Future Planning at the Oshawa Museum

By Laura Suchan, Executive Director

OHS-60-FNL-RGBThe 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?

Collections

Spaces

People

  • Improved collection care
  • Improved collection storage areas
  • Curatorial support areas
  • Repatriation of Oshawa archival records from Archives of Ontario
  • Improved visitor amenities
  • Rental opportunities
  • Improved exhibition areas
  • Purpose built space allows for enhanced visitor experiences
  • Potential partnership opportunities
  • More community engagement

 

Our Curator, Melissa Cole, looks at our current facility and the challenges we face in this video, accessible HERE from our YouTube Channel.

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Student Museum Musings – Lauren

By Lauren R., Summer Student

In my time as a co-op student, a volunteer, and now as a working summer student I have learned that at the museum you never know what to expect when you show up for work. When I started my summer position this year I honestly had no clue what I was in for; I wasn’t sure what I was going to be doing and I had no clue what kind of projects I would be working on.

Despite this uncertainty, I was incredibly excited to start in my new position and I knew that no matter what I did I would love it (every project is exciting in its own way). This summer I got assigned a project that was even more exciting than I ever could have imagined! My summer project is to create a new audio tour for the houses! For this I will be looking at talking more about the families in the houses instead of just the houses  themselves. Also, I will be looking quite a bit at the heritage gardens of Henry House and adding this new information to the tour as it was not part of the original tour.

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Woolly Lamb’s Ear

The Henry House heritage gardens is home to an assortment of interesting (and strange) plants. The Henry House garden is designed to display what an everyday garden would have looked like, similar to what the Henry’s themselves would have had. It is split into different sections depending on what the use of the plant is. There is one garden dedicated to tea, another to dyes and the last to herbs and plants that can be used for medical and other practical purposes. In the practical garden there are eight sections: practical, protection, serious conditions, culinary, insect control, healing, cough control, and calming.

So far, out of the many plants that I have researched and looked at in the garden, I have found four that continue to catch my interest. The first two belong in the healing section of the garden. The first plant is Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium). This plant is used to reduce blood pressure and, if the fresh leaves are put into a poultice, it can stop bleeding from cuts and scrapes and things of that kind. Another plant that is found in this portion of the garden is Woolly Lamb’s Ear. This plant is really cool as it feels fuzzy and is soft to the touch. The way that the Henrys may have put this plant to use would have been as bandages to keep cuts clean and covered, the soft texture of these leaves being non-aggravating to injured skin.

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Valerian

Another plant, in the calming section, that I find interesting is Valerian (Valeriana Officinalis). This plant would have been used to help prevent nightmares and to reduce anxiety. However, if too much is taken (or if it is taken for too long) it can cause some adverse side effects such as hallucinations, abdominal pain and headaches.  The final plant that catches my eye, or rather my nose, in our garden is Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis).  This plant is part of the tea garden. Lemon Balm is an incredibly versatile plant. It can be used as an extract to add flavour to dishes, added to a relaxing bath, applied to help soothe insect bites, used to make soothing teas (for headaches and nausea), lessen depression, eczema and it can even help allergy sufferers. In addition to all of this, Lemon Balm can help clean and heal wounds as it acts as an antiviral substance and will starve the bacteria in the wound of oxygen thereby killing it.

 

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Lady Bug on Tea Plant

There are really some incredible plants in the Henry House garden. What is even more incredible is to think that all of these plants would have been used in some way by the Henry family in their everyday lives.

The Holodomor

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

On Monday, July 17th the Oshawa Museum will be hosting the Holodomor National Awareness Tour mobile classroom exhibit.  The state-of-the-art mobile classroom will be stopped in Lakeview Park to allow members of the community to learn more about this dark time in world history.

What is the Holodomor?  The word Holodomor refers to the genocide of Ukrainian citizens by forced starvation between 1932 and 1933. During this period, Ukrainian villages were forced to provide mass quantities of grain to the Soviet State.  The quotas were set so high that there was nothing left for those who lived in the villages.  When villages were no longer to meet the quotas, they were fined.  The fines took the form of confiscating meat and potatoes, leaving the villagers with nothing for themselves.  These policies resulted in the death of millions of Ukrainians as they were not   permitted to leave the country and were forced to remain to starve to death. It has been referred to as a “man-made famine” and is considered a response by Stalin to a growing democratic movement amongst Ukrainians.

It has been difficult to determine just how many Ukrainians died in the period between 1932 and 1933; however, estimates have placed the number at 3.3 million. Some scholars feel that number is low.

When the Holodomor National Awareness Tour stopped in Ottawa in November 2016, the Honourable Peter Kent noted that Canada became one of the first countries to officially recognize the Holodomor as genocide.  In May 2008 the Federal Government, along with the provinces of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, proclaimed the fourth Saturday of each November to be Holodomor Remembrance Day.  It has been a long struggle for Ukrainian Canadians to have this dark period in their history recognized and remembered. The mobile exhibit is part of the work being done by members of the Ukrainian community.

Oshawa is home to a large Ukrainian community. By the start of WWII the Ukrainian community in Oshawa had already been established for forty years.  Newspaper articles from 1928 note that there were more than 1000 Ukrainians living in Oshawa and had become an important part of the community as a whole. Census data collected in 1941 shows that that number had grown to over 1600. The largest influx of Ukrainian immigrants came after WWII, when many arrived in Oshawa as Displaced Persons.

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This exhibit highlights that history is filled with difficult stories to tell but that each story is important and can help us learn more about how the past has shaped our lives today.  Learn more about the Holodomor on Monday, July 17 when the Holodomor National Awareness Tour stops in Lakeview Park.

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Student Museum Musings: Making Ice Cream!

By Karen A., Summer Student

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! Who doesn’t love ice cream? That’s a silly question, since I’m pretty sure everyone enjoys some flavour of ice cream.  And since July is National Ice Cream Month, as recognized by The International Ice Cream Association, the museum has dusted off the ice cream maker in prep for Grandpa Henry’s picnic which features old fashioned ice cream making (and taste testing)!

The origins of ice cream date back to the second century B.C.E. although no specific date can be determined for when this tasty treat was invented. It is known that Alexander the Great enjoyed ice and snow flavoured with honey and nectar. Likewise, Roman Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar sent runners into the mountains to gather snow which he then flavoured with fruits and juice. England started making ice cream during the 16th century, along with the Italians and French. But it wasn’t until the mid-17th century that ice cream became available to the general public because of its expensive cost.

In the Victorian period ice cream was made by hand. With the use of wooden buckets which had hand cranks attached, the mixture was then combined together and frozen. It was difficult however as the Victorians didn’t have access to electric freezers or ice cream machines. A lot of the ice used to make the ice cream and to keep it cold, was collected from rivers and ponds in the winter time which was then stored in ice houses.

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Lauren & Karen using our Ice Cream maker!

At the museum we now have our own hand crank ice cream maker; fortunately it also comes with a motor attached so we are not stuck hand cranking all the ice cream. This ice cream maker allows us to show visitors how Victorians hand cranked their ice cream, but also lets us make enough ice cream for everyone without getting tired!

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Here are some recipes on how to make Victorian ice cream;

Lemon Fig Ice Cream
1 c. whipping cream
1 c. milk
1 egg, well beaten
Few grains salt
¾ c. sugar
1 c. chopped preserved figs, and juice
Juice 2 lemons

Combine eggs, sugar, salt, figs and juice, lemon juice, and milk. Pour into freezer. Partially freeze. Carefully fold in whipped cream. Continue freezing until firm. 8 servings.

 

Lemon Ice
2 c. water
1 c. sugar
Few grains salt
6 tbsp. lemon juice

Combine water, sugar, and salt. Heat to boiling. Boil 5 minutes. Cool. Add lemon juice. Freeze. 4 servings.

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Sources

http://www.idfa.org/news-views/media-kits/ice-cream/the-history-of-ice-cream

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/pick-of-season/how-to-make-victorian-ice-cream/

Blog Rewind: Oshawa Celebrates Canada Day

This post was originally published on June 26, 2013.

On July 1, 1867, The British North America Act came into effect on July 1, 1867, uniting the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as “One Dominion under the name of Canada. “

From the Oshawa Daily Reformer, 1927

From the Oshawa Daily Reformer, 1927

In Oshawa, the passing of the BNA Act was a relatively quiet affair, even though it had been designated as a celebration of Confederation for the country.  The day started with the firing of guns and ringing of bells, and many houses flew flags.   There was a parade along King Street and speeches were given in front of Gibb’s Store and Fowke’s. A picnic was held later in the day at Cedar Dale for those people of the community who did not go elsewhere such as the town of Whitby to celebrate.  It is estimated that 7,000 were present for the events in Whitby.

On June 20, 1868, a proclamation of Governor General Lord Monck called upon all Canadians to join in the celebration of the anniversary of the formation of Canada on July 1st.  The proclamation stated, “Now Know Ye, that I, Charles Stanley Viscount Monck, Governor General of Canada, do hereby proclaim and appoint WEDNESDAY, the FIRST day of JULY next, as the day on which the Anniversary of the formation of the Dominion a Canada be duly celebrated. And I do hereby enjoin and call upon all Her Majesty’s loving subjects throughout Canada to join in the due and proper celebration of the said Anniversary on the said FIRST day of JULY next.”

Oshawa residents observed this proclamation and celebrated the one year anniversary of Confederation.  The Oshawa Vindicator reported on July 8, 1868 that the 34th Battalion (later renamed the Ontario Regiment) assembled at 3 o’clock on Dominion Day on the Agricultural grounds in Whitby to receive a flag in the colours of the Queen.  The paper reported that “the attendance of spectators was immense, rendering it almost impossible to preserve sufficient space for moving the force.”

There was also a picnic held by the employees of the factories at Morris’s Grove on Dominion Day, and the Vindicator stated it was a success.  The picnic itself was slightly overshadowed by the presentation of the Colors, but nonetheless, attendance was still large.  There were games and a “friendly rivalry” between Foundry and Factory, and the Freeman family band played music throughout the day.  In the evening, the events continued in the drill shed where prizes were distributed, addresses were delivered and cheers given to the Queen, Messrs Miall, Glen, Whiting and Cowan, and to members of the committee.  Picnic attendees danced to the “late hour” to the music of the Freeman band.

Although not officially recognized as a holiday (it would be recognized as such in 1879), Oshawa residents celebrated Dominion Day in the years following confederation in similar manners.  Picnics were held, games were played, fireworks lit up the sky, and dancing continued into the night.  The 34th Battalion typically played a role in Dominion Day celebrations.

Canada’s Diamond Jubilee year was 1927, and both Canada and Oshawa celebrated this landmark.  The Oshawa Daily Reformer issued a special edition of their paper for June 30, commemorating 60 years since Confederation, particularly highlighting Oshawa’s achievements through the years.  In Lakeview Park, the Jubilee Pavilion was open for business on June 30th, 1927, with the official opening on Dominion Day.  The pavilion was named in honour of this landmark year.   Jubilee celebrations lasted for two days in Oshawa and included parades, sporting events, picnics, the playing of a speech from King George V, dancing, and fireworks.  The Ontario Regiment Band played, along with the Salvation Army Band, the Oshawa Kilties Band and the General Motors 75 member choir.  Dominion Day also included a commemorative ceremony for those who died during the Great War.  Memorial Park and Alexandra Park served as appropriate locales for Jubilee celebrations on Friday July 1, and on July 2, the party continued at Lakeview Park.

From the Oshawa Daily Reformer, 1927

From the Oshawa Daily Reformer, 1927

In 1967, the year of Canada’s Centennial, Oshawa appropriately celebrated this milestone.  The Oshawa Folk Festival had a Centennial Week celebration with events leading up to and including Dominion Day.  On July 1, there was a parade through to Alexandra Park and events through the afternoon, as well as events and fireworks at the Civic Auditorium.  Oshawa also took part in the “Wild Bells” program, with all church bells, factory whistles and sirens sounding when July 1 came in.  Hayward Murdoch, Oshawa’s Centennial Committee Chairman commented, “This seems like an excellent and appropriate way to usher in Canada’s 100th birthday.  We want to have as many bells, whistles and sirens sounding as possible.”

Celebrations for East Whitby Township took place in the Village of Columbus with the unveiling of a centennial plaque, a band concert, school choirs, barbeque and fireworks.

Oshawa also had a centennial house constructed at the corner of King Street and Melrose Street (just east of Harmony Road).  The project was coordinated by the Oshawa Builders Association, and profits of the sale of the home went to the Oshawa Retarded Children’s Association (now operating today as Oshawa/Clarington Association for Community Living).

In 1982, the name of the holiday was officially changed from “Dominion Day” to “Canada Day.”  Since 1984, Oshawa’s largest Canada Day celebrations have taken place in Lakeview Park.  In 1985, the opening of Guy House coincided with Canada Day festivities, and the opening of the new pier also took place on July 1, 1987.  In 1988, an elephant from the Bowmanville Zoo was part of the festivities, participating in a tug of war with city aldermen.  Canada’s 125th anniversary was in 1992, and the City organized a big party down at lakefront.  Every year, fireworks mark the end of the celebrations.

Canada Day at Henry House

Canada Day at Henry House

The City run Canada Day celebrations have been very successful over the years, drawing tens of thousands to Oshawa’s lakeshore.  They have also attracted a certain level of prestige, making Festivals and Events Ontario’s list of top 50 (later top 100) celebrations in 2004, 2005 and 2009.

Located in Lakeview Park, the Oshawa Museum takes part every year in Canada Day celebrations.  Over the years, the museum has had historical re-enactors, special displays, woodworking and blacksmithing demonstrations, and a Strawberry Social in the Henry House Gardens.  Currently, the Museum offers costumed tours of Henry House on Canada Day, and our Verna Conant Gallery is open in Guy House.

 

We will be open from 2-6pm on July 1, 2017! Please visit and help us celebrate the 150th anniversary of the creation of Canada

 


References:
The Oshawa Vindicator, 1868-1870, various editions
Oshawa Daily Reformer, June 30, 1927
Oshawa Daily Times, July 4, 1927
Oshawa Museum Archival Collection (Subject 0012, Box 0001, Files 0003-0006, 0011, 0015)