Archives Awareness Week – Archives A to Z

Throughout March 2021, Archives took to Twitter and shared their collections from A to Z. Never one to skip social media trends, the Oshawa Museum played along with the daily #ArchivesAtoZ prompt and were excited to showcase our collection.

Here is our round up of #ArchivesAtoZ:

A is for Audio – our collection contains documents, photographs, and many hours of audio interviews! Through the pandemic, at home volunteers have been working to transcribe these audio files, making them accessible and simpler for searching!

B is for Boxes – Hollinger Boxes, to be precise. The majority of our collection is stored inside these boxes, organized by by subject, collection, or Fonds. Designed for long-term storage, they were LIFE SAVERS (or, I guess, collection savers, in the 2003 Guy House Fire.

C is for Collections – Our archival holdings have a number of collections. A favourite is the Dowsley photograph collection, a series of photo donations, images taken by Mr Dowsley through the years. It is a wonderful documentation of Oshawa through the last few decades.

Bruce Street, east of Drew taken in 1990 (Dowsley Collection, A016.10.198)

D is for Digitization – A focus within the archival field for well over a decade, the purpose of digitization is two fold: preservation and access. In one of our podcasts, our archivist looks into the process of digitizing the archives for access.

E is for Exhibit – We have a number of online exhibitions, featuring the archival collection. One of our newest was to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Lakeview Park: https://lakeviewparkoshawa.wordpress.com/

F is for Fire Insurance MapsFire Insurance Maps are one of those hidden gems within an archives as they can help a wide variety of researchers. These incredibly maps show the footprints of the buildings that existed at the time the map was created, and their original purpose was to assist insurance underwriters with determining risk when assessing insurance rates.

G is for Granny – Perhaps one of our largest archival items, the portrait of Harriet Cock. We often just call her Granny. It was donated just over a decade ago, & after some restoration and reframing, she has been on display in Guy House since 2012.

H is for House – One of our commonly asked questions is how to research the history of your house. We partnered with Heritage Oshawa and developed a guide with helpful steps on how to do this research: https://oshawahistoricalsociety.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/researching-your-house.pdf

I is for Immigration – We have been actively seeking to fill gaps in the collection, and our Displaced Persons Project came from this. We have been collecting oral histories of people who immigrated after WWII for several years now, and these stories will not only become an important part of the archival collection, they will also form the basis of an exhibition we plan on opening Summer 2021: https://oshawaimmigrationstories.weebly.com/

J is for Jennifer – Meet our archivist, Jennifer Weymark. She’s been part of the OM team since 1999 and the archivist since 2000. She manages the archival collection and ensures this information is preserved and made available to those interested in researching.

K is for King St – This is what Oshawa calls our section of Highway 2, and the story of King Street has been whimsically painted by local artist Eric Sangwine. His paintings, depicting his interpretations of local history, are a beloved part of our archival holdings.

L is for Letters – Our 2013 donation of letters, photographs, & receipts, all relating to Thomas Henry, helped us better understand one of the patriarchs of our Museum buildings. The letters formed the basis of a book, To Cast a Reflection: The Henry Family in their Own Words, and this book can be bought from our online store.

M is for Marriage Certificate – This was included in the 2013 Thomas Henry donation; he was a witness for this marriage. It was received at the same time that our research into Oshawa’s early Black History was underway. This marriage between George Dunbar and Mary Andrews was interracial, and Mary’s family was one of two Black families who settled in Oshawa in the 1850s. Research through documentary evidence has helped us to better understand the history of early Black settlers in the area and has helped us to share this important aspect of our history. While we work to fill in the gaps left by earlier collecting practices, we are also working to tell the histories that were lost in that gap. Items like the marriage certificate are a part of work.

N is for Newspapers – Our collection of early Oshawa newspapers were digitized and made available to researchers: http://communitydigitalarchives.com/newspapers.html

*These newspapers also are the resource used for the blog series: The Month That Was

O is for Oshawa – Oshawa is our mandate, to collect the history of our city from the earliest Indigenous inhabitants to present day.

P is for Photographs – Our collection is over 10,000 images & growing yearly! Photos help us understand how our community has changed, and what events & experiences were like. Our oldest images are from the c. 1860s, and our newest are the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q is for Query – Does your research have you wondering about something in Oshawa’s past? Contact our archivist with your query and we’ll do our best to help!

R is for Robson – Robson Leather was an industry in our community for almost a century. Did you know that during WWI, 70% of all upper leathers for the Canadian Expeditionary Force were produced at Robson? Learn more: https://industryinoshawa.wordpress.com/tanneries/robson-tannery/

S is for Storage – We underwent a large storage upgrade project in 2012, improving our storage room and shelving. While this project was incredibly beneficial and allowed us to increase our collecting capabilities, it was a band-aid for the larger issue we’ve faced at the Oshawa Museum for decades. We are at capacity and are in need of a purpose built museum facility to allow us to continue to collecting Oshawa’s history and open that collection up to researchers.

T is for Telegram – This is part of a special collection of correspondence of a man named William Garrow. He enlisted in 1915 & wrote letters to his sisters at home. His family received this telegram, notifying of his death in June 1916. https://lettersfromthetrenches.wordpress.com/

U is for Union Cemetery, a decades old partnership. We offer walking tours of Union, researched using archival resources. In the 1980s, the Durham OGS Chapter transcribed headstones in that cemetery, and copies of those transcriptions are part of the collection.

V is for Vacuum – Why Vacuum? We have a small vacuum that we’ll use for very carefully cleaning the spines of books.

W is for Weights – We have weights in the archives which helps our archivist hold down documents when working on them.

X is for eXamination – X is hard, ok… BUT examination of documents and photographs are an important part of archival work. In this video, Jennifer works out the critical thinking examination she uses for photographs:

Y is for Yacht Club – In 2014, our exhibit was Reflections of Oshawa, a community rooted exhibit, and one participant, Linda, shared her memorabilia from the Oshawa Yacht Club.

Z is for Zoom, the NEW way to meet the archivist! If you’re an educator and would like to book a Q & A with Jennifer, let us know! We want to help however we can with these new ways of learning.

Researching Our Collections

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

In 2002, a donation arrived in the archives related to a gentleman by the name of Jack Humphreys.  At the time, what drew me to the collection were the images of Camp Samac, the Boy Scout camp located in north Oshawa. The images showed the camp during the 1940s from the perspective of the campers and was a gap in the collection.  The collection was also interesting in that Mr. Humphreys was feted in Oshawa for several years for being the oldest citizen in the City.

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A002.9.22

In November 2019, I came across a caption in the Toronto Star noting that Mr. Humphreys was a veteran of two wars: the Boer War and World War I. Immediately after reading this, I went back to the collection to see what more I could learn about this aspect of Mr.  Humphreys. What I found was a fascinating life, a story about bravery, potentially tall tales and a long life lived to its fullest.

Learning more about the life and adventures of Mr. Humphreys was amazing and highlighted the unending opportunities for research offered by archival and curatorial collections. In an ideal world, when the collection arrived at the archives in 2002, it would have been researched during or shortly after the processing of the collection, and a finding aid developed. However, given the size of staff in our archives and curatorial departments, one in each, the vast majority of collection research occurs in relation to research requests or exhibit development.

In this case, further research into the collection was due to a happy accident when I bumped into the caption. This research was then used to write a short article looking into the extraordinary life of Mr. Humphreys. Collection research also forms the basis of finding aids and resources to make searching the archival collection easier for researchers.

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Even collections that have been fairly well researched offer opportunities to learn more and to add further context. For example, the correspondence of Pvt. Garrow has been well researched.  The World War I correspondence collection has been transcribed, a finding aid created for it and an online exhibit sharing the collection is available through the Museum’s website.  This research actually connected with research I was doing into early Black history in Oshawa.  It turns out that both Garrow and Albert Pankhurst were at the Battle of Mount Sorrel. This connection has added further context to Garrow’s letters and helped to better understand the enormity of the battle.

Collection research is a vital part of life in an archives or museum. It provides context and provenance.  Research shows connections between collections and artefacts. It can make a collection of photographs showing life at Camp Samac fit into the story of the Boer War and World War I.

Archives Awareness Week: 1867/1967

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

This article originally appeared on the Durham Region Area Archives Group website to celebrate Archives Awareness Week. This annual event, held across Ontario from April 3-9, 2017, is designed to raise awareness of the many resources that can be found in archival collections around the province.


This year marks the 150th Anniversary of Confederation. The year will be filled with celebrations, retrospection and imagining where this country will be in another 150 years. To begin the celebration, member institutions of DRAAG have looked through their holdings to find the most interesting item from 1867 and 1967 in their collections!

On August 26, 1867 an Oshawa resident by the name of T.N. Gibbs received a telegram from John A. Macdonald.  The telegram is rather significant, not only because it was sent by Canada’s first Prime Minister, but it talks about the first election after Confederation.

Gibbs was not new to politics but this election would be his most notable. He ran against Reformer backed George Brown and Liberal John Sandfield Macdonald.  While Gibbs won, it was widely accepted that he do so by corrupt practices.

Gibbs was the only successful Conservative candidate in this area.  This meant that he acted as the local confidante for Sir John A. Macdonald. So much so, that we have another little note sent to Gibbs by Macdonald in our collection.

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A960.19.5 (60-D-19); from the archival collection of the Oshawa Museum

Canada celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Confederation on a large scale. Locally, Oshawa joined in on the celebrations as well. Between beard growing contests, NHL exhibition games and special performances, the City marked the anniversary in a prominent way. Students in Oshawa schools spent a good part of the school year preparing for a Centennial Celebration held at the Civic Auditorium. The program included songs and dances, art work and projects that highlighted the differences between life in Oshawa in 1867 and 1967. The grade 7 and 8 students from E.A. Lovell School actually put on a performance showing the differences in physical training in 1867 and 1967. In the archives, we have the binder that was developed to outline all of the activities Oshawa schools engaged in related to the Centennial.

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Be sure to visit the Durham Region Area Archives Group website to see what gems are in archives from around our Region and to learn more about local archives!

Archives Awareness Week 2016

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

Did you know that the first week of April is Archives Awareness Week in Ontario?  It’s true.  In 2005 Bill 34 was passed by the Ontario Legislature proclaiming the celebration of archives throughout Ontario.

The wording of the bill states that “Ontario has a rich and colourful recorded history. Archives play an essential role in the preservation and use of that history. By acquiring, preserving and making available documentary materials from all aspects of society, archives promote the heritage of Ontario and safeguard the collective memory and rights of its citizens.” Archives preserve the historical record of our communities and help to share that history.

The Oshawa Archives
The Oshawa Archives

Within our archival collection we have land deeds that date back to 1815, maps that show how Oshawa has changed and photographs that have documented that change.  We have minute books from the local Sons of Temperance group that highlight a fascinating time in North American history.  There are newspapers that date back to before Canada was a country and provide us with such a unique look at Oshawa during that time.

Here at the Oshawa Museum, we not only collect the history of our community but we work to share it through a variety of mediums.  One of the most popular ways to share what we have in our holdings is through the creation of online exhibits.  These exhibits allow us to examine items in a manner similar to museum exhibits but we can reach a global audience.  This format also allows us to exhibit items that are perhaps too fragile to be out on display in the museum.  For example, we have our Letters from the Trenches exhibit that examines World War I using the letters of an Oshawa soldier.  The online exhibit allows us to showcase these fragile letters without concern for their preservation as it a digital format.

We also head out into the public to share the history of our items and our community.  In fact, I was on Talk Durham on Thursday, April 7th to talk about some of the fascinating items in the archival collection.  I was joined by members of the Durham Region Area Archives as we celebrate local archives in throughout our Region.


This article was written for, and first appeared in the Oshawa Express.

Archives Awareness Week – About the Oshawa Archives

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist
*This first appeared in the Oshawa Express in April 2012

From April 7 to 10, 2015, the Oshawa Community Archives is participating in Archives Awareness Week.  This annual event is designed to raise awareness of many resources that can be found in Ontario’s many archival collections.

What is an archives?  The dictionary defines an archives as:

  • Usually, archives: documents or records relating to the activities, business dealings, etc., of a person, family, corporation, association, community, or nation.
  • archives, a place where public records or other historical documents are kept.
  • any extensive record or collection of data: The encyclopedia is an archive of world history. The experience was sealed in the archive of her memory.

The Oshawa Community Archives, in Guy House
The Oshawa Community Archives, in Guy House

I thought I would take this opportunity to introduce the readers to the Oshawa Community Archives and some of the really interesting pieces we have in our collection.  The archives began in 1957 with the formation of the Historical Society.  The Historical Society was given the task of collecting items, be that clothing, photographs, furniture or documents that told the story of Oshawa’s history.  Today, that archival collection contains over 7000 photographs, over 100 rolls of microfilm and over 250 boxes filled with documents all related to the history of Oshawa.

A glimpse into the storage at the Oshawa Archives
A glimpse into the storage at the Oshawa Archives

With over 54 years worth of items collected, the Archives has been lucky enough to house some really fascinating pieces.  One of the items that I have found incredibly interesting, as well as fascinating, are a series of letters written by Pvt. William Garrow to his sisters Leah and Lillian from the front lines during WWI.  For me, these letters truly show the human side of the war and become that much more poignant when you realize that the dreams William writes about do not come to be, as sadly he killed in action in 1917.  For me it is ever more touching when further research shows that William was one of the 54000 British Empire soldiers who have no known grave.

William James Garrow Jr., from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
William James Garrow Jr., from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

The collection also is home to some really interesting medals that were created by the Joseph Hall Works.  At its peak of operation, around 1867, the company employed close to three hundred people producing all sorts of ironwork.  The medals were produced in 1883 and given out during the Knights of Labour Demonstration Parade, similarly to the way that candy canes are handed out at the Santa Claus Parade only much heavier as they are made of iron.

A988.9.1 - Joseph Hall Works / Knights of Labor Medallion
A988.9.1 – Joseph Hall Works Medallion

The Archives is also home to life-sized painting of Granny Harriet Cock, the first mother-in-law of Thomas Guy Jr.  The painting, which is about 6 feet high, was painted in England around 1840 and was brought to Canada in 1842.  The painting is permanently installed in the Verna Conant Gallery at Guy House.

The Harriet Cock portrait, on display in the Verna Conant Gallery
The Harriet Cock portrait, on display in the Verna Conant Gallery

 

Take this opportunity to visit the archives and see our collection.  I will also be available to assist answering questions and repairing any documents you may have in your personal archives.

 

Want to know more about the Oshawa Archives?  Check out this video, available on our YouTube Channel: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVNpyCqhxU0