Student Museum Musings – Lauren

By Lauren R., Summer Student

In my time as a co-op student, a volunteer, and now as a working summer student I have learned that at the museum you never know what to expect when you show up for work. When I started my summer position this year I honestly had no clue what I was in for; I wasn’t sure what I was going to be doing and I had no clue what kind of projects I would be working on.

Despite this uncertainty, I was incredibly excited to start in my new position and I knew that no matter what I did I would love it (every project is exciting in its own way). This summer I got assigned a project that was even more exciting than I ever could have imagined! My summer project is to create a new audio tour for the houses! For this I will be looking at talking more about the families in the houses instead of just the houses  themselves. Also, I will be looking quite a bit at the heritage gardens of Henry House and adding this new information to the tour as it was not part of the original tour.


Woolly Lamb’s Ear

The Henry House heritage gardens is home to an assortment of interesting (and strange) plants. The Henry House garden is designed to display what an everyday garden would have looked like, similar to what the Henry’s themselves would have had. It is split into different sections depending on what the use of the plant is. There is one garden dedicated to tea, another to dyes and the last to herbs and plants that can be used for medical and other practical purposes. In the practical garden there are eight sections: practical, protection, serious conditions, culinary, insect control, healing, cough control, and calming.

So far, out of the many plants that I have researched and looked at in the garden, I have found four that continue to catch my interest. The first two belong in the healing section of the garden. The first plant is Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium). This plant is used to reduce blood pressure and, if the fresh leaves are put into a poultice, it can stop bleeding from cuts and scrapes and things of that kind. Another plant that is found in this portion of the garden is Woolly Lamb’s Ear. This plant is really cool as it feels fuzzy and is soft to the touch. The way that the Henrys may have put this plant to use would have been as bandages to keep cuts clean and covered, the soft texture of these leaves being non-aggravating to injured skin.



Another plant, in the calming section, that I find interesting is Valerian (Valeriana Officinalis). This plant would have been used to help prevent nightmares and to reduce anxiety. However, if too much is taken (or if it is taken for too long) it can cause some adverse side effects such as hallucinations, abdominal pain and headaches.  The final plant that catches my eye, or rather my nose, in our garden is Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis).  This plant is part of the tea garden. Lemon Balm is an incredibly versatile plant. It can be used as an extract to add flavour to dishes, added to a relaxing bath, applied to help soothe insect bites, used to make soothing teas (for headaches and nausea), lessen depression, eczema and it can even help allergy sufferers. In addition to all of this, Lemon Balm can help clean and heal wounds as it acts as an antiviral substance and will starve the bacteria in the wound of oxygen thereby killing it.



Lady Bug on Tea Plant

There are really some incredible plants in the Henry House garden. What is even more incredible is to think that all of these plants would have been used in some way by the Henry family in their everyday lives.


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.


Student Museum Musings: Wrapping Up Summer 2016

Another wonderful summer has passed for the Oshawa Museum, and what a summer it was! Canada Day, the Pokemon phenomenon, tours, oh, and ice cream making! Oshawa Museum staff can’t thank our summer students enough for the hard work and enthusiasm that they bring to our site through the summer months.

To wrap up the summer, we asked our four students to answer five questions about the past months.  Here’s what they had to say:


1. 017Why did you choose to spend your summer at the Oshawa Museum?

This summer was actually my fourth summer here. I have really enjoyed my previous summers working here and wanted to continue not only the learning but growing as well.

2. What surprised you the most this summer?

I found two things surprising this summer; One – How big Pokemon Go became and how a portable game can and did affect our numbers. We did get creative to draw people in and it really worked. And two, having Freemasons take us on tour. We are always the ones giving the tours but it was nice to learn about masons and the work they do from masons. They also were able to provide some more information that we could tell visitors on tour.

3. What part of your summer did you find the most challenging?

The most challenging part would also have to be the Freemasonry exhibit. I had a few people go through who already had their set views on masons and wouldn’t accept anything I was saying. We ended going through the rest of that exhibit rather quickly.


4. What will you miss about the Oshawa Museum?

At the end of each summer I have worked here the one thing I miss is the people and the environment. It really is just a great place to work and I always found myself excited to come in to work every day.

5. What are your plans for September?

My plan for this September is finishing my last year of university. I go to Guelph-Humber for Media Studies and specializing in journalism. It’s strange to think when I first came here I was finishing up high school and now they have seen me grow into a full adult.


13724937_10157109032130335_5114078161389576173_o1. Why did you choose to spend your summer at the Oshawa Museum?

I chose to spend my summer at the Oshawa Museum because it is an all-around great place to be! There are wonderful people I have the opportunity to work with and I get to meet new people every day. The location is picturesque; the calming lake surrounded by flowers and the occasional little critter, I get to wake up to them every morning.

2. What surprised you the most this summer?

The most surprising thing this summer was all of the Pokémon Go hunters who came to the Museum! We were flooded by people catching Pokémon in our buildings; it was a lot of fun for me to learn more about Pokémon through our guests.

3. What part of your summer did you find the most challenging?

There were a couple of challenges this summer, but the most challenging was keeping up with our Victorian Teas while wearing a full Victorian costume, in this summer’s heat. Many days were hot and humid but us summer students prevailed and served tea to all who came! Needless to say, I drank tons of water this summer to keep up with the weather. And the air conditioning helped cool us down too.

4. What will you miss about the Oshawa Museum?

I’m going to miss all of the excitement and adventure that comes with working with the staff and other summer students once  the summer is over. Every day is unexpected at the Lake with all of our ongoing programs and projects. Some days we are busy little beavers in the pond, while other days it’s so quiet you can hear a pin drop. Plus, you never know who will be walking through those Museum doors and what their request might be!

5. What are your plans for September?

The summer is ending and as summer comes to a close, I’m excited for September to get back to school for my 3rd year at Trent University. I have a lot of fun and new courses I can’t wait to start in the fall! I’m also really excited to spend some time with my sister helping her plan for her upcoming wedding in November; this fall is going to be full for my family.


0101. Why did you choose to spend your summer at the Oshawa Museum?

About two years ago now I had completed my Co-op placement at the Museum, mostly working with Melissa. I continued to volunteer when I was able to and so when I was offered the chance to work here this summer I jumped at it. To have the opportunity to work at the Oshawa Museum was amazing opportunity. I had wanted to spend my summer doing something that I wold enjoy doing and so this was the perfect fit to do so, and it has been a completely wonderful summer working here and I’ll miss not having to come in to work here in the fall.

2. What surprised you the most this summer?

The thing that surprised me the most during my time here this summer would have to be the sheer amount of people that came into Guy House and would claim to have lived in Oshawa all their life and had either never come down for a tour, or didn’t even know that the Museum existed. Had I of known it would be such a common occurrence I would have suggested a tally chart just to see how many people actually don’t know that we’re down here. I honestly can’t get over it though, because one would think that with all the advertising and events that are put on and that the museum attends that it would be commonly known to the Oshawa residents.

3. What part of your summer did you find the most challenging?

The one aspect of this job that I found to be the most challenging would have to be when I first started to lead tours on my own. I have always hated public speaking, it’s never been my strong point and if I was able to avoid it in school, you can be sure that I did exactly that. But once I started to tag along on tours and slowly started to get more familiar with the script and began leading tours on my own I started to feel more comfortable speaking and leading the tours than I had initially. And so after a full summer of leading tours in front of so many different groups of people I feel that now I will probably feel more comfortable at speaking publicly when it comes to my academic life as well.

4. What will you miss about the Oshawa Museum?

I will miss absolutely everything about working at the museum. The ladies (and gent) who work at the museum are some of the most amazing people that I have had the pleasure to work with. They love what they’re doing and that makes the environment of the museum all the more lively. And I’ll miss working on cataloguing the Henry House collection. It was absolutely fascinating being able to take a look at all of the artifacts that are not currently on display, being able to see what some of the more unusual artifacts actually are and what some things were used for, or the Oshawa souvenir collection, which had some odd knickknacks.

5. What are your plans for September?

This September I will be going back to Peterborough to attend my second year at Trent University for my four year archaeology programme. I will also be moving into my house that I am renting with five other friends from Trent.


1761 Why did you choose to spend your summer at the Oshawa Museum?

When I was looking for places to do my internship, I knew I wanted to be at a smaller site with a historic house. Oshawa Museum has 3 historic houses, so it was a no-brainer. It’s also in a beautiful location in the park!

2. What surprised you the most this summer?

That there were archaeological digs in Oshawa! I’ve lived in Whitby my whole life and never considered the area to be considered “worthy” of an archaeological dig. The result has allowed people to learn more about Oshawa’s early history.

3. What part of your summer did you find the most challenging?

Learning how to navigate the archives. I have taken some intro courses to archival work, but coming to the museum I was able to learn so much more.

4. What will you miss about the Oshawa Museum?

The people, first and foremost. All the staff are so nice and welcoming it will be difficult not coming in every day. I’ll also miss being in Lakeview Park and seeing the ships come in.

5. What are your plans for September?

I’m moving out to Halifax, Nova Scotia to begin a new adventure! I’ll be looking for jobs in the museum field while enjoying a change of scenery.

Pokémon have taken over the museum!

By Laura G., MMC Intern

Pests are a common problem in museums and they can cause a lot of damage to the museum buildings and the collection. If Pokémon were real life pests, these are the damages they could inflict on the museum!

Insects can cause the most damage as they are small but have big appetites! Weedles, Caterpies, and Butterfrees can eat through materials such as textiles. This would have a devastating effect on any quilts, clothing, or linens.  When these pests are present there will be tiny holes in the affected textiles. Insects like Beedrills can also cause damage to the wood within a building by barreling through it. This type of destruction can make the structure of the building weaker. Venonats and Venomoths can cause devastation to textiles as well because they will chew through them. Kakuna and Metapod can also leave casings within a collection, while these are not necessarily damaging, they are a sign of insects which is never good. Insects are small and they can go unnoticed in a collection until one day a quilt is unrolled and there are holes, casings, or other damage. By then it could be too late.

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Where’s the CCI Note for Venonats in historic houses?

Rattata and mouse-like Pokémon, like Pikachu, have very good senses of smell and taste. They also have ways of easily gaining entry to the building if they were to smell something that they wanted! They chew through organic material like leather and glues. Many objects in the collection are made from organic materials (especially hair wreaths) so it is important to prevent Pokémon like these from getting into the building.


Zubats can live in collection areas because they are dark during the day when bats are asleep. Collection areas are usually kept very cool to protect the objects. This sort of environment would be perfect for a Zubat to nest. The Zubat’s droppings could cause damage to a object if it were to land on one, because Zubats fly around their droppings can affect more objects.

Pokémon can cause damage and destruction to a museum collection so it’s important to keep them in their pokeballs! It is always best to prevent an infestation before it happens, so you gotta catch ‘em all!


If this Weedle made it inside Henry House, it could be disastrous.

Meet the Museum: Melissa Cole, Curator

The focus of this blog series is the staff of the Oshawa Museum and their role at the site.  What does it mean to the archivist or curator at a community museum?  What goes on behind the scenes in the Programming office?  What is Executive Director Laura Suchan’s favourite memory of the Museum? 

Join us and see what happens behind the doors of Guy House.


Melissa Cole, Curator

What do you do at the Oshawa Museum?

Hi my name is Melissa Cole and I am the Curator at the Oshawa Museum.  This is not the first position I held here at the museum.  In 2000 I was an intern in the archives with the previous archivist, Tammy Robinson.  Shortly after the internship finished a job opportunity became available in the programming department which is where I worked until I became Curator in 2002.  My main duties as Curator is to oversee the care of the three dimensional artifacts in the collection from our smallest artifact, a bead from the Grandview Archaeology Collection, to our largest artifacts, the museum buildings, Guy, Henry and Robinson.  I also research, develop and install exhibits, write grants and oversee the administration of the collection.  A lot of what I do takes place behind the scenes.


Why did you choose this career?

I love learning about the past and discovering where we have come from.  As a child I was fortunate that my parents took me to various museums throughout Ontario and was able to spend time with family in England and Wales where we visited castles and historic sites.  One particular visit that stands out the most was a visit to a museum called Llancaich Fawr Manor.   I was chosen from the crowd and put in a costume that represented the time period of the home.  I was that child that wondered what was behind the closed doors – I wanted to see behind the scenes and that is exactly what I get to do now!


Melissa, July 1994, in period costume at Llancaich Fawr Manor, with a tour guide


What is your favourite part of your job?

There are many aspects of my job that I love.  I love my job because each day is different, one day I am installing an exhibition and the next I am meeting with paranormal investigators.  Another aspect of my job that I love is discovering the stories behind the artifacts in our collection and being transported back in time.  Who knew a broom could have such a remarkable story.


Melissa, in the Robinson House storage area, with our Rebellion Box


What do you find most challenging?

Balancing all my projects which have varying degrees of importance.  There is only so much time in a day and I find it challenging at times to tend to the administration duties while trying to give the truly important things, such as the collection, the time and effort that it deserves.


How did you get into the museum field?

I have a degree in Anthropology from Trent University.  In my first year, I will be honest, I wasn’t sure where my anthropology degree was going to lead me.   I initially wanted to teach.  During one of our lectures a Professor came out to discuss a joint program between Trent University and Sir Sandford Fleming College called Museum Management and Curatorship.  I knew at that moment that is what I wanted to do.  I was ecstatic!  I basically chased Professor Harrison around for four years of university, I know it sounds silly but I kinda did!  I immediately set up an appointment with her to find out more about the program.  I must have made an impression over the years because she actually contacted me at home during the summer of ‘99 to inform me that I had been accepted into the program.


What is your earliest memory of the Oshawa Museum?

I grew up in Oshawa; I am the Curator of my hometown’s history!  I remember coming to the museum on a class trip in grade three, it was then known as the Sydenham Museum.  Although my fondest memories of the museum are associated with Lakeview Park (where the buildings stand) – I spent a lot of time at this park as a child with my dad during the summer we would walk the path and I would ask every time if I could play at the park.   Out of the three buildings, Henry House is the one I remember most because I wanted to live there – it also stands beside the park where I played!   Today my office window looks over the lake and the park that I have fond memories of and Henry House does feel like my home away from home.