PEI

L.M. Montgomery site pivots to online video stories as visitor numbers plummet

The Bideford Parsonage Museum is taking its Wednesday evening literary program featuring the stories of Lucy Maud Montgomery online this summer, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There have been fewer than 50 visitors this year compared to 1,000 last summer

The video series is also a fundraiser, to replace the revenue the Bideford Parsonage Museum has lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

The Bideford Parsonage Museum is taking its Wednesday evening literary program featuring the stories of Lucy Maud Montgomery online this summer — because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Montgomery boarded in the house in Bideford in 1894, while teaching school at the age of 19.

For 18 years, the Bideford Parsonage Museum has hosted weekly readings, presenting short stories written by Montgomery more than 100 years ago.

"We saw where other entertainers were doing things on social media, on Facebook," said Janice Trowsdale, who has been involved with the museum since its inception in the fall of 1999.

"We couldn't really do it the way we normally did the stories, because we would have a different reader for each character part."  

Lost revenue

Trowsdale tapped into her database of local readers and invited them to read three stories each, for a total of 33 videos. 

The video series is also a fundraiser, to replace the revenue the Bideford Parsonage Museum has lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This photo of Lucy Maud Montgomery at the Ellerslie train station is on display in the room where Montgomery stayed at the Bideford Parsonage Museum. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

"We would like if people would like to support the museum and help us out this year, of course, our visitation is down substantially," Trowsdale said.

"We've only had I think between 40 and 50 people in this month of July and so that's not going to go very far in paying the bills."

Trowsdale said the museum's annual strawberry social would attract around 200 people, and they also put on ceilidhs to raise money for the museum's upkeep.

There were also 11 Japanese tour groups scheduled for this year, all now cancelled. 

Montgomery boarded in this house in Bideford in 1894, while teaching school at the age of 19. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Spotlight on the museum

Janice Trowsdale's great-grandfather was a school trustee and Montgomery stayed at the family home when she first arrived. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

William Ramsay has been working at the museum for two years, last year as a tour guide and this year recording and editing the videos.

He hopes the videos will also raise the profile of the Bideford Parsonage Museum.

"Hopefully people will realize that there's a lot more to it, it's not just another museum," Ramsay said.

"We have a lot to show off in here and that's why, when we do the readings in different rooms, we're hoping to give people a little taste of that and hopefully draw them in."

"There's been quite a lot of response, it's been great, really encouraging," said Paul Burleigh, president of West Country Historical Society, which operates the museum. 

"We haven't had a lot of donations yet, but we're hoping."

The museum is also part of a new Lucy Maud Montgomery literary tour, that was supposed to give the site a boost. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

 Burleigh said the summer fundraisers that have been cancelled because of COVID are important to maintain the historic house. 

"Of course, we have our regular expenses but there's a lot of upkeep to this place and there's the roof that's needing work," Burleigh said.  

"We just got heat pumps installed and so there's always something that needs to be done to keep the place up and I hope some funds start coming in." 

Paul Burleigh says the summer fundraisers that have been cancelled because of COVID are important to maintain the historic house. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

'We're still here'

Trowsdale said she's not sure how they will make up the shortfall. 

"We're hoping that the community at large will come out and support us and just hope for a better year next year," Trowsdale said. 

"And if COVID still is around, we can continue on with our online stories. I think that may be a way of reaching out to people and letting them know we're still here."

More from CBC P.E.I.

About the Author

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now