Student Museum Musings – Lauren

By Lauren R., Summer Museum Assistant

Hello there! I’d like to start out this blog post by saying how excited I am to be working as a summer student for the second year in a row. I am already at the end of my third week back at work and it feels as though I’ve picked up right where I left off at the end of last summer. This summer I am once again having the pleasure of being involved with numerous projects, including two larger projects that are a constant work in progress. Trust me – it’s keeping me on my toes!

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Lauren assisting with silver polishing earlier this month

The first of the projects that I have undertaken this summer has to do with the Education Kits that the museum offers as resources to schools to enrich the learning experience for students. While these programs are very useful it was put to me that we may be able to do more with them. Specifically, that there may be more of them! With this in mind, I am helping to look at new ways to present the material that we already have and at how to make more of these kits available for teacher use, bridging a vast range of topics. In my first few days back on the job full-time I went through each of the kits, reading all of the information that they had to offer and then examining their complementary artefacts. From there I made it my goal to read several books on programming to see if there was anything that they could offer me to enrich the way that I was looking to construct the programs. After all of this research, I had the pleasure of joining one of my colleagues at a school to see how these outreach kits work in person and the response that they produced from students. Thus far I have come up with 7 new programs that can be introduced to our selection of Education Kits. I am going to endeavour to make each of these 7 kits flexible so that they can be used by both older and younger grades, bringing the count of new education kits to 14!

The second thing that I have been engaged in this summer is research for the new Medical Exhibit being created! For this I have been hard at work reading up on the history of the Oshawa General Hospital and how it came to be. So far I am finding the story fascinating! The original building for the Oshawa Hospital came about as the result of the hard work of a group of determined women. In 1906, the debt of the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church was cleared with the work of some of the local women’s societies. Seeing that their work had been completed, and that they could focus their attention on a new and worthy cause, Mrs. R.S. McLaughlin gathered a representative from each of the local societies to vote on the next cause that should be attended to. The cause that was chosen was the Oshawa General Hospital. In 1906 the campaigning for the hospital began and it was built soon after and opened in 1910. I have absolutely fallen in love with the story of how the Oshawa General Hospital came to be. It highlights the great things that can be accomplished when a group of strong-minded and determined people come together for the greater good. I look forward to learning more about each bit of Oshawa’s medical history as I strive to construct an interesting and engaging exhibit around it, though it is proving difficult to narrow down what fascinating facts to include when there is so much interesting information at hand!

There have been many more interesting things I have been doing but there will be another blog post for me to talk about those. For now I work diligently at the Medical Exhibit and wait with baited breath to see it come to reality…

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Why I Love Museums

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

May 18 is celebrated as International Museum Day.  From the International Council of Museums (ICOM):

The objective of International Museum Day is to raise awareness of the fact that, “Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.”

In honour of this day, I have compiled a list of just of a few of the reasons why I love museums.

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1) Museums celebrate the past, but they also allow for critical examination of it as well.

Last summer, I visited the newly revamped Canadian Museum of History and was truly impressed at how different the Canadian History Hall was to its predecessor.  The story of Canada was still being told, but unlike before, there was a plethora of perspectives being offered. It was clear it was curated in a time of Truth and Reconciliation as the Indigenous perspectives were being woven throughout each section of the exhibit.  The final gallery was of particular interest as it brought in many stories of minorities and their experiences in Canada.

Here at the Oshawa Museum, we are continually examining the traditional story of Oshawa, in particular, how it is NOT always reflective of our complete community.  For example, the wealthy industrialists are remembered, but not often talked about are the workers who worked in the plants and secured the wealth for the owners.  Experiences of minorities haven’t always been collected and shared, and our Archivist is constantly working to ‘Change the Narrative.’

Museums are spaces where narratives should be challenged.

2) Museums are FUN.

Let’s look at the numbers. According to the Ontario Museum Association, every year Ontario’s Museums see 19.4 million visitors, 93.5 million online visits and 38,112 school visits.  With numbers like this, we must be doing something right! How often are your trips planned with museums or cultural visits in mind? How often do you attend events at your local museums because they sound fun (like our Yoga in the Garden, Annual Lamplight Tour, or Scenes from the Cemetery)?

My favourite tour I’ve delivered (and there’s been a lot of them) was over March Break a few years back, and about half way through a young visitor said, “You know, I thought this was going to be boring, but it’s actually really cool!” There was no greater compliment than that.

3) Museums and Community are intrinsically linked.

As I asked above, how often are your trips planned with museums or cultural visits in mind?  Any time I take a trip, I try to visit a local community museum so to better learn about the history of where I’ve visiting. Community museums are just that – about the history of their municipalities. Community can take a much broader meaning as well.  For example, our friends at the Canadian Automotive Museum – their community of car enthusiasts has a national and even international scale! Community isn’t just the geo-political boundaries. Community is so much more, and museums are there to celebrate.

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From my museum travels around Ontario – Outside the Waterloo Region Museum (and failing at a jump pic…), Bytown Museum, Huron County Museum, McMichael Art Gallery, and Gibson House Museum

4) Museums are more than brick and mortar.

When you picture a museum, what comes to mind? A building? A historic house? Museum often brings to mind a place, however, without the collections, what is a museum except an empty building. The collections is what brings a museum to life, the genuine, one-of-a-kind things that each have their own story to tell.  Our photography collection shows how much our community has changed and in what ways it’s stayed the same.  I could easily geek out about our Rebellion Boxes and have to retrain myself when talking about them on tour. Every visitor looks at our 1862 Tackabury Map and can make connections with it, whether it’s finding their home town on the map, marvelling at changes (like visitors from Kitchener, which was then Berlin), or simply laughing about the time table and how completely useless it is in 2018 with standard time.

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Aside from the collections, we often find ourselves engaging with the community outside of the Museum.  We love sharing stories from the past on our various walking tours.  We don’t have to be on-site in our houses to talk about our community and its history.

5) Museum people are good people.

Not only is it the collections that make a museum shine, but also the people who work in them.  Again from the OMA, there are over 11,600 museum professionals and over 35,500  volunteers.  Museum people love what they do, they are passionate, knowledgeable, and are more than happy to tell you why working for a museum is one of the coolest jobs a person can have.

Happy International Museum Day!

Oshawa Museum Expansion Update

By Laura Suchan, Executive Director

You might have seen the Oshawa Museum in the news lately.  The Oshawa Express featured an article on the museum expansion plans and the approval, in principle, from the City of Oshawa to build a new Visitor Centre in Lakeview Park.  This is big news for us as it gives us the green light to begin site investigate and technical due diligence as needed. This location, as noted in the image below, was chosen in the 1990s by our consultants, Sears and Russell, in consultation with City staff, as being the most appropriate location for an expansion project.

The OHS is excited about this new development because a new museum facility will allow us to improve spaces and amenities and support the efficient and sustainable operation of the Oshawa Museum going forward.  In 1996 we completed a Master Plan study that recommended collections and museum support services be consolidated in a new purpose designed building.  In 2016 this recommendation was once again echoed by the Canadian Conservation Institute in their Facilities Assessment Report noting, “Oshawa Museum staff have exhausted options for using historic spaces efficiently; therefore, new space is needed.”

A new facility would offer:

  • Centrally located reception/admissions area;
  • The opportunity to repatriate the Oshawa municipal collection from the Archives of Ontario
  • Consolidated administration, staff and volunteer work area;
  • Oshawa history orientation gallery;
  • Enhanced exhibit and program space;
  • Consolidated collection storage in spaces large enough to facilitate access, permit growth and provide high security and environmental controls;
  • Improved visitor amenities;
  • Increased fire protection through fire-resistive construction and spaces protected by automatic fire suppression;
  • Spaces built using materials that facilitate preservation and good housekeeping; and
  • Sufficient storage for all collections above grade and outside of flood risk zones.

Our plan is to have a new museum building in time for the upcoming 100th anniversary of Oshawa becoming a city in 2024.  In our minds, there is no better way to celebrate the past than embracing the future with the opening of a new, improved, community museum facility.

2018 Volunteer of the Year: Patty Davis

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

Last week was National Volunteer Week. Annually, the Oshawa Museum honours the previous year’s Earl Hann Volunteer of the Year. The 2017 recipient was our Costumer, Patty Davis. Patty returned to the museum in 2014 after a hiatus, before which she made all of our children’s costumes and many of our Visitor Host costumes.

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Patty has logged over 150 hours of service over her years at the Museum and has spent countless hours of her own time to make sure the staff at the Oshawa Museum look their best at our events and on tours. She has also assisted Curator, Melissa Cole with exhibit preparation and cataloging clothing in the Henry House storage areas. Patty is an amazing part of our volunteer team who participates in our events as well. You can find her playing croquet at Grandpa Henry’s Picnic, in the parlour as the lady of the house during the Lamplight Tours, walking in the Santa Claus Parades and even lecturing at Museum Tea & Talks.

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Patty is an integral member of our Volunteer Team and there are many things we wouldn’t have been able to do without her help. We look forward to working with Patty for many years to come.

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Thank you Patty, and all of our dedicated volunteers! We couldn’t do it without you!

Student Museum Musings – Ria

By Ria K., Co-op Student

Hello, my name is Ria, and I am this semester’s co-op student at the Oshawa Museum. I am currently in Grade 11, and attend O’Neill C.V.I. I chose to do my placement at the Oshawa Museum since it is an extremely different learning environment from what I am used to. History class is something I enjoy, as I am constantly learning, however history is much more exciting and engaging when I am experiencing a hands on learning experience, and not just listening to a lecture. Throughout my time as a co-op student, I will have many ongoing projects. One responsibility I find extremely interesting is researching and creating the monthly Month That Was blog posts.  Also, I have been passing a lot of time creating write ups on artefacts and posting them to the Oshawa Museum Tumblr. I hope to gain a lot of knowledge about how museums run, as well as gain new skills in researching, writing, and creating aesthetically pleasing displays. I am looking forward to spending the next four months at the Oshawa Museum!

Here is a selection of photos Ria has taken around the Museum!