Student Museum Musings: Changing Seasons, Changing Exhibits

By Mia V., Archives Assistant

With the changing seasons also comes the changing of exhibits here at the Oshawa Museum. Uniquely Oshawa – an exhibit I’ve been working on together with curator Melissa and intern Dylan – is almost ready to be revealed in Robinson House. As the name suggests, this exhibit features many of the museum’s most inimitable and remarkable artefacts and the stories that go alongside them. From baseball to bread, Oshawa has innumerable objects and anecdotes to share.

This is the second exhibit I’ve worked on while at the museum, but it has been a very different experience from that of my first and main project. As I’ve shared in many of my previous blog posts, I’ve been working on the research and design for the exhibit Leaving Home, Finding Home in Oshawa: Displaced Persons and Stories of Immigration for the last two and a half years. The research began in 2016 as an oral history project and has taken many different turns since. Due to the unexpected postponement of the exhibit from spring of this year (coinciding with the first wave of the pandemic) to spring of next year (2021), many new opportunities for research have come up. Most recently, I’ve been continuing to dig deeper into the history of the Polish, Greek, and Italian immigration to Oshawa, connecting with individuals from each community in order to share their stories.

Check out the online exhibit “Oshawa Post-WWII: Resettling Displaced People” and read through some of the stories in the meantime!

Both exhibit experiences have truly given me invaluable experience and have made me realize that, while I love all areas of museum work, exhibitions may indeed be my favourite. This has been a very aptly-timed realization, since I have just begun my master’s program in museum studies at the University of Toronto. Discussing museums, even day-in and day-out, really cannot compare to getting to work with the artefacts themselves!

There are so many little things you start to notice when installing an exhibit that you otherwise simply wouldn’t have. For instance, you begin to second-guess if something is actually, in fact, maybe, just slightly crooked… Or, that, no, that placement is not quite right. I spent a fair amount of time debating the placement of three beautiful pieces of Smith Potteries, and then stepping back, and asking for a second and then a third opinion… I definitely think it was worth it, however.

The delicately painted black illustrations stand out beautifully against these two lamps and one vase of a deep red colour – they seem to come together to narrate a story all on their own. I see it as one of conflict and of homecoming. When you look at them, do you see the same kind of narrative? Or maybe you’re seeing another story emerging from their display… Or maybe you’re simply admiring their artistry!

In any case, I hope (and am pretty confident!) that you will enjoy Uniquely Oshawa and the exhibit coming next spring. Looking forward to seeing you when you make your trip down to the museum!

Putting together the sign wall was another highlight of helping to install this exhibit!

The Lowry Collection

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

In 1996, Marjorie Lowry donated a photograph album filled with amazing images of Lakeview Park in the late 1930s. The photographs are a glimpse into the lives of a group of friends who spent the summer of 1938 at the lake. They can be seen playing on the beach, joking around with one another and just enjoying Lakeview Park.

Lloyd and Bill White (A996.20.97)

What was Mrs. Lowry’s connection to the photograph album? The connection is the White family, specifically Lloyd White, who can be seen in numerous photographs throughout the album. Lloyd was Mrs. Lowry’s paternal uncle. There is a further connection to the Jubilee Pavilion , as Lloyd’s sister Ruth was once married to Owen McCrohan, proprietor of the pavilion during the time of the photographs.

Throughout the album, friends and members of the White family can be seen enjoying Lakeview Park and all the amenities the park offered. The album features photographs of bands who played at the Jubilee Pavilion, large picnics, and carnival rides. The majority of the photographs appear to be from the summer of 1938, just after Owen McCrohan and Tom Bouckley took over as proprietors of the Jube. It is a unique glimpse into the summer fun before the world faced war in 1939.

Ruth White with Owen McCrohan(A996.20.98a)

The album is not only a snapshot of Lakeview Park in the late 1930s but also a photographic snapshot of the White family. The photographs show Lloyd, his sister Ruth (not yet married to McCrohan), and his brothers Bruce and Bill (Mrs. Lowry’s father). The captions hint at some hard times in the family and also indicate that the Second World War would impact the family as we know for certain that Lloyd served overseas.

Personally, this photograph album is one of my favourites in the archives. I love the light-heartedness in the images. I thoroughly enjoy that this is one of the few photographic examples of the ethnic and racial diversity that has been a part of Oshawa for much of its history. Friendship, love, and fun are documented throughout the album, and that is why it is such a wonderful part of our archival collection.

Oak Crawford with The Tramp Band (A996.20.125)

Student Museum Musings – In My Own Backyard?

By Dylan C., Museum Management & Curatorship Intern

Being a resident of Whitby for the better part of 24 years, I have been encouraged through sport to view Oshawa as my rival, which has led to a rather lackluster attempt to learn what Oshawa has to offer. It wasn’t until recently, that life led me to discover the Oshawa Museum for my internship as part of Fleming College’s Museum Management and Curatorship program (MMC).

After only a couple weeks on site, I have gained a considerable amount of knowledge about Oshawa by exploring the waterfront trail and by learning the history of the harbour and the surrounding structures.

Although I have ventured into Oshawa via the waterfront trail from Whitby, or from riding near Oshawa Ice Sports after hockey, I never knew how extensive the trails were in Oshawa and how they bleed out into the city streets creating a somewhat hidden bike transit system. These trails are so extensive that Oshawa and the Durham region offer Cycle Tours. The Waterfront trail extends all the way to Toronto and easily connects to GO station stops. This network can provide residents of Oshawa with a greener alternative to their daily transit, at least in the warmer months of the year.

Both photos taken at Emma Street looking north to King, 1992 and 2016. The rail line is now the Michael Starr Trail

The museum has provided me with a platform to learn and explore Oshawa, but it also taught me how to explore. Without the direction from the museum I would not have known where to start my discovery of the city.

My Experience to Date

So far, the museum has been able to provide me with a wide range of experiences from photographing and cataloguing an archaeological collection, to providing supplementary research for an education program.  I have also been able to help install a Smith Potteries exhibit in Robinson House.

Smith Potteries Collection; Picture from Dylan C.

The archaeological dig was completed by Trent University Durham students in 2015 and uncovered 19th century waste pits surrounding Henry House. Cataloguing this archaeological collection has given me the opportunity to apply some of the skills I learned in the MMC program such as proper care and handling of artefacts, photographing, and detailed documentation practices. It has also provided me with insight into the life of the early inhabitants of the area by literally examining what was buried in their backyards. I’ve learned what animals they farmed and what items they had in their homes including ceramics, glass, nails and buttons. Handling these objects makes it easier to connect with the residents of the past because I am essentially documenting their garbage. The past owners did not bury these objects hoping that someone would dig them up 165 years later; they did it to simply discard their waste. For some reason this humanizes them more for me than even walking in their perfectly preserved homes. Perhaps, you can tell a lot about a person from their trash after all.

Cataloguing Station; Picture from Dylan C.

In the upcoming weeks I will be familiarizing myself with the museum’s database as I enter the information from the archaeological collection. I will also be working on a research project that explores the topic of audio transcriptions and engaging at-home volunteers. And lastly, I will be continuing my tour guide training as the museum adapts to the current COVID-19 regulations.

The Month That Was – October 1873

All posts originally appeared in the Ontario Reformer

October 3, 1873
Page 2
Gone from our Gaze – One Paul Horn, a tenant on Mr. Charles Farewell’s property, disappeared from this locality a few nights ago.  It seems that he was in debt to Mr. Farewell some three hundred dollars, and having sold his grains and surreptitiously disposed of his farming implements he slung his gentle hook for the land of Uncle Sam.  He leaves us a sorrowing creditor to the extent of two years subscription. “May jackasses sit on his uncle’s grace.”

Fire – an alarm of fire was sounded about midnight on Wednesday evening, and it appeared that a house situated on the north side of the town, was in flames.  It burned to the ground before anything could be done.  The loss will be about $600, Mr. Jas. Horn, of Whitby, being the owner of the building.  As it was unoccupied, it is supposed to be the work of an incendiary.

Scandal in Whitby – The county town is just now highly excited over what is known as the “Campbell difficulty.”  It seems that Mr. Robert Campbell, of the firm R & J Campbell, claims to have good grounds for accusing his wife of infidelity; alleging, it is said, to have found the partner of his happiness flagranti delicto.  Be that as it may he has a suit of crin. con. against her to come off at the Fall Assizes in Toronto. The lady (a daughter of the Rev. Peter Byne) on her part repudiates the charge, and has sued her spouse for $10,000 damages for defamation, the party of the third part also entering a similar action for a like amount.  On Wednesday 26th, Mr. Campbell forcibly ejected his wife from the home which he thinks she has disgraced, and on Tuesday last he was ‘np’ before the magistrates for that he did “assault, beat, ill-treat and drag her down stairs the said Eliza Maria” his wife.  The case is still pending.

October 3, 1873, page 2

October 17, 1873
Page 2
Runaway – a lively runaway occurred on Simcoe Street, on Wednesday morning. A horse belonging to Mr Western, cooper, started for some unknown locality in a southerly direction from Fowke’s Corner.  Luckily for the driver, who had lost control of the brute, he was stopped by Mr. T. Lawless before any damage was done.

Thanksgiving Day – The Ontario Government have issued a proclamation ordering Thursday, 6th November prox. To be observed throughout this Province as a day of Thanksgiving.  We believe all religious denominations in this Village will hold their annual thanksgiving services on that day, and so afford a public opportunity of returning thanks to the Author of all our Bounties in a manner befitting a Christian community.

October 17, 1873, page 2

October 24, 1873
Page 2
Hard on the cow – Rumor saith that an Oshawa butcher killed a cow the other day, belonging to another man,  It was a case of mistaken identity, of course, but a sad mistake for the cow.

Education in Ontario – The High Schools of this County take high rank among the schools of this Province, as judged from the results the recent Examination this speaks highlight for the efficiency of the teachers.

Accident – On Monday last a little boy, a son of Mr. John Barnard, merchant, met with a painful accident while playing on the verandah of his father’s house.  By some mischance he fell, breaking the outer bone of the small part of the right leg. Under care of Dr. Coburn he is progressing favorably.

The Agnes Wallace Troupe – This troupe played to full houses here on Friday and Saturday evenings last, notwithstanding adverse weather on the latter night.  They created a most favourable impression, and proved themselves worthy of the reputation they have earned as one of the best troupes travelling.  They will receive a cordial welcome if they should return again.

October 24, 1873, page 2

October 31, 1873
Page 3
Hallowe’en – This evening will be the anniversary of All Halloween, and great will be the strife between cabbage and cabbageheads.  We trust the bhoys won’t perpetuate any tricks of a serious nature, but we would not interfere with innocent sport; they are welcome to all the vegetables in our neighbours’ cabbage gardens.

Reflections on “Ask a Curator Day”

By Melissa Cole, Curator

You might be asking, what exactly is “Ask a Curator” day?  It started a decade ago with the intention of giving the public access to experts who work in museums, galleries, and heritage sites through the use of social media.  Initially the event started on Twitter; since then it has extended to Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and more.

From the first year this online event started, it has proven to be popular, attracting cultural, heritage, and science institutions from across the world! 

Here are a few questions that were asked and my responses!  If you wish to view the Facebook Live event you can view it on the Oshawa Museum’s Facebook Page.

What COVID-19 artefact do you think will fascinate people 100 years from now? And why?

The inspiring move when local breweries stopped beer production and turned over to making hand sanitizer to help fight COVID-19.  Initially, All or Nothing Brewhouse in Oshawa started producing exclusively for local hospitals, front-line emergency workers, and major utility companies.  A can of All or Nothing Brewhouse’s Hand Sanitizer was the first COVID-19 related object to be acquired for the Oshawa Museum’s collection.

What’s the weirdest thing in your collection?

I can’t focus on just one artefact in particular, but rather a collection of artefacts.  I have two collections which many may find weird, but they are also fascinating!  Our Farewell Cemetery Collection which contains coffin jewellery, the decorative hardware used on coffins. 

The other collection is our extensive medical collection, which was used a few different doctors in the Oshawa community prior to the opening of the hospital; when surgeries took place in the home, a kitchen table would have made a great make-shift operating table.  Many of the instruments resemble the tools that are still used today but there are a few which have thankfully…changed with the times. 

Do you have a particular Henry Family member that you like best?

The youngest child of Thomas and Lurenda is Jennie (Lorinda Jane) Henry.  I have been fortunate to meet her granddaughter, who spent time in Jennie Henry’s home when she resided on Agnes Street (I said Elgin Street during our Facebook live).  She shared stories with me about the home and has donated various items related to Jennie and her husband, John Luke McGill. 

Have you ever broken an artefact?

Yes I have, and of course it was an artefact that once belonged to Thomas Henry, of Henry House.  I broke his tea cup accidently because it had been left in a hutch that was being moved.  Many of the large furniture pieces in Henry House are used to store smaller items such as china cups and saucers, other chinaware, stoneware, vases, glassware, and many other artefacts related to the household.  Fortunately, I was able to repair the china cup because of my collection care training that was provided the Museum Management and Curatorship program offered through Fleming College.     

Curator advice: MAKE SURE ALL ARTEFACTS ARE REMOVED EBFORE MOVING A HUTCH!

What is your favourite tool?

I have three tools….beside my computer that assist me greatly with my work on exhibitions and with collections.  My squeegee tool, measuring tape (make sure to measure three times), and 3M Command Strips that have saved so many wall repairs.  The walls of Robinson House thank us each time we use them because the walls in this house are made from lath and plaster.