New curator has a passion for history

Alex Gates poses with his favorite car, Lady Eaton’s 1912 Rolls Royce in the museum.


Alex Gates is formerly from Iowa but fell in love with history and museum work, which saw him move to Canada for school and his career as a curator. He recently took on the role of curator at the Canadian Automotive Museum.


Gates attended Drake University for International Relations and History and later went to the University of Toronto for Museum Studies.


It was at Drake University when he volunteered at a museum and realized he enjoyed it.


“I ended up really liking the field, the people and subject matter,” says Gates.


While at his previous curator job at the North Berrien Historical Museum, Gates received a state history award for his work on an exhibit featuring women in baseball. He describes it as his proudest moment so far.


“It’s on why as neutral and as popular as baseball is, it’s still a very gender specific sport and girl’s don’t play baseball. It’s a huge national pastime in the world. It’s really interesting to me working with that,” says Gates.


The exhibit was the first of its kind to really look into the history of baseball and how males dominated while women played softball. The exhibit featured memorabilia as well as women’s stories of their professional careers in baseball.


Gates is now moving away from sports and towards cars.


The Canadian Automotive Museum in Downtown Oshawa.


He started at the Canadian Automotive Museum as Curator in July of this year but he is already completely involved with it.


“I personally relate better to objects than to books in terms of history. All objects have stories and that’s the fun part,” says Gates. “A lot of these cars evoke memories of celebrities, famous people…so it’s kind of fun to use what we have.”


Gates goes to work from 9 a.m. until well into the evening. When he is not busy with customers in the museum, he researches information and plans new ways to improve the museum.


Gates is a lover of history, story telling and objects that have great stories. He has great plans for the museum and works all day researching and developing new ideas to keep the museum fresh.


“You want to tell a consistent story when people come in. Looking forward another 50 years, where do we want to go? Where do we want to be and what community do we want to serve?” says Gates.


Gates is currently in a research phase for improving the museum. By next year he would like to have a five-year plan developed.


Gates looks forward to building the museum up to make it more interactive.


“Offering more tours for example. I found people really respond well when they are talking to someone about cars because they are very personal things and people have different levels of knowledge and experience,” says Gate.


He explained tours, are another way of adding information without adding too many words.


He said the museum won’t add technology-based interaction but will offer more tours to start conversations with people and keep them interested.


“Everyone comes in with their own history,” he says. “Everyone has their own perspective of the collection when they see it.”


Gates is a busy person but he loves what he does.


“I just work all the time. I used to have hobbies. I just like to relax after work.”


Gates jokes about his life goals.


“Retire early but I’d probably still volunteer here,” he says.


There’s a lot he loves about the museum, after all.


His favourite car in the museum right now is Lady Eaton’s car.


“If I could just keep one [car.] One of the most interesting artifacts would be Lady Eaton’s 1912 Rolls Royce,” said Gates. “I like that car because it’s the only one in the collection really where the originally owner is someone who is noteworthy.”