Graeme Watson recognized with Volunteer Service Award of Excellence

Graeme Watson outside Murney Tower. Image courtesy of Graeme Watson.

The Ontario Museum Association (OMA) presented the OMA Awards of Excellence 2020 at the OMA’s first virtual Conference, on Thursday, October 29th, 2020. The accomplishments of the Award Recipients will be showcased in a social media campaign starting today, Friday, Oct. 30, 2020.

The 2020 OMA Annual Conference is inspired by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and addresses the challenges facing museums during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a release from the OMA, dated Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. This virtual edition takes full advantage of digital possibilities to offer museum professionals across Ontario the opportunity to learn, network, and celebrate their accomplishments together.

Graeme Watson, former Volunteer Director for Murney Tower Museum here in Kingston, was a recipient of the Volunteer Service Award of Excellence this year.

The OMA says the Volunteer Service Award of Excellence is presented to individuals who have made a significant contribution to a museum or museums through volunteer work.

According to the release, Graeme Watson returned to his native Kingston after 17 years in the navy, and approached the Murney Tower Museum with an idea for an exhibit. Only a year later, and with no previous heritage experience, Graeme become Volunteer Director of the institution. The OMA say Graeme has shown unmatchable passion and dedication to the Murney Tower Museum ever since.

Graeme went above and beyond in this role, according to the release, dedicating countless hours to his multiple responsibilities, all while having a full-time job. His leadership was central to modernizing the Murney Tower Museum and to building connections with its community.

Graeme’s accomplishments include developing new policies and operational processes, designing a 5-year strategic plan, and securing funding to hire a formally trained curator, and instituting training programs for staff, according to the OMA. Notably, he led the Museum to stronger financial independence and viability by shifting a system that was primarily dependent on grants to one based on marketing strategy.

Building diversified partnerships with local and national organizations – such as Queen’s University and Parks Canada – was central to Graeme’s vision for the future of the Tower Museum. According to the release, Graeme’s proudest moment was when he developed an Indigenous display within the Tower, fulfilling the museum’s mandate towards greater inclusion of all local voices. Committed to excellence, he obtained a Certificate in Museum Studies at the Ontario Museum Association in 2018.

“Graeme exemplified leadership and innovation in helping to revamp and update the Murney Tower Museum,” says Marcus R. Letourneau, Managing Principal and Senior Heritage Planner at Letourneau Heritage Consulting. “Through countless volunteer hours, Graeme sought to place the museum on a new path… In my view, Graeme demonstrated the best of what one could expect from a volunteer leader and innovator, and his work is more than deserving of recognition.”

The OMA helps support Ontario’s museums to achieve their full potential in enriching people’s lives and helping build vibrant and engaged communities. The Awards of Excellence are an opportunity for the sector to recognize institutions and individuals who are leading the way in making this vision a reality, according to the release.

“In this challenging year, we are pleased to share the inspiring work of individuals and institutions who have contributed to a vibrant museum sector while serving their local communities,” said Marie G. Lalonde, Executive Director of the Ontario Museum Association. “The OMA Awards of Excellence are an opportunity to celebrate exemplary, innovative work by museums and museum professionals across Ontario, highlighting the positive impact that they can and do have in society.”

For more information on each of the recipients and their achievements, please visit the OMA website,

The Awards of Excellence videos can be found on the Ontario Museum Association’s YouTube channel,

About the Ontario Museum Association:
The Ontario Museum Association (OMA) strengthens capacity among institutions and individual’s active in Ontario’s museum sector, facilitates excellence and best practices, and improves the communication and collaboration of its membership. The OMA advocates for the important role of Ontario’s museums to society, working with all stakeholders, related
sectors and industries, and other professional organizations. Each year, millions of visitors to Ontario’s 700 community museums experience programs and exhibitions that tell our collective story and contribute to our identity and sense of place.

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