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Taunton Old Colony Historical Museum has service dog Jean Luc Barkard

TAUNTON – Jean Luc Barkard, “companion dog” at the Old Colony History Museum in Taunton, now knows that being a companion dog is no different from being a house dog, and the job is just as simple: eating treats, attracting attention, making new friends, sniffing around dozing during down time.

Some service dogs have real jobs, but not Jean Luc… not really.

“There was an article in the Boston Globe about the MFA,” says Katie MacDonald, museum director and owner of Jean Luc. “They hired a dog that can actually detect insects in their collection storage. He’s trained for it.

“We thought we had the best companion dog, but this one has a really functional job.”

Former Colony History Museum director Katie MacDonald holds service dog Jean Luc at the Former Colony History Museum on Monday, March 14.

No, Jean Luc can’t sniff out insects in the collections of the former colony’s history museum, hunt burglars at night, or direct visitors, but he has a puzzle of his stylized image in patriotic attire at sell in the OCHM gift shop.

And it is listed on the OCHM staff page.

A job is a job is a job.

The staff dog position was full time and Jean Luc was at the museum most days before COVID. Like everyone else, Jean Luc’s schedule has been disrupted during the pandemic. As the schedule continues to change and things get back to normal, MacDonald says Jean Luc will be in attendance more and more.

“Jean Luc came with me just, kind of, because he can,” MacDonald said. “We are a small office and we all love dogs. He mostly hangs out in the office with me during the day. Before, he came every day, now there is only one a week.

Jean Luc the staff dog at the Old Colony History Museum on Monday, March 14, 2022.

He only occasionally mixes with guests, but frequent visitors to the museum know he’s there. And museum staff, like curator Bronson Michaud, and volunteers are generally enamored with the friendly pup.

“He usually just runs here,” MacDonald said. “He’s a good entry point for board members coming forward and our volunteers know him well. He trained everyone. Most people come with a treat in their pocket… he trained them all to bring him something, so yeah, he’s pretty spoiled.

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“He’s pretty good at hanging around the office, we don’t just let him run around because not everyone wants to have a little dog at their feet, but certainly people who stop know he’s there and will say hello. and he made a few appearances at some events.

MacDonald describes Jean Luc as “an Alabama rescue dog”, about 50% Boston terrier with some Jack Russell terrier, Yorkshire terrier and dachshund mixed in. Fittingly, he came up with the name Fenway when MacDonald and her husband Mike adopted him at just 4 months old. He arrived in the Northeast with two brothers in tow; one settled nearby in Taunton and the other found a home in Rhode Island.

Old Colony History Museum staff dog Jean Luc plays with museum curator Bronson Michaud and museum director Katie MacDonald on Monday, March 14.

“So I was pushing for the dog at home and my husband, Mike, when he finally agreed, suggested the name, which is technically Jean Luc Barkard, in honor of Star Trek’s Captain Jean Luc Picard. I got the win and thought that was funny, so here we go. Compromise is everything.

Although COVID has ruined the fun of daily visits to the museum, MacDonald says Jean Luc will “probably “go back to work” more and more in the days to come, pandemic permitting. And museum staff talked about ways to use their presence and personality to put a face to the museum, boost educational programming and inspire young visitors.

“He’s like the size of a kid, so we often talk about what he sees, that’s what a kid might see. We talked about trying to wrap this stuff up and tie it to a few things. Yes, he is quite well known.

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MacDonald says Jean Luc is just one example of how the Oid Colony History Museum has changed in recent years, moving to a more modern approach and relaxed ambience in a bid to attract more visitors and expand programming.

Education, “on all fronts,” MacDonald says, is a big part of the museum’s identity in 2022 and beyond, with in-house programs for students of all ages, visits to local schools, and now , in the wake of the pandemic , virtual style events and offers.

Inside the Taunton Old Settlement History Museum is this fire engine, which was salvaged by the Taunton Fire Service.  It was used in parades for years before being donated to the museum.

“My philosophy is ‘you don’t have to love history to have a good time here,'” she explained. “We have a giant puzzle downstairs, we have an interactive exhibit, we have craft days and paint nights, we have beer with Bronson, it’s like you walk in, he talks to you and you drink a beer.

“So if that’s the most exciting part, great. We actually think if we can get you here and show you things, we can teach you something, and that will be interesting. That’s our philosophy. overall, I think.

In 2014, museum staff and volunteers developed a plan to modernize and brighten the space, revamp the collections, and create themed exhibits reflecting the former settlement region, an area “stretching from Rehoboth to Provincetown and from Scituate to Dartmouth”. and dates back to 1639, according to the OCHM website.

Full realization of the plan was halted by COVID, but since 2014 walls have been painted, new lights installed, and exhibits redesigned.

“I think what we do better than people expect is that we have a really excellent and nationally recognized collection in a number of different areas. For over 160 years we’ve been quoted in academic articles and journals – and we’re currently working on new things – so what we have is from pre-contact history, so Native American history, history of Wampanoag to some extent…

“But also some very old pieces of houses – windows, plates and tools and that sort of thing. Taunton was an early community, an important early community, so we’re trying to capture that.

Taunton and beyond

“We don’t just do Taunton,” MacDonald said. “The Old Colony is the area that was once Plymouth Colony. We’re centered on Taunton because we’re in Taunton, but we talk a bit about Plymouth and the Taunton River runs the length of the Southeastern Mass, so we’re trying to link to other stories in the area.

“As King Philip’s war is a great war. If you read about it in your textbook in school, we can show you some of the things from that time and tell you about some of the things that happened.

The second-floor exhibit area is divided into categories, including Native American life, early settler life, industry, transportation, and society. A new room showcasing the military collection is located just off the main wing, and in the adjacent room is a brand new exhibit that shows some of the foundations of American life over the centuries, particularly from 1750 to 1850 to 1950, using furniture, clothing, an 1800s piano and a 1950s television console.

“It’s really just a big, interconnected story that we’re trying to tell more people about because the story isn’t just in Boston or New York, and we have some really interesting stuff as well.

Library a treasure trove for genealogical research

“One of the museum’s most popular resources is a reference library with hundreds of years of local records and information about families and residents of the area.

Michaud says the library is accessible to the public by appointment, or museum staff can be called upon to undertake specific research projects.

He says things have been complicated over the past century, for a variety of reasons, but before the 1900s official records are plentiful and research often proves rewarding.

“A lot of the research we do here, which you can make an appointment for, is genealogical research,” says Michaud. “Using the sources we have between vital records, town records, church records, cemetery records and published family histories, we can find almost everyone before 1900, possibly 1905.

“People usually book research appointments and they can work one-on-one with me, or if they can’t show up, we offer a courier research program where they can pay an hourly rate for that I research their name using all the sources in our collection.

Of course, there is so much more to see and learn. And while you’re there, maybe you’ll come across Jean Luc the sheepdog. Prepare a treat.

Taunton Daily Gazette editor Jon Haglof can be contacted at [email protected] Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Taunton Daily Gazette today.