Opening up our Collection to the Digital World

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

A common saying among staff at the Oshawa Community Museum is that our Museum is one of Oshawa’s best kept secrets.  People in the community either know about us and have visited, they have heard of us, or, surprisingly, some people were not aware that Oshawa had a Museum.  I love being able to tell people about the Oshawa Museum, who we are and what we do.  When you love your job, it’s easy to rave about it.

I love sharing with our visitors that they are touring through Oshawa’s oldest Museum.  Henry House first opened as a stand-alone Historic House Museum in 1960; by 1985, the Museum expanded to three historic buildings all standing on their original foundations.  This means that we have been actively collecting the history of the City of Oshawa for over 50 years.

Textile storage on the upper floor of Henry House.  Behind every closed door is storage space!

Textile storage on the upper floor of Henry House. Behind every closed door is storage space!

When our visitors are on tour, only a fraction of the collection is on display, and behind closed doors, we have storage for the material history of Oshawa.  Feature exhibitions, like Tales from the Tracks: The Oshawa Street Railway (2013), Lights, Cameras, Lenses: A JourneyThrough the History of Photography (2010), and Mourning After: A Victorian Celebration of Death (2009 and upcoming 2015) provide us the opportunity to tell stories from Oshawa’s past and highlight the artifacts and photographs that help tell the story.

Mourning clothing on display in 2009.  The Mourning After will return in Spring 2015.

Mourning clothing on display in 2009. The Mourning After will return in Spring 2015.

Our collection contains over 25,000 objects and over 10,000 photographs.  While it is completely unfeasible to have everything on display for visitors to see, the internet and social media has made it possible to open our collection in several creative ways.

Firstly, if you haven’t explored our online database, I highly recommend checking it out.  This resource has made it possible to share portions of our collection to a wide audience.  You can search for objects or photographs using the various search functions, but I like clicking the ‘Random Images’ tab, and I’m frequently surprised by what images or objects will be displayed. Visit http://oshawa.pastperfect-online.com to explore this resource.

Oshawa Museum Virtual Collections

Oshawa Museum Virtual Collections

The Oshawa Museum has been active on Facebook and Twitter for over 5 years, and we use these resources to share interesting facts and information, but also to share our collection.  On the last Wednesday of the month, Curator Melissa Cole posts a ‘What is it Wednesday’ on Facebook, sharing images of unusual artifacts and encouraging our fans to guess what it might be.  Photographs from Archivist Jennifer Weymark’s collection make for perfect Twitter content, sharing #WinterWednesday and #SummerSunday images.  Archival photographs also made excellent #ThrowbackThursday content for our Instagram account.  Jennifer and Melissa also share their collection through a monthly podcast series, accessible from our YouTube Channel.

A salt cellar, our What is it Wednesday for January 2015

A salt cellar, our What is it Wednesday for January 2015

Finally, this blog and other blogs we maintain, have provided us a forum to share information about artifacts, documents,  and photographs from our collection.  As well, by sharing stories from Oshawa’s past, about people, buildings or businesses, we’re able to use images to help illustrate those stories.  Along with our main blog (this page), we also maintain:

Our mandate is to preserve and actively promote Oshawa’s history, and the world wide web and social media has made it possible to achieve this mandate on a much larger scale.

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