The History of Oshawa

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

The Oshawa Museum is the only museum in Oshawa whose mandate is to tell the history of the Oshawa community, from early Indigenous inhabitation to today.  We tell these stories through a variety of means such as blog posts, onsite and online exhibits, podcasts and publications focused on original research.

This fall we are beginning the process of a new publication that will focus on telling a history of Oshawa unlike previous local history books.  A book on Oshawa’s history isn’t a new idea; there are have been several publications over the years.  One of the earliest books looking into the history of the area is Thomas Conant’s Upper Canada Sketches, which looks at early history of the Province as a whole, while giving readers glimpses into Oshawa’s early history. Books by Dr. Kaiser and Dr. Hoig continue to be used as starting places for citizens researching the early history of our community.  The most recent look at Oshawa’s history as a whole was not all that recent.  In 1967, the Oshawa Public Library published a book called Oshawa: The Crossing Between The Waters, authored by McIntyre Hood.

Each of these books are helpful for gaining general knowledge of Oshawa’s early history, but they are outdated and narrow in their focus. The goal of this new publication is to widen the focus, and tell the history that was not included in these earlier books. The new publication will look further into topics such as labour history in Oshawa, women’s history and include a more ethnically and racially diverse history, one that more closely resembled Oshawa’s population. This new book on Oshawa’s history is another step in our work to challenge the traditional narrative and present a more inclusive history of our community.

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1937 GM Strike, demonstration at Memorial Park

Funding for a Research and Project Coordinator to take the lead on the project was secured through a Young Canada Works Internship Grant.  This grant allows recent graduates the opportunity to gain experience in their field of work, while also providing the resources for sites such as the Oshawa Museum to hire. This is our second internship grant through Young Canada Works.  Last fall, the grant program provided funding to hire another Research and Project Coordinator; the result of that internship was our newest publication To Cast A Reflection, published in the spring of 2018.

I look forward to working on this project and to further challenge what we thought was our history.

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