Student Museum Musings – In My Own Backyard?

By Dylan C., Museum Management & Curatorship Intern

Being a resident of Whitby for the better part of 24 years, I have been encouraged through sport to view Oshawa as my rival, which has led to a rather lackluster attempt to learn what Oshawa has to offer. It wasn’t until recently, that life led me to discover the Oshawa Museum for my internship as part of Fleming College’s Museum Management and Curatorship program (MMC).

After only a couple weeks on site, I have gained a considerable amount of knowledge about Oshawa by exploring the waterfront trail and by learning the history of the harbour and the surrounding structures.

Although I have ventured into Oshawa via the waterfront trail from Whitby, or from riding near Oshawa Ice Sports after hockey, I never knew how extensive the trails were in Oshawa and how they bleed out into the city streets creating a somewhat hidden bike transit system. These trails are so extensive that Oshawa and the Durham region offer Cycle Tours. The Waterfront trail extends all the way to Toronto and easily connects to GO station stops. This network can provide residents of Oshawa with a greener alternative to their daily transit, at least in the warmer months of the year.

Both photos taken at Emma Street looking north to King, 1992 and 2016. The rail line is now the Michael Starr Trail

The museum has provided me with a platform to learn and explore Oshawa, but it also taught me how to explore. Without the direction from the museum I would not have known where to start my discovery of the city.

My Experience to Date

So far, the museum has been able to provide me with a wide range of experiences from photographing and cataloguing an archaeological collection, to providing supplementary research for an education program.  I have also been able to help install a Smith Potteries exhibit in Robinson House.

Smith Potteries Collection; Picture from Dylan C.

The archaeological dig was completed by Trent University Durham students in 2015 and uncovered 19th century waste pits surrounding Henry House. Cataloguing this archaeological collection has given me the opportunity to apply some of the skills I learned in the MMC program such as proper care and handling of artefacts, photographing, and detailed documentation practices. It has also provided me with insight into the life of the early inhabitants of the area by literally examining what was buried in their backyards. I’ve learned what animals they farmed and what items they had in their homes including ceramics, glass, nails and buttons. Handling these objects makes it easier to connect with the residents of the past because I am essentially documenting their garbage. The past owners did not bury these objects hoping that someone would dig them up 165 years later; they did it to simply discard their waste. For some reason this humanizes them more for me than even walking in their perfectly preserved homes. Perhaps, you can tell a lot about a person from their trash after all.

Cataloguing Station; Picture from Dylan C.

In the upcoming weeks I will be familiarizing myself with the museum’s database as I enter the information from the archaeological collection. I will also be working on a research project that explores the topic of audio transcriptions and engaging at-home volunteers. And lastly, I will be continuing my tour guide training as the museum adapts to the current COVID-19 regulations.

Digging Up The Past – Archaeology Day 2016

This post was originally shared last year, but we thought it was worth sharing again for Archaeology Day 2016!

Archaeology is an important part of the interpretation at the Oshawa Museum.  Our Grandview Gallery in Robinson House helps tell the story of the Lake Ontario Iroquois, a group of First Nations who called this area home over 500 years ago. For far too long, the history of Oshawa began with Benjamin Wilson, an American who settled here in 1790 with his family, and so on and so forth.  By saying our history begins with Wilson, we are completely omitting the Lake Ontario Iroquois, who were settled with 10-15 longhouses, who hunted, who fished, and who farmed for a period of over 70 years.  Archaeology and the evidence it has given us helps us challenge the ‘traditional story,’ and we do so on every tour, through our interpretation and through the artifacts we have on display that were discovered during the excavation of the Grandview site in 1992.

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Inside the Grandview Discovery Gallery

Fun fact: there were over 11,000 artifacts unearthed during that salvage dig excavation, and all 11,000 are part of our collection at the Oshawa Museum.  Not all 11,000 are on display of course, but you can view exceptional examples when you visit!

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Tools on display from the Grandview Archaeological excavation

There were two Aboriginal villages discovered through archaeological excavations; theMacLeod Site at Rossland and Thornton was discovered in the late 1960s, and the Grandview Site, around Grandview and Taunton, was discovered in 1992.  Both sites provide valuable information about the lives of the Lake Ontario Iroquois and have helped us at the Oshawa Museum shift how we tell the history of our City.

When people think about archaeology, ancient ruins, Egypt, Greece, Maya, or early First Nation settlements is what frequently comes to mind.  At the Oshawa Museum, we are fortunate to have two collections from late-historic archaeological sites: the Farewell Cemetery Collection and the Henry House Collection.  These two sites date to the mid to late 1800s and they provide information about Victorian lives and culture. Artifacts from the Henry House excavation will be on display in Henry House.

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Coffin handle found during the removal and excavation of the Farewell Cemetery

Curator Melissa Cole gives information on the Farewell Cemetery excavation in her June 2015 Podcast.

Archaeology is a fascinating field, and Archaeology Day is an event where we get to celebrate and showcase the amazing history that has been unearthed here in Oshawa!


Archaeology Day 2016 is happening on October 15 from 12-3pm.  Proud partners for this year’s event are Trent University Durham and Scugog Shores Museum who will be joining us with interactive displays, engaging activities, lectures, and sharing in their knowledge of and passion for the field of Archaeology.

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We ‘Dig’ History! Archaeology Day at the OCM

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

For a third year, the Oshawa Museum is proud to host International Archaeology Day on October 17!  With fun for the whole family planned, visit us and see for yourself why this event has quickly become a favourite amongst Oshawa Museum staff!

Archaeology is an important part of the interpretation at the Oshawa Community Museum.  Our Grandview Gallery in Robinson House helps tell the story of the Lake Ontario Iroquois, a group of First Nations who called this area home over 500 years ago. For far too long, the history of Oshawa began with Benjamin Wilson, an American who settled here in 1790 with his family, and so on and so forth.  By saying our history begins with Wilson, we are completely omitting the Lake Ontario Iroquois, who were settled with 10-15 longhouses, who hunted, who fished, and who farmed for a period of over 70 years.  Archaeology and the evidence it has given us helps us challenge the ‘traditional story,’ and we do so on every tour, through our interpretation and through the artifacts we have on display that were discovered during the excavation of the Grandview site in 1992.

Inside the Grandview Discovery Gallery
Inside the Grandview Discovery Gallery

Fun fact: there were over 11,000 artifacts unearthed during that salvage dig excavation, and all 11,000 are part of our collection at the Oshawa Museum.  Not all 11,000 are on display of course, but you can view exceptional examples when you visit!

Tools on display from the Grandview Archaeological excavation
Tools on display from the Grandview Archaeological excavation

There were two Aboriginal villages discovered through archaeological excavations; the MacLeod Site at Rossland and Thornton was discovered in the late 1960s, and the Grandview Site, around Grandview and Taunton, was discovered in 1992.  Both sites provide valuable information about the lives of the Lake Ontario Iroquois and have helped us at the Oshawa Museum shift how we tell the history of our City.

When people think about archaeology, ancient ruins, Egypt, Greece, Maya, or early First Nation settlements is what frequently comes to mind.  At the Oshawa Museum, we are fortunate to have two collections from late-historic archaeological sites: the Farewell Cemetery Collection and the Henry House Collection.  These two sites date to the mid to late 1800s and they provide information about Victorian lives and culture.

Coffin handle found during the removal and excavation of the Farewell Cemetery
Coffin handle found during the removal and excavation of the Farewell Cemetery

The Farewell Cemetery Collection is on display in conjunction with our latest exhibit, Mourning After: The Victorian Celebration of Death, and included in the display are a selection of coffin jewelry, coffin hardware (like handles), as well as nameplates and viewing glasses.  Curator Melissa Cole gives information on why the excavation took place and about the artifacts in her June 2015 Podcast.

The Farewell Cemetery excavation was performed by the Toronto based firm, Archaeological Services Inc., and they will be joining us for Archaeology Day, bringing along artifacts discovered locally, as well as delivering a talk on the Don Jail excavation.

Dr. Helen Haines (centre) and students from Trent Durham from the latest Henry House excavation
Dr. Helen Haines (centre) and students from Trent Durham from the latest Henry House excavation

Another proud Archaeology Day partner is Trent University Durham, who have partnered with us on this event from its inception.  This year, Dr. Helen Haines and Trent students will discuss the two archaeological digs that have happened here at the Museum.  In 2011 and again this past summer, the heritage gardens of Henry House have been investigated, and the findings have helped us re-evaluate what we know about the Henry family, strengthening our understanding on how they lived.  Artifacts that were discovered in 2011 will be on display, and Dr. Haines will deliver a talk on the two excavations.

Archaeology is a fascinating field, and Archaeology Day is an event where we get to celebrate and showcase the amazing history that has been unearthed here in Oshawa!  Please join us on October 17 for International Archaeology Day!

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Student Museum Musings – Jodie

By Jodie, Collections Assistant Co-op Student

I have been at the Oshawa Community Museum as my co-op placement for almost five months, and it has been the most amazing experience that I have ever had. I have learnt many new things and had opportunities that were very exciting.

994.28.32x - 'At Rest', from the Farewell Cemetery archaeological collection
994.28.32x – ‘At Rest’, from the Farewell Cemetery archaeological collection

 

I was given the assignments of cataloging the Farewell Pioneer Cemetery artefacts and the archaeology collection that is in Robinson House (from the Grandview Archaeological Site). While cataloguing both of these collections took up most of my time here, I also was able to other things around the museum: myself and Melissa set up a display case for Archaeology Day, I’ve helped her set up a display that was being lent out to a nursing reunion, I went with Melissa to a donor’s house for a possible donation to one of her collections, and other things to take a small break from data entry.

Jodie with the display case she 'curated' for International Archaeology Day in October
Jodie with the display case she ‘curated’ for International Archaeology Day in October

And so it is with much gratitude that I thank all of the lovely people that are at the museum for this wonderful experience and making everyday one full of new information  learn.

 

Many thanks, Jodie, for all of your hard work and dedication this semester! We’ve all enjoyed working with you, and all the best for your future studies!

Student Museum Musings – Jodie

By Jodie, Collections Assistant Co-op Student

Hello, my name is Jodie and I am a co-op student that started my placement with the museum in early September. My placement here is based around archaeological studies and the aspects of those that are found in the museum. I have been given the amazing opportunity to work with the Harmony Road Farewell Pioneer Cemetery artifacts and I have been cataloging and photographing the collection pieces.

My first day here I was taken on a tour of the houses and taught some facts about the families that lived there and about the other collections that are open to the public. I was then shown the collection storage areas where they keep all of the items that are not on display at the moment and afterwards was shown the boxes of artifacts that I would be working with for the next few weeks. I spent the next few days going over the archaeological report of the site and over articles of the families and other articles that pertain to the site and the families that were buried there for background information and so I would know what to expect when I started to work with the artifacts themselves.

Working on the actual boxes has been incredible; almost all of the coffin decorations are in very good shape and have intricate designs on them and some of the name plate engagements are still legible.  This has been an amazing learning opportunity for me as an archaeology student and I am very thankful to the wonderful people here at the Oshawa Museum for this experience.

 

The following are artifacts that Jodie has photographed and cataloged from the Farewell Cemetery Archaeological Collection (994.28)

994.28.5d, Coffin Hardware
994.28.5d, Coffin Hardware

994.28.14q - Coffin Handle
994.28.14q – Coffin Handle

994.28.32x - 'At Rest'
994.28.32x – ‘At Rest’

994.28.4a - Portion of coffin hardware
994.28.4a – Portion of coffin hardware