By Mia V., Oral History Project Student
Hello everyone. I’m Mia, one of the summer students here at the Oshawa Museum. I have presently finished my second year at the University of Toronto, majoring in socio-cultural anthropology and history while minoring in French. Since learning about different cultures and eras of history has been a passion of mine ever since I can remember, I have naturally always gravitated toward museums. Being on the other side of the museum experience – helping to bring the history the museum offers to the wider public – is something I’m very glad to be able to do, not least because it is something I want to continue to pursue once I finish my studies.
In taking on the role of Oral History Project Coordinator, I have focused a lot of my time on familiarizing myself with the museum’s ongoing Displaced Persons project. The aim of the project is to collect and preserve the memories of individuals who immigrated to Canada and Oshawa after the Second World War – from those people themselves or from those that knew them. In continuing this research so far, I have compiled some of the stories and artifacts into online exhibits for a website I’ve created. In comparing the similar experiences of people’s accounts, I feel that I’m getting a better feel for this time period of history than I ever could otherwise. I am so pleased to be able to work on such an important and genuinely fulfilling project, as I am convinced that these are stories that need to be told and ones that will continue to resonate with so many people.
To continue to talk about my experience at the museum so far, I must point out the people – the staff who have been so welcoming, as well as the visitors that come in. It’s great to work with people who are so clearly passionate about what they do and, with the new faces that come in every day, there has certainly hardly been a dull moment. As such, I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to tour people through the houses, including the children that come through! It was quite something to put on a Victorian dress and guide groups of kindergarten kids through Henry House. You never know who among them will grow up to be history lovers, too! Although I was initially just a bit apprehensive about what it would be like to lead a tour, I have since learned so much about what it is to engage people with history. The chance to give tours is now already one of my favourite things to do here at the museum.
Additionally, I have enjoyed learning about the history of Oshawa, since I didn’t know very much local history until now. I have a particular fondness for the First Nations exhibit in Robinson House, which tells of the communities who made their homes in Oshawa as early as the 15th century. This exhibit puts the scope of Oshawa’s history into perspective for me – enabling me to visualize the layers upon layers of history that can be uncovered. I also love touring people through this floor, as so many are just pleased as I am to see the way the exhibit is set up (with the interior of a longhouse!) and to learn more about this piece of Oshawa’s past.
Given that each day differs to the next, I am looking forward to what the rest of summer will bring.