Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hidden Gems: tommy mcculloch

This post is part of my Hidden Gems series. To read up on what this is all about, check out this post.

For this week's HG, I wanted to highlight a cute little place that I walk by every morning on my way into the office. For those of you that don't know, I work at a large University in my home city and in order to get to my office in the administration building, I have to cut through the Life Sciences Centre.

Tucked into a connector section between the two buildings, enclosed in a glass "box" is the Thomas McCulloch Museum. I never realized this place was here until I started commuting to my current job and I barely noticed its presence during the first few weeks. Well, I did notice it but in kind of a subconscious way. Mainly I just saw the glass display cases holding lots of bizarre things like taxidermy, mushrooms, bones and shells and thought "hm, why is all this stuff here? Weird". Then kept walking. 

One day I decided I needed to learn more about this odd and nondescript place - it seemed so wrong to walk by it every day and not know anything about it (you know in Love Actually when Hugh Grant tells Natalie that he wants her to tell him about herself because working alongside her every day and knowing so little about her feels elitist and wrong? Anyone? Bueller?...just me? Ok, moving on...)

From the Museum website:

Thomas McCulloch was a Scots Presbyterian minister, an educator and a political reformer. He came to Pictou, Nova Scotia in 1803 from Scotland at the age of twenty-seven. His controversial views and opposition of the establishment left a lasting impact on Nova Scotia and eventually on Canada.

-          He arrived in Pictou when the colony was growing and in need of education and change.
-          He became a missionary and a minister of the First Presbyterian Church.
-          The founder and principal of Pictou Academy.
-          He was ordained in the Secessionist Church.
-          The first principal of Dalhousie College in Halifax in 1838.
-          He created the Audubon mounted bird collection in the McCulloch Museum.
-          McCulloch sent a collection of Nova Scotian insects to the University of Glasgow who in recognition of the gift awarded him the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1822.
-          McCulloch had a profound belief that education should be liberal and available to everyone. Therefore he felt his greatest work was the creation of Pictou Academy which manifested these beliefs. He was met with a lot of opposition from the officials of the time.

 Cool, huh? McCulloch came to Dalhousie in 1883 and taught Logic, Rhetoric and Philosophy for five years. He also developed a series of scientific lectures which he took on tour throughout the Maritime provinces, which supposedly greatly piqued the public's interest in and knowledge of biology.

The highlight of the museum is McCulloch's preserved bird collection - 22 cases altogether! All Nova Scotia birds mounted in natural settings (according to the Audubon style). The museum also includes a mushroom collection, coral and shell collection, and butterfly and insect collections - all contributed to by life science professors at Dalhousie.

You can visit the museum for free daily between 8:30am and 4:30pm and classes are often held here. 

Ok, I know some of you are thinking "This place is just a bunch of dead/stuffed things in cases...how boring is that?". But I think it's fascinating that this man took the time to amass so many specimens and that there is a free space just steps from my office that I can peruse anytime I like and learn about species I have never even heard of. The natural world is so fascinating and complex; there is so much to learn about it and I feel the only way to really have full respect for this world is to educate ourselves as much as we can. That is why I think this museum is cool. 

Plus, it's sort of quirky and a little weird, and I always love things like that. And it's always nice to learn a bit more history about the storied institution where I work (I think it makes me appreciate it more). 

And to think most people just walk right by this museum with barely a second glance. I'm glad I took the time to learn more about this hidden gem. 

Do you know of a person, place or thing that you think is really cool but is not very well-known? Are there little pieces of paradise in your city/province or in cities that you have visited that are off-the-beaten-path, but you think everyone should know about them? Well, I want to post about them on Gathers No Moss! Email me, tweet @KimHumes or leave a comment and I'll share it in an upcoming post! Here's to celebrating the little things! And exploring off-the-path to find them!


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