By Laura Suchan, Executive Director
The Oshawa Historical Society is celebrating 60 years of presenting the history of Oshawa. Throughout the year we have been taking a look back at what we have accomplished, assessing where we are now and creating a vision for what our future will look like. We consider the three historically designated buildings the most important artefacts in our collection, however they do present some challenges with regards to the scope of programming we can offer. The physical limitations of the three heritage buildings are reflected most acutely in two areas: a severe lack of programming space which restricts the number of participants in our events and the kinds of events we can host, and a lack of suitable exhibit space to accommodate our collections and travelling exhibits.
In 1996 Sears & Russell completed a Facility Study of the Oshawa Museum (OM) and concluded:
“The existing structures do not fully support the OSMA’s [OM’s] current curatorial, programming and administrative activities. The artifact and archival collections storage facilities are totally inadequate in terms of spatial requirements, accessibility, security and environmental conditions. Both permanent and temporary exhibits are limited by space and environmental conditions. Educations and other public programs are restricted by size and other demands on the program room in Guy House. The administrative area, also in Guy House, is overcrowded. There are no curatorial work areas, and the archival area is inadequate and inappropriate.” (Sears & Russell Feasibility Study, pg. 45).
In 2016, the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) was engaged by the Board of Directors to conduct a facility assessment which concluded that the OM, in partnership with the City of Oshawa, are managing the preservation risks to the Museum collection despite limited resources within heritage facilities that are not well designed for the purpose. The recommendation was to:
“Consolidate collections in new, purpose-designed collection spaces. Lack of space is a key constraint for all Oshawa Museum activities, putting existing collections at risk of damage and restricting future collection of Oshawa’s heritage. Oshawa Museum staff have exhausted options for using historic spaces efficiently; therefore, new space is needed.” (CCI: Oshawa Museum Facilities Assessment Final Report, December 2016, pg. 11.)
Furthermore the CCI review noted “the key recommendation of the 1996 Sears & Russell master plan is even more pertinent today, twenty years later.” (CCI: Oshawa Museum Facilities Assessment Final Report, December 2016, pg. 44).
The Board of Directors is committed to providing space and facilities that are both aesthetically pleasing and effective in preserving and interpreting Museum collections and can perform these functions efficiently and sustainably. To provide the best conditions for our collection, improved visitor experience and better community engagement, the Board of Directors has decided to move forward with plans for a facilities expansion project.
What Does this Mean to the Oshawa Museum/Oshawa Historical Society?
Our Curator, Melissa Cole, looks at our current facility and the challenges we face in this video, accessible HERE from our YouTube Channel.