Shacka do do! Ohh! What is Savannah up to? Oh, probably nothing

By Savannah Sewell, Registrar

I know lots of you have been wondering: what is Savannah up to?

Well, let me tell you… A lot of staring a photos of unknown people while accessioning a variety of collections.

The most recent being the MacGregor Collection which was donated to the Oshawa Museum in 2021. The MacGregor Collection is a variety of photos and documents that were collected over many generations of the MacGregor and Burr family.

A021.11.1.107
 Ivy Burr
Athol St. W.
Oshawa, Ontario

When a collection such as this is donated to the museum, there are limited details about the family, names, and addresses. The MacGregor collection was fortunately donated with some historical land deeds and mortgage documents, school photos, yearbooks, and enough contextual information that the mapping of the majority of the family was simple, albeit timely.

It is my first time working in an archival role, and as such, honestly I was a little lost in how to proceed when this collection landed in my lap. So, as I navigated it, I tried to keep in mind that however it was accessioned into the archive, it needed to be accessible for future researchers. I had to ensure that if a family member or future historian wanted to piece together what I had, in less time, I had to make sure that the archival decisions were intuitive.

A021.11.25
 Form CII – Oshawa High School
C. September 16, 1919
Belonging to Ivy (nee. Burr) MacGregor 

Here, I will detail the steps that I took to organize and make sense of the collection and why I made the choices that I did.

Timeline

Step 1: Lay out donated collection

During this step I ensured that I had the groups of documents and photos all laid out so that I would be able to see all of the elements together. The box that the documents came in did not have any particular organizational elements, so I wanted to ensure that I didn’t miss any patterns by being disorganized.

A021.11.23
 Ivy Burr’s high school diploma – Oshawa High School 1918

After the documents were all laid out, I created four smaller collections to make working through the large amount of documents easier. I separated the photos, the legal documents, the yearbooks, and “other” and started with the photos.

Step 2: Identify Group Photos

Some of the photos had dates, names, and captions written on the photo itself; if that was the case then the images could be grouped together. There were also several images that did not have a caption, but others that had clearly been taken on the same day or trip, so they could be grouped. Other images could be identified by individuals in them, locations, outfits, or by occasion. I did my best to group people, families, locations, and similar photos so that when searching the collection, it would be simple to navigate space and time.

A021.11.21
 Acta Ludi (O.C.V.I. Yearbook) C.1953-1954

Step 3: Organizing and labeling

The images were transferred to an easily accessible album; each image was numbered, the caption or writing written in printing (because some of the cursive was difficult to read), and placed in order.

Step 4: Finding Aid Document

When documents are accessioned in the permanent archive they can be difficult to find. I created a finding table that corresponds to the image accession numbers, the captions, notes/research, people in the image, and tag words for the virtual archive system.

Step 5: Ancestry

In order to better understand the individuals in the image and the names on the documents, I used the museum’s ancestry.com account to map the family for four generations. It certainly cleared up a lot of confusion, especially considering there were FOUR individuals with the exact same name!

Step 6: Scanning

The documents and images were scanned to add them to the museum’s digital archival database.

Step 7: Finding a home

The final step to accessioning the collection is finding a permanent home for all of the documents. Each was appropriately labelled in the finding aid with its permanent location, whether an archival box, a drawer, or within the yearbook collection.

Questions and Concerns

Even though there was lots of information available from the donation, there are portions that cannot be taken any further than how they came in. For example, these images of Gwendolyn Vera Baker. In the portrait shown here Gwendolyn is 2 years and 6 months old, which is written on the cardboard frame of the image.

A021.11.1.51
 Gwendolyn Vera Baker
2 years + 6 months

I have not been able to find the connection between the Baker family and our MacGregor/Burr family. However, there could be several explanations as to why this little girl’s image was saved in the family’s photo collection. Think of your own photo albums – they could be filled with friends, coworkers, or even neighbours.

A021.11.1.52
 Little Gwen smelling our morning glories when half grown.

This second photo’s caption is “Little Gwen smelling our morning glories when half grown.” I have accessioned these photos beside each other in this collection, assuming a relationship between the two and that the same child, named Gwen, is shown in both. However, though for research purposes the placement makes sense, it is not known if this is the same child. There are no dates on the images and they are different sizes, types of photography, locations, etc. The child in the second photo is also facing away from the camera, and though the hair looks similar, we cannot confirm their identity.

If these documents were of particular interest to someone or to a project where more detailed and accurate information was needed, then names could be cross-researched with other local archives. Other initiatives could be used as well, images or names could be sent out as a crowd-sourcing project into the community that the families were from, or census documents could be investigated.

Conclusion

The overarching question throughout the accessioning of this collection was, how do I make it as easy as I can for future researchers to find what they are looking for? I hope that I have succeeded.

Family collections like these can be so valuable to research, and this project was extremely enjoyable to work on. From coming to understand the family connections and dynamics, to organizing the images and seeing growing and smiling faces from the past, it is fair to say that accessioning family collections is a task that comes with lots of complications and more than a few unanswered questions.

Student Museum Musings – The Two Year Elegy

By Thomas P., Co-op Student

“So you mean to tell me it’s not March 2020?”

I feel like I’ve definitely heard that sentence in an ironic sense a couple times these past two years. Time seems to pass very strangely in a time where the basic concept of social normality is changing. Ok, big words, I know. I’m not necessarily wrong though. Normal has changed. Though many people, including myself, do wish the old normal could return, the hard truth is that it won’t. The dice have already been cast.

Eventually, social distancing will fade out. Masks will be worn far less, yet I’d guess perhaps more than before the pandemic. The damage will have already been done. No, not damage. Change. This change has already begun. Many people feel just that little bit more uncomfortable around those with a cough nowadays. It seems that a lot of people have developed a COVID-19 hypochondria. The anxiety of having, or receiving, an illness. According to Healthing.ca, “the root of treatment lies in accepting that nothing in life is certain — which, as anyone with illness anxiety will tell you, is much easier said than done.” With this anxiety, whether one is a hypochondriac or not, comes a more heightened awareness of sickness around you. Hopefully, this will be for the best in terms of social safety in the long run. Greater general hygiene is never a bad thing, especially with a world that finds itself more and more connected by the day, even in a pandemic. Hygiene aside, the long lasting effects of an often mind-numbing pandemic, will likely leave a social mark on the generations most affected by it as of today.

It seems as well that yet another thing the pandemic has caused an awareness of is what we’re missing. During the worst of the lockdown, it felt as if the only thing to do was re-watch Tiger King and Bo Burnham’s Inside, two Netflix hits which, mind you, were released nearly a year apart. No matter how long a life you’ve lived, a year is still a long time. For even more of a time warp, the first recorded cases of COVID-19 were on December 19, 2019 – nearly 750 days ago. That’s 24 months. According to Kidshealth.org, a child born from that time, by now, would be able to speak more than 50 words, kick a ball, and be understood at least half the time. Although with the continuous stale cycle of the state of things in our political and social world as is today, that last part may or may not be too surprising.

For me, my first day of true lockdown was on my birthday. Happy Birthday! As a student who was highly involved within my school community, in extra curriculars such as D&D, AGSA, and theatre club, I very quickly went from being an outgoing and extroverted junior high school student to a very mellowed out high school senior. Different people age with different circumstances. I have no problem with the fact that I had to grow up fast with the pandemic, and I’m surely not alone in this sentiment among the approximately 630,000 other high school students in Ontario. I finished my grade nine year on a stage, still during a pre-covid time. My grade ten year on a bike ride, during the first lockdown. My grade eleven year with the closing of my laptop, after a long and mentally demanding period of online learning. As for my grade twelve year, I’ve still got a little ways to go before the path becomes clear. Even still, I think I’ve got a pretty good idea where I’m headed. If anywhere, it’ll simply be up north to attend University. 

Just before the lockdown, I’d just started working at the 2020 Purple Woods Maple Syrup Festival, which closed only a few days into my time there. Now, as 2022 comes to a start, my time at the Oshawa Museum as a co-op student has nearly come to an end. Even through multiple lockdowns and a global pandemic, one simply has to keep moving. It’s sometimes hard to accept how fast time has gone and simultaneously how painfully slow it goes. At the end of the day though, that seems to be one of the many ultimatums of the human experience.

There is a quote I’ve scribbled into an old notepad which sits in some forgotten cupboard in my closet. Even with my efforts to find its author, I have no idea who said it. According to the note, “Everybody has a start date, one day that start date will be followed by a dash and an end date, so it’s what makes up that dash that matters the most.” 

I’d say it’s quite accurate. For its benefits and faults, the pandemic has sparked a piece of human history that will be written about in some history textbook one hundred years from now. Our history. Millions and billions of stories. That’s a very sonderous feeling, the knowledge that everyone everywhere has been affected in some form by the history that’s sparked around us these past two years. Yet every experience is different, even if it’s in some slight fraction of a way. This sickness has caused a million butterfly effects, whether we know of them or not, and we’ll be seeing the ripple effect of this point in time carry on through the generations for decades to come. 


Citations

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/checkup-2yrs.html

https://www.who.int/news/item/27-04-2020-who-timeline—covid-19 

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/educationfacts.html 

https://www.healthing.ca/diseases-and-conditions/coronavirus/hypochondria-in-the-age-of-covid-19/

Blog Look Back – Top 5 Posts of 2021

Happy New Year! Throughout 2021, we shared 64 articles on the Oshawa Museum Blog, showcasing many different stories from our city’s past. 

We’re planning our new and dynamic posts for 2022, but to start the year, let’s look back at our top 5 posts of 2021:

Yellow wooden house and text reading "2021 Top 5 Blog Posts"

The Oshawa Harbour – Part II

By Melissa Cole, Curator Through the Great Depression and the Second World War, the harbour was a focal point of shipping for Oshawa, including huge supplies of coal, which was the primary means of heating homes in Oshawa during that time.  In the 1930s the harbour continued to expand, and with the opening of the … Continue reading “The Oshawa Harbour – Part II”

Oshawa’s Rotary Park

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator In 1925, Rotarians in Oshawa were looking for a worthwhile service project. One of the suggestions was a new playground near the Oshawa Creek. In 1926, they purchased land with frontage on Centre Street for $2,000. In November 1926, local industrialist and philanthropist, J.D. Storie, donated an additional $2,000 … Continue reading “Oshawa’s Rotary Park”

Union Cemetery Receiving Vault

By Laura Suchan, Executive Director A receiving vault (sometimes called a dead house) was a structure designed to temporarily store the dead during the winter months when it was too difficult to dig graves by hand.  When William Wells was exhumed in February 1895 from his grave in Union Cemetery, it took local gravediggers William … Continue reading “Union Cemetery Receiving Vault”

These were our top 5 posts written in 2021, however, for the fourth year, our top viewed post was once again Keeping Warm: The Ways The Victorians Did! This streak is going strong for our Curator Melissa who wrote the post a number of years ago, but the post keeps bringing readers back!

Thank you all for reading, and we hope to see you again in 2022!

The Month That Was – January 1873

All articles originally appeared in the Ontario Reformer

January 3, 1873, page 1

Wool Prices – The great advance in the price of wool has led considers to expect a corresponding rise in Winter Goods. They will be agreeably disappointed when they visit this well known house. To find that the low prices of last year are still current in many of the leading lines. Piles of heavy Winceys at old prices. Stocks of Woolen Shawls at old prices. Thousands of yards of Flannels at old prices. Heaps of Dress Goods at old prices. Lots of Blankets at old prices, &c.,&c

Slates to be Abolished – A general war is being waged against the use of slates in the schools of Germany. There is scarcely any sound more offensive to the human ear than the grating of the pencil on the slate, and when this is multiplied by the numbers in the school, the effect is said to be extremely injurious to the nerves of many children, and leave evil influences for life. In addition to this, the use of slates is attended with many other disadvantages. Children acquire a heavy hand by their use, and accustom themselves to a vicious holding of the pen. Physicians say that the sight is injured by it. The slate is heavy and is easily broken, and is a noisy implement in the school-room, besides being quite inconvenient to carry with books. In short, the slate ought to be abolished entirely, is the verdict.

January 3, 1873, Page Two

Page 2

Importing Labourers – We notice that the Ontario Government is now taking steps to properly organize a system by which those of our farmers who are in want of laborers can obtain them through emigration agencies stations at various points in Great Britain. By depositioning $21 with the Commissioner of Agriculture of Ontario for each adult required, they can obtain labour at a cheap rate, the money to be repaid back to the employer out of the wages of the labourer, except $6 per head which is given back to the employer as a bonus for bringing out each emigrant, or to the emigrant himself if he pays for his own passage out.

January 10, 1873, Page 1

The Coolest Robbery on Record – Policeman Badger of the Tenth Station had a bit of experience the other night which he is not fond of talking about. It was past midnight as he was leisurely pushing his way through Jessup Street, and when he came opposite to Drayton & Gogg’s jewelry store he observed gleams of light through the chinks of the shutters and rapped at the door:

“Is that you, policeman?” asked a voice within,

“Yes,” answered Badger. 

“Well, it’s only me. It’s all right– Kind o’ chilly out, isn’t it?”

“Yea.”

“Thought so. I was just fixing the fire. Good night.”

Badger said “good night,” and pursued on his way.

An hour afterwards Badger passed through Jessup street again and saw the light in the jewelry store. It didn’t look right, and he banged the door loudly…

Policeman Badger partook. Having wiped his lips and giving his fingers a new warming, he left the store and resumed his best, satisfied that all was right at Drayton and Fogg’s.

 But morning brought a new revealment.

Drayton & Fogg’s store had been robbed during the night of six thousand dollars’ worth of watches and jewelry; and though policeman Badger carries in his mind an exact daguerreotype of the robber, the adroit rascal has not yet been found.

January 10, 1873, Page2

What Causes Hard Times – We are fast becoming a nation of schemers to live without genuine work. Our boys are not learning trades; our farmer’s sons are crowded into cities, looking for clerkships in the Post Office; hardly one Canadian girl in each hundred will do housework for wages, however urgent her need; so we are sending to Europe for workmen and buying of her artisans’ worth of products that we ought to make for ourselves.

Page 2

Death of the Ex-Emperor Napoleon – The French ex-Emperor, Napoleon, died at Chishelhurst yesterday at 10:45. He had been suffering for a long time from a severe internal disease, and had undergone two or three operations. He was 65 years of age.

January 24, 1873, page 1

Touching Instance – ONE of the most touching instances of gratitude is alleged to have occurred at Lock Haven the other day. A little boy, the child of a welthy mother, tumbled into the river. He was rescued by a workingman and reatored to his parents. The woman gave the man a three cent postage stamp and said she would be glad to have him come up to her house and sit out in the entry and hear her play the piano. He wents-way with tears in his eyes. Such unnaccustomed kindness quite unnamed him.

Page 2

Lot Auction – STEELE BROS, sold their lots on the corner of King and Simcoe streets, by auction, yesterday, for the sum of $5,000. The corner lot has a frontage of 26 feet 6 inches on King street, and 64 feet 3 inches on Simcoe street; and was bought by W. H. Gibbs, Esq., for the sum of $3,000. The back lot has a frontage of 27 feet on Simcoe street, and 52 feet 7 inches deep, and was purchased by Mr . S. Trewin, for the sum of $2,000. 

Page 4

Temperley’s Line – The Steamers of this Line are intended to sail from Quebec and Montreal every Tuesday during the seasons of navigation of 1872, and from London every Wednesday, calling at Plymouth on the way out. Though tickets from all points west at reduced rates. Certificates issued to parties desirous of bringing out their friends. For full particulars apply to the Company’s Agent at Oshawa.
C. W. SMITH 

January 24, 1873, Page Four

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