connected with the Gallery and its visitors.

B: Yeah! Very much so. And I’ve learned a lot.

D: Ann, would you like to share your memories of the Gallery?

Ann Morgan: I have always been a member of the Gallery ever since I came back to live in Fredericton in the early ‘70s. But, raising a young family, I never got in to anything beyond my basic membership. I was always interested, but didn’t get more involved until I became a docent.  When Judy Budovitch told me that they were starting the docent program, my first question was: what’s a docent? I had no idea, but I learned that it involved two things: one, learning about the art; and two, sharing that knowledge in tours, with schoolkids primarily, but with others as well. I knew I would love it, and I did! Learning and sharing – those two things go together. You keep learning because you know you’re going to be sharing.

Pam Morgan Lowthers: Well, that just follows right through to me because I’m Ann’s daughter, and Bill’s niece. I remember going to the Gallery as a kid, and hearing the stories about the paintings. I always loved it. I was in high school, I think, when the docent program started. [Ann has] been doing that ever since and my interest was always piqued with [her] doing that. I came in a few times when I was in university to participate in various committees and things. I can barely remember what they were now! So after growing up and moving away, then moving back, I wanted my family to come through [the Gallery] like I did as a kid, and take part in some of the programs. My mom was shocked when I told her I was going to join the docent program. For me it was just a natural ‘of course I’m doing that, I’m here now…’

D: How exciting! Three generations! Isn’t that amazing? When we’re talking about Gala 60, from the past, to the present, and looking to the future, it’s right here in your family! Almost as if you’re the poster family for Gala 60.

A: Well, actually, Bill’s and my mother, Mary Morrison, was one of the earliest groups of volunteer guides – they didn’t want to be called “docents”, but they would come for information sessions and they would be in the Gallery to assist anyone who had questions about the paintings.

D: So they were the precursors to the docent program?

A: Yes, and actually in those early days there was a very small staff, so they also kind of acted as security. Mom loved it, because she loved learning about the art, and she was happy to tell people about it, but it was a very informal thing, it wasn’t as structured as our docent program.

After talking with Ann, Bill, and Pam, I was awed by their commitment to and support of the Gallery. I also learned new insights about the early days of the Gallery. I hope you find their stories just as inspiring and captivating as I did.

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