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.

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 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

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"

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