Student Museum Musings – Gabby

When I first started my co-op, I knew I would be here during the change of exhibits within Robinson House. What I did not know is how active I would be in the instillation. I expected to take predetermined artefacts and put them in predetermined places. However, what I got was almost the exact opposite.

Melissa Cole has been super amazing and allowed me to pick multiple of the artefacts that are going into the exhibit. I have chosen cameras, pottery pieces, medical instruments, photos and even quotations.

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The entire process is much harder then it seems. You would think that it is as simple as picking some artefacts and laying them out nice and pretty; while that is actually what happens, it is hard. “The bigger artefacts go in the back and the smaller in the front, right?” Wrong. “These two are similar colours so they go on the same side.” Nope. “I can do this in half an hour and then get to the other project I am working on.” You wish.

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While figuring out how to best display artefacts is difficult, so is choosing them. While some artefacts have dear little places in our own hearts, we also have to consider which artefacts the community wants to see. I may love one for one reason where someone else dislikes it for the same reason.

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The other aspect of picking artefacts that makes doing so difficult is that there are so many. I want to pick them all. If I could, I would put all 300+ cameras on display. However, that is an insane number of cameras and so only nine or ten can actually go out! That is only 3% of that entire collection. See where the difficulty lies?

Another cool thing about the new exhibit is how the two halves of my co-op are coming together. I get to promote it on social media, and even design activities for visitors to do while taking tours!

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I hope that all of you who come to see the new exhibit Celebrating 60 Years enjoy viewing it as much as I enjoyed helping with its creation. This amazing exhibit runs from April to November 2017.

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ArteFACTS: Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild Coach, 1933

By Melissa Cole, Curator

The artefact featured in today’s blog post is one of the Oshawa Museum’s recent acquisitions.  I was hoping that this artefact could be included in our latest exhibition Celebrating 60: Sixty Years of Collecting unfortunately the coach is very fragile and does require some conservation work before it is placed on display for a period of time.  Although anyone that attends our Exhibition Opening next week will get an opportunity to view the coach as it will be on display, for one week only, along with the original plans and instructions for building the coach.

So what exactly was the Fisher Body Craftsman Guild, and what was its purpose?

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Fisher Body was an automobile coachbuilder founded by the Fisher Brothers in 1908 in Detroit Michigan.  By the 1920s, the Fisher Body Company had become one of the biggest and best known suppliers of automobile bodies in North America.  General Motors acquired the majority of the holdings of the Fisher Body Company in the early 1920s.  By 1926, General Motors turned the company into its main coach-building factory.   One of the obstacles that General Motors faced at the time was the lack of designers available for hire.

Starting in the 1930s, The Fisher Body Company in Detroit, in conjunction with General Motors in Detroit and Oshawa where the Canadian Headquarters was located, ran a series of competitions in design and styling for teenage students.  In the early years of the competition, contestants ordered a set of model plans to build a Napoleonic Carriage which was the signature logo of the company.

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The Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild became the major recruiting tool for young artistic talent.  Each year twenty-four scholarships were awarded to boys between the ages of 12 and 16 in Canada and the United States.  These scholarships ranged in value from $500 up to $5000 in 1933.

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The Oshawa Museum has one of the earliest surviving Napoleonic carriages from the Guild competition in Canada.  This particular model was submitted for competition in 1933 by Floyd Hembruff.   When this carriage was submitted for donation to the Oshawa Museum it was accompanied by the original plans, contest rules, model diagrams and cut outs with assembly instructions.  The coach itself is 46 cm long, with the tongue added the total length is 71cm, the height is 28 cm and the width is 23 cm.  The finished model weighs about 7 pounds (3 Kg).

By 1938, with the increasing interest in car styling, the Craftsman’s Guild introduced a new category – designing and building a model car. The interest in the car design competition was so overwhelming that the Napoleonic Coach was dropped. By 1968, when the Craftsman’s Guild was concluded, over 8.7 million youths had enrolled over the life of the competition, millions of dollars in Awards had been given and many lives had been touched – some profoundly. Thru the years, the Craftsman’s Guild represented rock-solid values. Young men learned that perseverance was essential and that hard work paid off. They enjoyed a sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from a constructive and positive activity – plus the joy of working with their hands and mind to create their very own design.

Many scholarships are given each year to young people with outstanding athletic ability or outstanding scholastic record.  What made the Craftsman’s Guild unique was recognition and reward for young people with outstanding creative ability.  Many of the winners went on to become designers themselves and others such as Floyd Hembruff became Mayor of his community and founding partner of a respected construction company in Matheson Ontario, Hembruff & Dambrowitz Construction Ltd. which built extensively throughout Northern Ontario.

Student Museum Musings – Durham LIT Students

Their semester has wrapped up, but before they were finished, two students from the Durham College Library & Information Technician program shared their experiences as interns at the Oshawa Museum.  Here’s what they had to say.

Jenn

As part of the final year at Durham College’s Library and Information Technician program, I am at the Oshawa Museum completing field placement hours. I have had the opportunity to work on the museum’s newest publication – The Annotated Memoirs of Rev. Thomas Henry. I got thrown onto this project as a sort of “happy accident:”  I was originally slated to be working in the archive, but help was needed elsewhere.

The book is being annotated by Laura Suchan, Executive Director of the Oshawa Museum, and Stoney Kudel, president of the Oshawa Historical Society. I have been designing the overall layout of the book.

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A973.13.1 – Elder Thomas Henry

As an out-of-town student, working on this book has been my introduction to the history of Oshawa and the Henry family. I can’t begin to say how much research has gone into this publication. On my part, it was mostly because I was unfamiliar with a lot of the stories that I was reading about, and I wanted to relate what was happening in Oshawa (then East Whitby Township) to what I knew about the history of Ontario and Canada as a whole.

The museum is fortunate enough to have a lot of the Henry family’s history. I’ve had the opportunity to search through letters, early censuses and photographs, all in the sake of finding information for this book. I’ve enjoyed learning the different histories – being told to sit down and do research has been a dream these past few months.

Unfortunately, with the semester ending, I am finished my internship at the museum, and as of now, the book is not yet complete, though it should be soon. I look forward to seeing how all the work we’ve done comes together in print.


Amanda

I’m a firm believer in what we learn from our past will guide us in the future so history has always been a huge interest of mine. Learning about how an archive and museum are run in class was fun, but actually getting to come into the archives and be able to see and touch history with my own two hands was another experience all together. From my time at the archives I was able to see the real behind the scenes of how an archives is run and operated daily. Through the task I was assigned I got to see what it was like to actually go through a donation and learned the value of recording everything. I also got a chance to see just how much time one project can take. From going through the newspapers, clipping, photocopying, and encasing them it took around 19 hours. With how little staff and money is usually given to archives you can see how much one person needs to do.

I’m very grateful for the experience! and now when I go to museums/archives I will truly know the value of them, not just from a preserving history stance.


Thank you to Jenn and Amanda for sharing their stories!

Want to know more about our Winter Semester post-secondary students? Jenn, Peter, Sarah, and Elora introduced themselves in an earlier post!

Celebrating 60: Our Favourite Things

This blog series comes from our dedicated and awesome Visitor Host staff, and topics range from favourite artefacts, thoughts on our latest exhibits, and anything else in between!

Kathryn’s Favourite: Granny Cock PortraitDSCN1537

Harriet, you often catch me of guard when I am in front of you in Guy House in the board room; your piercing eyes are always calling my attention.

Your eyes speak volumes to me; Harriet your story is one of being so brave, and determined. Yet the deeper I consider your eyes you are trying to tell me something different aside from facts.

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The facts are impressive though; you a widow at age 59 travels in 1846 by boat from England to Canada and let me say you were an old woman by that year’s standards. Please excuse me Harriet! You travelled with your daughter and son-in- law  and yes, the voyage was exceptional long and miserable and yes, many people died from either small pox, dysentery or measles.

Then once you got here there were no fine shops to buy another pretty delicate lace bonnet that you cherished or even the fine slippers that you are wearing right now. That wool shawl would have been perfect here, warm and practical.

Harriet Cock, I know you were scared as your eyes really tell me so; however, who would not be afraid travelling in 1846 to a new world! You took the risk; you came here as a pioneer and believed in this country.  Our country, Canada

Granny Cock, thank you.

You are my treasured artefact and champion here at The Oshawa Museum.

 

Caitlan’s Favourite: The Music Box017

There are many very interesting artefacts throughout the houses at the Oshawa Museum. It is a treat to see them, especially when you know that they still work.  On a rare occasion one of our music boxes plays. It has not seized up, nor is it broken. Many items over time would have been damaged in one way or another preventing them for further use or are to delicate to risk trying to play. This item is an exception. Done with care a few times a year this music box fills Henry House with sound. This sets it apart from many other items in the houses.

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By playing the music box you can be given a small taste of what life would have sounded like at the time. Just the practice of winding it and knowing how much sound it would produce and for how long creates a greater depth of understanding of people’s lives. It is a favorite artifact of mine for this reason. It provides an understanding that cannot be presented simply in writing thereby creating a fuller understanding of the lives people lived.

Listen to one of the Music Box’s as the background music in this video!

 

Carrie’s Favourite: Thomas and Lurenda Letters

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My favorite artefacts would have to be two letters, one from Thomas and the other from Lurenda. I love them so much because of the content of them, that being the marriage proposal and acceptance. It’s strange to think, at least now, that you would be able to propose to someone in this way, and with barely knowing the other person as well. Two letters led to one big family, which led to even more interesting letters between Thomas and his children. Seeing the start of the family in black and white makes you realize how much has changed between then and now.

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Read about Karen’s Favourite Artefact HERE

Be sure to visit our 2017 Feature Exhibit Celebrating 60: Sixty Years of Collecting and discover your favourite artefact!

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Cabinets of Curiosity: Sixty Years of Collecting

By Melissa Cole, Curator

Since 1957 our collection has grown in ways that may surprise the average visitor.  With more than 50 000 objects and archival records, our collection is vast and unsurpassed in its diversity and size in the City.  Celebrating our first 60 years, the OM will feature objects with the richest stories to tell, from our 1837 Rebellion Box to our largest artefacts, the historic homes.

As a homage to our own history, we are presenting this exhibition as an interpretation of the cabinet of curiosity.  Given our curious natures and innate desire to collect, it is no wonder that the modern museum has its roots planted in the privately owned collections of extraordinary objects from the past.  These collections, called cabinets of curiosity, first became popular in the Renaissance and reached their peak of popularity in the Victorian Era.  Amateur and professional scientists kept their most prize specimens hidden away, until the elite members of society began to seek them out and placed in ornate display cases for all to see.  Some of these collections filled entire rooms.

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Inside Celebrating 60

Our exhibition, Celebrating 60: Sixty Years of Collecting features rarely seen, a few odd and curious objects drawn from the Oshawa Museum’s collection.  Deciding which artefacts to display was not an easy task, with assistance from museum staff members who shared their favourite artefacts and we asked Oshawa Historical Society members to assist us in choosing a quilt to display in the exhibition.  Visitors will have the unique opportunity to peruse various objects and documents of curiosity and wonder, up close and in a personal way.

This exhibition is dedicated to the OM’s past Curators, not only for the artefacts they helped to collect but for the stories and material culture they helped to preserve for future generations.

Join us at the Oshawa Museum in celebrating our first 60 years.

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