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/

One Year, Three Museums

By Kes Murray, Registrar

Ever since I was young, I have loved museums. All that history and knowledge within one building spurred me from gallery to gallery. Flash forward to today. Me, a recent graduate with a museum studies degree and one year of experiences working in three different museums.

As we enter into a new year, I like to reflect upon my 2021. Like everyone, 2021 was a challenging year. From online school, to trying to balance my personal and professional life, I was constantly burnt-out. Thankfully, one shining light of 2021 was all the museums I had the pleasure of working in. In total, I worked in three museums. Now, please don’t mind me as I reminisce about my 2021 museum adventures.

Royal Ontario Museum

At the start of 2021, I began my journey at the Royal Ontario Museum. The ROM is one of the largest museums in Canada, and navigating this large institution taught me many things.

At the ROM, I worked in the Registration Department. If you are unfamiliar with the role of a museum registrar, don’t worry! I was too. I learned that a registrar is mainly responsible for museum objects that enter and leave the museum. This includes travelling exhibits, loans to other museums, and objects that are leaving the museum’s collection permanently. Because of the diverse tasks a registrar must do, they have to be knowledgeable in many areas of museum work, like how to properly handle museum objects, how to write copyright agreements, and how to process objects that come into the museum.

The absolute highlight of my time here happened in January 2021. I was invited to help de-install a travelling exhibition. The registrar’s part in this is straightforward; all objects that are leaving need to be inspected to see if something has happened to them during their time on display. This process is called condition reporting. Along with some other tasks, my week went by very quickly.

Me, condition reporting at the ROM, January 20/2021.

As I reflect on my time there, I realize the depth of my learning. I learned here how to process objects that are coming into the museum’s collection, how to be observant that meet museum standards, how to work with other departments, and, most importantly, not to be afraid to ask questions.

Algonquin Provincial Park

I always remember that museum can be found just about anywhere. My adventure into Algonquin Park was a big reminder of this. In September 2021, I began a month-and-a-half contract in Algonquin Park as a museum technician.

I have never in my life lived outside of southern Ontario. So, moving to a provincial park in Central Ontario seemed rather intimidating. And it was quite the drive, let me tell you. But, after a six hour drive from London, Ontario, I arrived.

My experience in Algonquin was like nothing I have ever experienced in a museum setting before. I mainly worked at the Visitor Centre at the information desk. I answered questions and watched over the bookstore. The Visitor Centre was a unique building. It housed the Friends of Algonquin offices, where I worked, and also a lookout deck and a museum that took you through the natural and human history of the park. My favourite part of working at the Visitor Centre was the Visitor Animal sightings board, a simple white board where visitors can record their wildlife sightings. Everyday, visitors would record different animals they saw. It was hard not to be excited with them. From moose sightings to wolf sightings, it was an excellent way of seeing animal movement in the park, and maybe a good recommendation to another visitor where they may see a grouse or a Canada Jay.

Visitor Sightings Board, October 15/2021

Other times, I worked at the Logging Museum. The Logging Museum happened to be a part of one of the Park’s trails. So when I was at the Logging Museum, I got to walk the trail at least once a day to make sure all the structures on the trail undamaged.  

And of course it wouldn’t be Algonquin without a fun animal story. The trail at the Logging Museum passes a creek, where a mischievous beaver would regularly dam the log shute, a structure that tells one part of the history of logging in the park. Apparently, this happens a lot, and when I told my supervisor of the clogged shute, I was met with sighs and shaking heads. The beaver had struck again.

Log shute dammed by beaver on Logging Museum Trail, September 18/2021

Oshawa Museum

My last museum journey of 2021 brought me here, to the Oshawa Museum. The beginning of December 2021, I started as one of two registrars working on a large backlog of donations to the museum. Now, I’m on the waterfront. From being in the urban jungle of downtown Toronto, to the forests of Algonquin Park, to Lake Ontario, I feel like I have seen all the wonderful places in Ontario where museums are situated.

Outside look of Guy House, December 21/2021

As for my work here, I have sorted through brochures, photographs, and now cassettes. Myself and the other registrar, Savannah, have made a considerable and noticeable dent in the backlogged donations. Every day brings its own fascinating discovery and challenge. As we move further into the New Year, I am very eager to continue my work here, to say the least.

Every 2021 museum I worked in was, to me, an adventure. I didn’t know what to expect and came somewhat prepared. Navigating a new workplace and environment brought its own challenges. But, if I had the chance to do it all again, I would.

As the New Year is a time of reflection of the year that has past and the year to come, I am excited for what 2022 has in store for me, especially if it means more museums.

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 Levee

The post originally appeared on the Oshawa Museum Holiday Blog, December 31, 2017: https://oshawamuseumholiday.wordpress.com/2017/12/31/december-31-2017/

In Canada, December 31 is commemorated as the Levee.  It’s a social gathering held by the Governor General, Lieutenant General, and the military in Canada. Levee had been celebrated for years, but it was first tied to New Year’s Eve, in Canada, in 1646. The Governor of New France held the levee in the Chateau St. Louis, and during the levee he informed the guests of what to look forward to in the new year and that they were expected to renew their allegiance to the Crown. The tradition of the levee continued after the Governor Charles Huault de Montmagny was no longer in charge.

Happy New Years Eve Everybody!

Colourful postcard with a clock striking midnight in the left corner, and in the centre reads "My New Year's Wish for you dear friend contains enough of everything to have you want for nothing more"

Student Museum Musings – Ephemeral Snowfall

By Thomas P., Co-op Student

There hasn’t been as much snow as I’d hoped there’d be so far this year. These late November and early December days have only been homely to dead leaves and a frigid lakeside breeze. Though my walks throughout Lakeview Park and in and around the Oshawa Museum have surely been cold, the only snow I’ve seen is on the occasional Saturday night, or perhaps it was actually morning, that has lifted my snowy spirits.

In my early teen years, I was rather ambivalent about snowfall. On one hand, I always found it to be a lovely ambiance to go along with late nights reading or immersed in some game on my computer, but I have also never been a fan of shovelling said snow off my driveway. Even still, this year, my final year in high school and first year working a co-op position at the Oshawa Museum, I’ve found myself missing snow just that little bit more than usual. There’s something about the quiet of it all, the long dark sense of soft snowflakes falling on one’s face in the latter half of 10pm. Even when it does snow, at 2am when you happen to look outside after a long night, it doesn’t last forever, which is, of course, the nature of things. The snow only stays on the ground for as long as nature will allow it to.

A close friend of mine was the one who taught me of the word ephemeral, the definition of the word being “lasting for a very short time.” It’s a word that’s meaning can be found in many places. It can describe the summer months that go by so fast when you’re out walking, the autumn breeze on the shores of Lake Ontario that doesn’t last nearly as long as it should, the quiet moments in the winter snow that only last as long as it takes for the chill to set into your bones.

Nevertheless, life is ephemeral. There’s always little moments overlooked and underappreciated. Little pieces of history only remembered years later by the archives and museums. Life is an unfinished symphony. Everyone you’ll ever know, every human being you can possibly imagine, only fits into the smallest puzzle piece of life. A singular snowflake in the blizzard of all life that’s ever lived and ever will live. Yet time, time is not ephemeral. Time will move on and last as long as you and your future generations will, but life only lasts as long as we do. The sands, or maybe even snows, of life are always falling. In fact, Memento Mori! Remember death, because the snows of life and sands of time only last so long. It’s not long now until the non-metaphorical snow falls too!

So dear reader, I advise you to take some time, it doesn’t matter when, to simply listen. Listen to the gentle brush of water against cold sand. Listen to the squirrels running along the branches of the trees. Listen to the gentle thrum of car engines, and listen to the life around you. Make life something more permanent than snow. At the end of the day, the end of time, it’s your choices that shape your history. This is why we’re still learning and will forever still be learning from the past. Time is forever unfinished, and life is what you make from time.

Glowing Regards,
Thomas

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