When visitors arrive at our museum, most likely the first person they meet is Micheal. With his deep roots in Sointula as a fifth-generation descendant of the island’s original settlers, Micheal brings a unique and personal touch to every interaction. His extensive knowledge of the island’s history and the museum’s collection, paired with his years of experience, makes him an invaluable resource for guests. Having spent all 23 years of his life in Sointula, Micheal’s connection to the community and its heritage is both genuine and insightful.

Get to know Micheal a little more by reading our interview with him below:

Above photo: A young Micheal repping the iconic Sointula hoodie.

What do you like or enjoy most about living on Malcolm Island/Sointula?

The lifestyle. There’s enough events and get-together’s within the community, that you never feel unfulfilled, and at the same time, there’s not so much going on that you either have to miss out, or drain your social battery. It’s a perfect pace and place for a person like me.

What got you interested in working at the Sointula Museum?

Initially it was due to the efforts of the Museum volunteers when I was about 11, Sue Ness to be specific. She invited me to help with the Remembrance Day teas and other events for a couple years and got my “foot in the door”, so-to-speak. Sometime after that, the Museum was able to give me my first job, as their summer student for 2 seasons. During high school I spent most of my summer’s commercial fishing, and stopped being involved with the Museum as a result. Thankfully, I was able to take part in a research and archival project during the pandemic that re-kindled my interest, and has driven me to be involved with the Museum ever since.

Can you describe a typical day in your role as museum coordinator?

I arrive about 30 minutes before opening time to make sure the Museum is clean, the items in the gift shop are stocked, and to tackle any paperwork necessary for the day. During open hours I run the reception desk, introducing people to the community’s history and giving them a jumping off point to interpret the collection. I also handle any inquiries made by guests, or from people calling the Museum phone. At the end of the day I do cash-out, and update our visitor and financial statistics, as-well as prep for the upcoming day. 

What has been the most rewarding part of your experience working at the museum so far?

Learning about the history of the community that I grew up in, and still live in. It’s been beyond fulfilling to begin to understand how and why this town was started, and the factors that influenced its progression and development. I also find it deeply rewarding on a personal level, my family arrived in Sointula in 1902, and learning about the circumstances and events they lived through has given me a much deeper understanding of where I come from.

What is your favourite exhibit or artifact in the Sointula Museum and why?

Photograph #377, It is a hand-tinted aerial photo of the town site taken in 1927. A few buildings visible are still standing and in use today, the Finnish Organization Hall and my family home are among them. The most striking part of the photograph for me however is the forest behind the town; the damage from the forest fire that occurred in 1925 is still visible and how close it burned to some of the houses continues to shock me. 

Can you share a memorable interaction you’ve had with a museum visitor?

I had a woman come through the museum with her kids in my first year as summer coordinator; she had brought her family tree with her and was looking for information about her ancestors and relatives. During our conversation she mentioned that her Great-Grandmother “Lempi” had grown up here with 4 siblings, and that parts of the family were still on the island. The uniqueness of this interaction was revealed to me when I looked at her family tree, it was my family tree as well, published about 5 years prior by my cousin Pat, who was also in the Museum as a volunteer that day. Through our conversations we were able to confirm we share Great-Great-Grandparents in John and Ida Tynjala, and learn about branches of our family that none of us had personally interacted with before. I’ve had a few other instances of meeting unknown relatives through the Museum but this one was the first, and continues to be the most memorable.