Shannon Price: 25 Years as Curator of the Buxton NHS and Museum

Shannon Prince has announced her retirement from the Buxton Museum and NHS after 25 years as the site’s curator. A sixth-generation descendant of the Buxton settlement, and an engaged member of the community, Shannon Prince has always been entrenched in the history of Buxton.

Also known as the Elgin settlement, Buxton was first established in 1849 by Reverend William King, and was one of the last stops of the Underground Railroad.[1] In 1999, Prince became curator of the site, the same year it was designated as a National Historic Site. The site includes buildings from the original settlement and a museum which houses invaluable collections, including King’s diary and an original printing press belonging to Mary Ann Shadd Cary.

Buxton Settlement National Historic Site, Merlin ON

Over the years as curator, Prince has witnessed many changes. “When I first started there was the odd visitor, but over the years we have seen a huge increase of visitors. Student groups are coming from across the border, from Philadelphia, Kentucky, California.” Prince notes that particularly in the last few years, with the mainstream coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement marked by the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, there has been a resurgence in Black History. This is reflected in the recent announcement that Black History will become a mandatory aspect of Ontario’s school curriculum.[2] “People want to know the full story,” says Prince “and now with the new minister mandate, people have been calling.”

Not only has she seen an increase in incoming visitors. During her time as curator, Prince has shared the history of Buxton with partners near and far, including Millersville University, the Underground Railroad Freedom Centre in Cincinnati, and the US Parks Service.

Over the years Prince’s work has been recognized by many awards and honors, including an Honorary doctorate from the University of Windsor and most recently, in 2023, when Prince and her husband were appointed to the Order of Canada for their contributions to the history of the Underground Railroad. Despite her many achievements, for Prince, it has always been about the people: “Everyone who walks through that door has made me a better person wholly…when I can see the elation in visitors faces, when I can help them make those personal family connections, a piece of the puzzle they’ve been looking for, that’s when I know I’m where I’m supposed to be.”

Despite retiring as curator, Prince “hasn’t gone far.” True in more ways than one, Prince now serves as the Chair of the Museum’s board and continues to play an active role in the museum’s programming. What’s more, the museum is just down the road from Prince’s residence, where she is happy to assist the museum’s newest curator, Michelle Robbins, as she steps into this new role.

“I’m just so fortunate to be able to add a chapter in that incredible book that my ancestors had left for us and so now it’s up to that next generation to add their chapter, and the generation after.”


[1] Prince, Shannon. “Elgin Settlement.”  The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. Article published March 22, 2021; Last Edited April 23, 2021.