Once Upon A Time

By: Karen Albrecht, Visitor Host 

Some people say a picture is worth a thousand words, but here at the Oshawa Community Museum our stories are priceless. If you have ever visited the museum you will understand what I mean, if not then let me tell you how we make Oshawa’s history come to life.

The houses of the Oshawa Community Museum
The houses of the Oshawa Community Museum

I began volunteering at The Oshawa Community Museum (OCM) up until this summer when I was taken on as an Occasional Visitor Host.  This summer I learned Oshawa’s past through shadowing tours and giving tours. The most important aspect I learned from watching tours and giving tours, is that no two tour guides are alike. For, each tour guide delivers a tour their own way and each guide modifies their tour depending on age and group size. All of these conditions (age, group size etc.) allow guides to give special personalized tours that are relevant to you and your group.

Starting at Robinson house tour guides will tell you the story of John Robinson, a cobbler,  who lived in Oshawa with his wife and children, and it was his children that ultimately called Robinson House their home.  Upon entering the house guests will enter rooms which all have different exhibits in them. From this unique set up of different exhibits throughout the house, guests will always find that even after their 3rd or 4th visit they are still learning about Oshawa’s past.

Karen inside Henry House
Karen inside Henry House

Henry House (my favourite house), comes next. In this house the story of Thomas Henry and his family come alive. What surprised me and still surprises me, is that every tour guide tells a different story of the Henry’s and their home. From a family with many children,  to ghosts, to sleeping beauty and her spinning wheel, guests will never know what information they are going to learn.

The best part of the job is hearing from all of the wonderful guests! While on tour guests and guides discuss not only Oshawa’s history but also the history of their life in Oshawa. This personal connection makes everyone feel comfortable and, in my opinion,  gets your tour guide talking. For example, when I took a tour of an older couple through Henry house they kept mentioning how they have antiques in their house that resemble the ones in Henry house. Being curious I asked about them and shared my own grandparents background with them. My grandparents live in an old farm house just north of Port Perry, and they too have many antiques.

My best advice I can give to any new visitors would be to ask as many questions as possible and make connections that your tour guide can reflect on. If you are a returning guest, then simply inquire about the little details; you will learn lots of new information that adds on to what you already know.

Photo by L. Bazowsky
Photo by L. Bazowsky

It does not matter if you have been to the OCM once, never or a hundred times, the stories always change. From my little experience I’ve heard various  tours which highlight various information. That’s why the OCM is my favourite place to come learn about Oshawa’s past. No matter how many times you have visited the museum, once upon a time… always changes.


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