Archives Awareness Week – About the Oshawa Archives

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist
*This first appeared in the Oshawa Express in April 2012

From April 7 to 10, 2015, the Oshawa Community Archives is participating in Archives Awareness Week.  This annual event is designed to raise awareness of many resources that can be found in Ontario’s many archival collections.

What is an archives?  The dictionary defines an archives as:

  • Usually, archives: documents or records relating to the activities, business dealings, etc., of a person, family, corporation, association, community, or nation.
  • archives, a place where public records or other historical documents are kept.
  • any extensive record or collection of data: The encyclopedia is an archive of world history. The experience was sealed in the archive of her memory.
The Oshawa Community Archives, in Guy House
The Oshawa Community Archives, in Guy House

I thought I would take this opportunity to introduce the readers to the Oshawa Community Archives and some of the really interesting pieces we have in our collection.  The archives began in 1957 with the formation of the Historical Society.  The Historical Society was given the task of collecting items, be that clothing, photographs, furniture or documents that told the story of Oshawa’s history.  Today, that archival collection contains over 7000 photographs, over 100 rolls of microfilm and over 250 boxes filled with documents all related to the history of Oshawa.

A glimpse into the storage at the Oshawa Archives
A glimpse into the storage at the Oshawa Archives

With over 54 years worth of items collected, the Archives has been lucky enough to house some really fascinating pieces.  One of the items that I have found incredibly interesting, as well as fascinating, are a series of letters written by Pvt. William Garrow to his sisters Leah and Lillian from the front lines during WWI.  For me, these letters truly show the human side of the war and become that much more poignant when you realize that the dreams William writes about do not come to be, as sadly he killed in action in 1917.  For me it is ever more touching when further research shows that William was one of the 54000 British Empire soldiers who have no known grave.

William James Garrow Jr., from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
William James Garrow Jr., from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

The collection also is home to some really interesting medals that were created by the Joseph Hall Works.  At its peak of operation, around 1867, the company employed close to three hundred people producing all sorts of ironwork.  The medals were produced in 1883 and given out during the Knights of Labour Demonstration Parade, similarly to the way that candy canes are handed out at the Santa Claus Parade only much heavier as they are made of iron.

A988.9.1 - Joseph Hall Works / Knights of Labor Medallion
A988.9.1 – Joseph Hall Works Medallion

The Archives is also home to life-sized painting of Granny Harriet Cock, the first mother-in-law of Thomas Guy Jr.  The painting, which is about 6 feet high, was painted in England around 1840 and was brought to Canada in 1842.  The painting is permanently installed in the Verna Conant Gallery at Guy House.

The Harriet Cock portrait, on display in the Verna Conant Gallery
The Harriet Cock portrait, on display in the Verna Conant Gallery


Take this opportunity to visit the archives and see our collection.  I will also be available to assist answering questions and repairing any documents you may have in your personal archives.


Want to know more about the Oshawa Archives?  Check out this video, available on our YouTube Channel:

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