Canada: 150 Years… or is it?

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

By Sarah C., Visitor Host

This year is Canada’s 150th birthday!  It has been 150 years since Canada became a Dominion. But oddly enough, we have only been celebrating Canada Day for the last 35 years. It is interesting the changes Canada has gone through over the last 150 years.

The progression from British colony to independent nation of the Commonwealth was not as simple as turning on a light. In 1867 the British North America Act created Canada with its first four provinces and it allowed for some level of autonomy. Canada as we know it has been developing ever since then.

It was not until 1947 that people were ‘citizen of Canada’ previously they had been British citizens. Changes such as this, the introduction of our own flag and anthem were all steps in creating an independent Canadian identity.

Provinces and territories have been added to create the physical layout of Canada that we know today. The last change occurring in 1999 with the creation of Nunavut.  That is 132 years of changes to get to the country we recognize today!

This year is the 86th anniversary of the Statute of Westminster. Though 64 years after Dominion Day, it also had significant impact on the Canadian government’s ability to act independently from the British government. It provided clarification to the Dominion’s legislative independence, particularly in regard to foreign policy. More changes would follow to allow Canada to further act independently of Britain. I always think of it as a significant action in Canada’s independence, but really it was another action in a gradual progression to the country that we see today.

As I was writing this I was shown this CBC video which helps to ask the question of how old Canada really is. It is really cool and it highlights more notable changes that have occurred in Canada over the last 150 years.


References & Resources:

http://www.pier21.ca/research/immigration-history/canadian-citizenship-act-1947

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/constitution-act-1867/

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/statute-of-westminster/

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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Celebrating 60: Karen’s Favourite Artefact

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

By Karen A., Visitor Host

Working at the Oshawa Museum, I have the opportunity to see and learn about new artefacts everyday. Walking through the door of Henry House, I enter into the 19th century, gradually reversing back into a simpler period where social media, computers, electricity, and yes, indoor plumbing does not exist.  Although I adore every room in Henry House, the parlor catches my eye and I delicately walk in careful of the perfectly placed tea set awaiting upon the tabletop. What I find most magical about the Victorian parlor is the design and style which is opposite of the 21st century in every way. The Henry House parlor is a place to relax quietly while sitting and reading, enjoying the elegant pieces of art that surround the room.

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My favourite artefact in the parlor is the wax flower dome that sits upon a table in the parlor. The flower dome was a trend in the Victorian period becoming so popular almost every house obtained one. Made of the wax, the flowers were designed beautifully in various colours to demonstrate wealth and prestige.

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Detail of 012.10.1, after conservation

Although the history of the flower dome is interesting, what is also special about this artefact is the scientific side of it. Flower domes needed to be created in particular ways to that once the wax was hardened and put in place, then the dome could be placed perfectly on top. One would need to cut the glass to specific measurements for the preservation of the wax and the flowers. What I find most unique about the flower dome is the ability to preserve the wax to continue to have it on display for generations to come.


To find out more about our favourite artefacts, visit the Oshawa Museum and see our 2017 feature exhibit: Celebrating 60: Sixty Years of Collecting, opening April 18, 2017!

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For more on the Wax Flower Dome, read our blog post, or listen to Curator Melissa Cole in our Podcast

Oshawa’s Olympians

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

By Sarah C., Visitor Host

Every two years I get to enjoy watching the Olympics to see athletes from around the world and around the country compete in a wide variety of sports. This year at the Rio 2016 Olympics we saw and heard from two Oshawa born athletes: Matt Hughes and Perdita Felicien.

Matt Hughes made his Olympic debut in the 3000m Steeplechase. For those who, like me, had never heard of  this event , it is a 3000m race with obstacles which take form as hurdles and a waterpit.  (See this article for details ) .

Hughes had won gold at the Pan Am games in 2015 and at 2016 in Rio he competed in the final coming in 11th.

The other Oshawa born athlete seen was Perdita Felicien though she was not there to compete this time. Felicien appeared as a commentator for athletics. Born in Oshawa and raised in Pickering she is a two time Olympian in the 100m hurdles.  I remember her competing at both Sydney and Athens so it was exciting to see her again lending her insight to the games.

The Host Files – Victorian Flower Language

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

By Karen A., Visitor Host

The Victorian Era ushered in a time of proper etiquette among the upper class in England during Queen Victoria’s reign. Among the many rules and customs, there were expected behaviors that prohibited outright flirtations, questions, or scandalous relationships between two young lovers.

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The use of flowers to convey messages had been used in Persia and the Middle East, it was during the Victorian Era and the publication of flower dictionaries explaining the meaning of plants, flowers and herbs, that the tradition began to spread throughout England. Soon it became popular to use flowers to send secretive messages. Though often portrayed to relay positive messages of interest, affection and love, flowers could also send a negative message and at times, the same flower could have opposite meanings depending on how it was arranged or delivered.

There was even a “Floral Clock”, with each flower representing a different hour of the day. “Meet me tomorrow at five o’clock”, for example, could be said with a combination of pimpernel, buttercup, and sweet-pea. Through the language of flowers, Victorian sweethearts were able to exchange messages and arrange meetings under the noses of their unsuspecting parents!

Victorian Era etiquette was dictated by who was around to observe the behaviors and manners of others. There was a clear distinction between upper class, middle-class, and the poor. Proper etiquette often limited communications based on people of another social status, or of a different gender.

Even within the same social class, many topics were taboo and it was impolite or downright rude to ask openly about relationships. Flirtations did take place, but secretly and with attention to discretion. By today’s standards, much of Victorian etiquette seems overly complicated or foolish, but in fact much of it was based on simple good manners. Some customs have been passed along and continued to be followed today such as men removing their hats when indoors, showing respect to women by opening doors for them or bringing a hostess gift to parties.

Here are some examples of the Victorian flower language:

Lavender- Sad refusal. “I like you, but only as a friend.”
Purple Iris- Ardour. “My heart is aflame.”
Bulrush- Haste. “Be more discreet in future.”
Daffodil- Rebuttal. “I do not share your feelings.”
Daisy- Delay. “Await my answer in a few days.”
Fuchsia- Warning. “Take heed, your lover is false.”
Pimpernel- Meeting. “Suggest when and where to meet.”
Primrose- New Love. “I may learn to love you. It’s too soon to tell.”
Begonia – Warning. “We are being watched.”
Tulip- Confession. “With this flower I declare my love.

So the next time you receive a gift of flowers, pay close attention—they may be talking to you!

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From the Archival Collection of the Oshawa Museum