Reflections on a Day for Truth and Reconciliation 2022

September 30 marked the second annual Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The day “honours the children who never returned home and Survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities.”

To mark this solemn day, the Oshawa Museum opened our doors to our exhibit, A Carrying Place: Oshawa’s Indigenous Story. This exhibit, which opened in 2017, connects our community with their past, embraces the present Indigenous community, and builds towards a spirit of reconciliation and partnership.

A view of a room with art work and text panels on the wall
Inside the exhibit, A Carrying Place

We welcomed guests throughout the day, the majority of whom made a point to visit the exhibit because of the day and what it represents. We engaged with visitors with meaningful, and oftentimes the hard and heartbreaking, conversations about reconciliation and about stories told through the exhibition, such as the lives of the ancestral Wendat, the history of the Scugog Carrying Place Trail, and the present Indigenous community.

We were also proud to support a city partnership initiative with the Orange Ribbon Memorials. Bawaajigewan Aboriginal Community Circle and the City installed five locations around Oshawa “where residents are encouraged to bring and tie orange ribbons as a sign of respect to the lost Indigenous children and their families, and to support healing in Indigenous Communities across Canada.” The south location is in Lakeview Park, and we had orange ribbons available in the exhibit as well as in Guy House where guests could take a ribbon and place it at the Lakeview Park memorial, or any memorial they chose. Again, it was wonderful to see many in the community stop by, take a ribbon, and place it at the memorial.

A chain link fence with orange ribbons tied to it. There is an orange sign that reads 'Honouring the Children.' The fence is by green grass, and behind the fence is a lake and blue sky with clouds
Lakeview Park Orange Ribbon Memorial, October 2022

The history of Residential Schools is long and shameful, and sadly, many Canadians were unaware of this system of cultural genocide as it wasn’t talked about. The last school closed in the 1990s – this is not a ‘long ago past.’ Conversations about Residential Schools and about Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people are hard, and they should be. Hard conversations need to happen, and we hope our museum spaces can be safe places to engage in these hard truths.

Thank you to everyone who made the Oshawa Museum part of the Day of Truth and Reconciliation, their day for recognizing our painful past and seeking knowledge so to work towards a better future of true and authentic reconciliation.


https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/national-day-truth-reconciliation.html

https://www.oshawa.ca/en/news/marking-national-day-for-truth-and-reconciliation.aspx

Anniversary Years for Two Oshawa Polish Landmarks

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

This year, 2022, marks anniversary years for two of Oshawa’s landmarks of importance to the Polish community. Branch 21 of the Polish Alliance of Canada is celebrating 100 years, while St. Hedwig’s Catholic Church is commemorating its 70th anniversary.

Oshawa’s Polish community grew throughout the early years of the 20th century. In August 1922, 19 Polish residents met at the home of Stanisław Leśniak to discuss establishing a Polish organization in the community; this came to realization in September of that year when the Polish Society of Fraternal Help was established. The first president was Józef Mazurkiewicz.  The group changed their name to the Polish Society in Oshawa in 1924. 

In 1925, the organization decided to build a Polish hall, and construction began shortly afterwards at 219 Olive Avenue.  All members donated $10 towards construction, and an interest-free loan from members was also approved. Fundraising initiatives looked outside the Polish community as well with a door to door collection.  The hall was completed in 1928, and this year, 2022, saw improvements to the façade of the hall.

Red brick building. At the top, it is flying a Canadian flag and a Polish flag, and there is a sign at the top centre reading "Polish Alliance of Canada" and a sign in the right window reading "Poznan"
Polish Alliance Hall on Olive Avenue

A number of community groups began operating out of the hall, including a library, choir, Polish language school, and amateur theatre group. As well, a Polish Veterans group started their base operations from the hall. During the Second World War, the group supported Poland and organized fundraising towards a relief fund. Members of the United Polish Relief fund visited each Polish family in Oshawa, held dances, and organized banquets, raising over $1800 towards the cause.

In April of 1944, the Polish Society of Oshawa decided to join the National Polish Alliance of Canada; they merged with another Branch in Oshawa, Branch 16, and together became Branch 21 of the National Polish Alliance of Canada. Wincenty Kołodziej was the first president of Branch 21.

Building with beige stucco facade and brick detailing around the bottom. It has signs reading 'Polish Alliance of Canada' and 'Poznan,' and there is a Canadian flag and a Polish flag
Polish Alliance of Canada, Branch 21 Hall, 2022; photo taken by OM Staff

Branch 21 has actively participated in Oshawa’s annual Fiesta Week for decades with dancing and traditional food being served. They operate as the “Poznań Pavilion.”

St. Hedwig’s Roman Catholic Church was built in a number of stages. There had been talk in Oshawa’s Polish community of establishing a Polish church since the late 1920s; by the 1950s, the work began. Before the establishment of St. Hedwig’s, Catholics in the community worshipped at St. Gregory’s or Holy Cross (which was built between 1940-1945). In 1952, the first mass for the Polish parish was celebrated, taking place at the Polish Hall at 168 Banting Avenue, and immediately after the mass, St. Hedwig of Silesia was chosen as the patron of the parish. That same year, a plot of land was purchased at Olive Avenue and Central Park Blvd., and fundraising began. The cornerstone was blessed in 1954, which was when the first mass was celebrated in the ‘lower church’ (basement).

A yellow brick church with a tall steeple at the front of the building. There is a large white cross to the left of the building, and there are many stairs and railings going to the front doors. There are many clouds in the sky.
St. Hedwig’s, 2021; taken by OM Staff

Construction of the upper church began in 1960, and the church was blessed by Archbishop Philip Pocock on June 25, 1961. He remarked in his homily, “The new church is now blessed and set aside for divine purposes. This means that you the parish have given it to God. Today He has accepted it. You have put your offerings, sacrifices and prayers into it. I offer my congratulations to the Pastor and parishoners for a job well done, in building this beautiful temple to Almighty God.”  There were approximately 700 people in attendance for this dedication mass.

In the 1970s, Pope John Paul II visited the church; at the time, he was a cardinal and not yet the Pope.

The church offers services seven days a week in Polish and an English mass on Sunday.

Since the early years of the 20th century, Oshawa became a place of settlement for Eastern European settlers. The longevity of several community hubs, including the Polish Alliance and St. Hedwig’s church, is a legacy of the hard work and dedication of the early settlers and of those who continue with them to this day.

To learn more about Oshawa’s Eastern European communities, particularly the stories of the Displaces Persons who arrived after the Second World War, visit the OM and see our exhibit, Leaving Home, Finding Home in Oshawa: Displaced Persons and Stories of Immigration.

Discover Historic Oshawa

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

The OM has developed a number of virtual exhibitions throughout the years – you can find them listed under the ‘Online Resources‘ tab at the top of our blog. Last summer, we were excited to launch Discover Historic Oshawa, an interactive mapping site, plotting places of interest in our community. Adding places of interest, both historic and current, has been ongoing, and we’re up to 40 listings and growing!

We also envision this website to dovetail with feature exhibitions and happenings at the Museum. Our 2021 exhibit, Leaving Home, Finding Home in Oshawa, is an excellent example of this. This exhibit shares the stories of those who arrived in Oshawa as displaced persons and post-WWII immigrants, many hundreds of whom resettled in Oshawa due to economic and social factors. They positively contributed to the city as both an industrial hub and as the proud beneficiary of a rich cultural landscape.

To complement the exhibition, we’re adding listings to Discover Historic Oshawa that have important connections to our Eastern European immigrants, like churches, community halls, and even the Michael Starr Building in downtown Oshawa. Opened in 1983, this building was named for Oshawa’s Michael Starr, a Member of Parliament from 1952-1968 who became the first Canadian of Ukrainian descent to be appointed to the federal Cabinet. He is remembered for his work in furthering the cause of ethnic groups and minorities, assisting and advocating for those who arrived as displaced persons after WWII, especially in the Oshawa area.

I have to make a very special thanks to our two 2020 summer students, Adam and Mia. Adam was instrumental in getting this site up and running and writing a number of our initial listings on the site, and Mia’s research and writing on landmarks relating to Leaving Home, Finding Home have been fantastic additions to the site.

I invite you to take explore this online exhibit, learn more about noteworthy places in our community, and read about the places that have connections to Leaving Home, Finding Home in Oshawa.

Student Museum Musings: Changing Seasons, Changing Exhibits

By Mia V., Archives Assistant

With the changing seasons also comes the changing of exhibits here at the Oshawa Museum. Uniquely Oshawa – an exhibit I’ve been working on together with curator Melissa and intern Dylan – is almost ready to be revealed in Robinson House. As the name suggests, this exhibit features many of the museum’s most inimitable and remarkable artefacts and the stories that go alongside them. From baseball to bread, Oshawa has innumerable objects and anecdotes to share.

This is the second exhibit I’ve worked on while at the museum, but it has been a very different experience from that of my first and main project. As I’ve shared in many of my previous blog posts, I’ve been working on the research and design for the exhibit Leaving Home, Finding Home in Oshawa: Displaced Persons and Stories of Immigration for the last two and a half years. The research began in 2016 as an oral history project and has taken many different turns since. Due to the unexpected postponement of the exhibit from spring of this year (coinciding with the first wave of the pandemic) to spring of next year (2021), many new opportunities for research have come up. Most recently, I’ve been continuing to dig deeper into the history of the Polish, Greek, and Italian immigration to Oshawa, connecting with individuals from each community in order to share their stories.

Check out the online exhibit “Oshawa Post-WWII: Resettling Displaced People” and read through some of the stories in the meantime!

Both exhibit experiences have truly given me invaluable experience and have made me realize that, while I love all areas of museum work, exhibitions may indeed be my favourite. This has been a very aptly-timed realization, since I have just begun my master’s program in museum studies at the University of Toronto. Discussing museums, even day-in and day-out, really cannot compare to getting to work with the artefacts themselves!

There are so many little things you start to notice when installing an exhibit that you otherwise simply wouldn’t have. For instance, you begin to second-guess if something is actually, in fact, maybe, just slightly crooked… Or, that, no, that placement is not quite right. I spent a fair amount of time debating the placement of three beautiful pieces of Smith Potteries, and then stepping back, and asking for a second and then a third opinion… I definitely think it was worth it, however.

The delicately painted black illustrations stand out beautifully against these two lamps and one vase of a deep red colour – they seem to come together to narrate a story all on their own. I see it as one of conflict and of homecoming. When you look at them, do you see the same kind of narrative? Or maybe you’re seeing another story emerging from their display… Or maybe you’re simply admiring their artistry!

In any case, I hope (and am pretty confident!) that you will enjoy Uniquely Oshawa and the exhibit coming next spring. Looking forward to seeing you when you make your trip down to the museum!

Putting together the sign wall was another highlight of helping to install this exhibit!

Celebrating 100 Years of Lakeview Park

Lakeview Park officially opened in 1920, and for over 100 years, it has been a place of rest and recreation, of memorable summer days and wild winter storms!

To celebrate this history, the Oshawa Museum launched an online exhibit, which is divided into three sections: Before the Park, Lakeview Park, and the Park Today.

Explore this online exhibit and read about different aspects of the park’s history, like the story of the Ocean Wave, the Pavilions past and present, or about the buffalo that called the park home!

In our latest post, curator Melissa Cole delves into the early history of the Oshawa Harbour.

New posts are being added frequently! Visit https://lakeviewparkoshawa.wordpress.com/ to read all about it!

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