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!

The Month That Was – September 1864

All articles originally appeared in the Oshawa Vindicator

September 7, 1864
Page 2

Library, or Reading Room
As will be seen from a sketch of the proceedings at the several meetings held, a Mechanics’ Institute and Library Association has been organized for a second time in Oshawa.  It is to be hoped that the institution will be more successful this time than it was the first, and there is no reason why it should not.  The first one was a miserable affair and a large amount of property was sunk in it, in one way and another, but not by anybody looking after its affairs very closely or endeavouring to keep the institution up.  Nobody seemed to take any ordinary degree of interest in it, even as a library association, and it never was anything more.  Few meetings were held in connection with it, and in the course of time its library was neglected, suffered to go to ruin by want of usage as well as bad usage, and eventually sold for ‘a raere song.’ With this experience before then, no doubt the Directors of the newly organized association will pursue a very different course from that which resulted so disastrously to its predecessor.  Our village is tolerably well supplied with library works thro’ our Common School library that was, and which now is our ‘United Grammar and Common School’ library.  If there is any deficiency of reading matter in that library, it can be supplied by the United Board of Grammar and Common School Trustees in such a way as to give us one complete village library, all under one management. And now that the Grammar School has an interest in the School Library, there ought to be an additional sum of money voted towards procuring new and interesting works for the replenishment of its shelves every year. By doing this, there will be no need of the funds of the Mechanics’ Institute being used up, as those of the former one were, in purchasing a library, leaving an insufficient sum for other purposes of more importance. Let the whole of the funds be devoted to procuring a superior course of lectures, and other entertainments for the winter evenings, and providing a Reading Room containing a number of the leaving English, American, and Canadian papers, and the institution cannot fail to prosper.  But let its funds be used up in purchasing needless and expensive books, and it can hardly avoid, except by taxing somebody’s time and labor quite too severely, meeting with the fate of its predecessor.

Steam up – On Monday last steam was introduced for the first time into the new engine at E. Miall and Co’s cabinet factory, and the boiler and engine, etc. tested. The shafting is not yet all in position and consequently the machinery was not moved.  The engine is a fine piece of mechanism, for a first attempt, and is a good illustration of the capacity of Joseph Hall’s Mill and Job department.

September 7, 1864, page 1

Raft Ashore – On Monday morning last a large raft of square timber towed by the Steamer Hercules, went ashore and broke up near Port Oshawa.  The wind blowing from the lake at the time, the greater part of the timber was washed ashore.

September 7, 1864, page 3; for more on Mrs. PA Henry, read HERE

September 21, 1864
Page 2

The School House
The work of making the addition of 40 feet to the west end of the Union School House is rapidly approaching completion.  The mason work was completed some two weeks ago, and the roof has been put on and the floors laid.  Two small gables have been erected over each doorway in addition to the original plan as given out to contract, which will add considerably to the appearance of the structure, which otherwise would have had an exceedingly unpleasant look in an architectural point of view.  The new rooms will be very airy ones, the floor of the under story being two feet lower than that of the old portion, and the ceiling of the upper room being attached to the roof, giving it somewhat the appearance, overhead, of the Presbyterian Church.

Conviction Quashed – We find the following in the Chronicle’s report of the last Quarter Sessions: – “Conviction of John Stokes for selling liquor on Sunday. – In this case Mr. J. Stokes, hotel keeper, of Oshawa, appealed against the conviction of G.H. Grierson, the convicting magistrate, by which a fine of $20 was imposed for selling liquor on Sunday. There was no respondent’s name in the papers. Conviction quashed. Mr. Lyman English appeared for the appellant.”

Where was our Reeve when the case was called?

A New Grocery Store – A new grocery, provision and crockery store is to be opened out in a few days, in the store in Gibbs’ block, formerly occupied by L. Vancamp, and lately by Gibbs & Bro. The Proprietors are Messrs. Bremner & Urquhart.  Their advertisement will appear next week.

September 21, 1864, page 3

September 28, 1864
Page 2

Excelsior Machines – Two splendid pieces of mechanism left Joseph Hall’s establishment on Monday last for Hamilton. One was the Reaper and Mower to be awarded at the Provincial Plowing Match to the best plowman, as mentioned in our last, and the other a Thresher and Horse Power for competition at the Provincial Exhibition. – They are, doubtless, the two best machines of the kind ever manufactured in any part of the world.

Birth – At Whitby, on the 19th inst., the wife of William Laing Esq., Mayor of Whitby, of twin sons.

Died – At Whitby, on the morning of the 19th inst., deeply and deservedly regretted, Louisa Amelia, the beloved wife of William Laing Esq., Mayor of the Town of Whitby, aged 40 years and six months.

September 28, 1864, page 3

The Month That Was – August 1872

All articles originally appeared in the Ontario Reformer

August 2, 1872

Sir John A. Macdonald is earnestly striving to keep Ontario down, by narrowing her boundaries; and is determined to take from her large portion of the western extremity of the Province, including much of the mineral region.  Mr. Gibbs is aiding Sir John in the robbing of Ontario, and wants to be re-elected to Parliament to assist in the completion of the spoliation.

Vote for White, and thus aid in checkmating the curtailment of our territory.

August 2, 1872, page 2

The return match between the Cedar Dale and Oshawa Base Ball Clubs was played on Friday last, and won by the latter club by 25 runs. Only five innings were played. The first game was won by Cedar Dale by nine runs in nine innings.  The third and decisive game will shortly be played, when an interesting time is expected.

The statement in the Vindicator that Mr. Farewell had promised the Dominion nomination to Mr. White, is utterly false – as are all trumped up Vindicator stories of a like nature, got up for the sole purpose of injuring the reform party.

Page 3

Lost
On Sunday, 21st inst. either in Whitby Town or between Whitby and Oshawa, a brown silk umbrella.  The finder will be suitably rewarded by leaving it at the Reformer Office, Oshawa.

August 9, 1872

Page 2

The three cases of assault, which were to have been tried to-day, have been postponed till Monday next, at 10 o’clock am.

Grace Marks received her pardon on condition that she would leave this country never to return.  She left Kingston on Tuesday, for the United States

*From the Canadian Encyclopedia, Grace Marks “was convicted in 1843 at the age of 16 for the murders of Thomas Kinnear, her employer and a wealthy Upper Canadian living in Richmond Hill, and Nancy Montgomery, his housekeeper and mistress.” Her fictionalized story was told in the 1996 Margaret Atwood novel, Alias Grace. More info: https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/alias-grace, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/mysterious-murder-case-inspired-margaret-atwoods-alias-grace-180967045/

August 9, 1872, page 1

August 16, 1872

Page 2

Mr. Daniel Hinkson having purchased the 75 acres known as the “Karr” property situate to the east of the furniture factory, intends laying it out in Village and Park lots, which he will offer for sale at reasonable rates. The situation is good and healthy, and commands a fine view of the village and surrounding country.

August 16, 1872, page 2

Village Council
A meeting of the Village Council was held on Tuesday evening. Present: the deputy reeve, in the chair, and Messrs. Like and Cameron.

The fire brigade made application for $60 to defray expenses to pic-nic on 5th September.  $50 was granted to them.  The Brigade also made application for a new bell.

Several accounts were passed, and ordered to be paid.

August 16, 1872, page 3

August 23, 1872

Page 2

We are glad to see that the bridge on the Base Line, north of Brook’s hotel, is being repaired, but it was not before it needed it

Immediately after the torch-light procession passed on Wednesday evening, a lighted torch was discovered on the roof of Quigley’s hotel.  How it got there we have been unable to find out. But certain it is, had it not been seen at the time the hotel would have been burned.

Theft – A young man who gave his name as William Smith, was apprehended on Tuesday and brought before John Parker, Esq., for having entered the house of Mr. Thos. Henderson, Dunbarton, while the family were at the funeral of Mrs. Synott, and stolen a watch, which was found upon him when captured, and sworn to by the owner as his property.  Smith accounted for the watch by saying that he bought it from a stranger on the road for two dollars, all the money he had. He was committed to gaol to await his trial at the [Assizes].

August 23, 1872, page 3

Page 4

Notice
Notice is hereby given that I will not be responsible for any debts contracted by my son, William James Sulley
William Sulley
Darlington, June 12, 1871.

August 30, 1872

Page 2

The 20th annual exhibition of the South Ontario Agricultural Society will be held in Whitby on the 19th and 20th of September next. Over $2,000 in prizes will be offered.

Geo. Brown and the Globe still lives to do honor to Canada.  It was feared by some that the powerful (?) letter from the pen of Jno. B. Harris (and Webster’s Dictionary) published in the Mail, of Wednesday last, would prove fatal to Mr. Brown and his mighty paper; but, luckily for the Dominion, they have both survived.  Try again, Mr. Harris.

Johnson Graham, late P.D. in this office, met with a severe accident on Saturday last.  He, with a few of his chums, went out shooting with an old rusty gun.  Graham was to take the first shot, but was advised by some of the boys not to fire the gun for fear it should burst. Their advise was unheeded, and greatly to the dismay of Graham, the gun shot from both ends, the breech flying out and striking him on the head, fracturing his skull, and slightly stunning him.  He soon recovered, went to the creek and washed the blood off, and then walked up to Dr. Coburn’s office, where the wound was dressed and a few pieces of bone taken out.  He was then taken home, where he now lies. He is in great hopes of soon being able to go shooting again, but not with a rusty gun.

A house was haunted in Saginaw, Michigan, and a thorough investigation revealed a venerable woodpecker in an inner room.

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!

Student Museum Musings – The Oshawa Centre

By Mia V., Summer Student

Hi all! I’m very glad to be back for my third summer here at the Oshawa Museum. Over the past two months or so, I have been continuing to research and work on the upcoming exhibit, Leaving Home, Finding Home in Oshawa: Displaced Persons and Stories of Immigration. If you or someone you know have any connection to this period of post-World War II immigration, we would love to hear from you! Additionally, as you might know, we have an online exhibit where you can see some of the stories, documents, and photographs that have been shared with us so far: https://oshawaimmigrationstories.weebly.com/

Stefan Malish’s ID during his time working at Brompton and Paper. This is the back of the ID which features “useful information” such as conversion rates and tips on applying for Canadian citizenship.

The uncertainty of the past several months has made familiar places very strange! While running some errands at “the” mall – that is Oshawa Centre (or the OC) – for the first time in a while, I found myself wondering about its history, as one does…

The original 1956 logo for the Oshawa Shopping Centre as it appeared in the Toronto Daily Star on October 31st of that year. The mall was advertised as “Canada’s most beautiful shopping centre.”

Construction of the Oshawa Shopping Centre began on July 22, 1955, when the mayor “turned the first sod.” Doors opened on November 1, 1956, and eager anticipation was in the brisk morning air. The crowds waiting, apparently numbering 10,000 in all, were in for a day filled with fun prizes and gaining a glimpse of what this new construction – a “mall” – was all about.

Ax997.26.1: The Oshawa Shopping Centre ca. 1967. We can see an early phase of construction prior to the enclosing of the mall and addition of a Sears store.

While we have very much gotten used to waiting in lines for stores to open as of late, malls have seemingly always been the primary institution of North American consumer life. At this time however, in the early 1950s, they were a very recent innovation by Austrian Jewish architect Victor Gruen. Inspired by the quintessential European experience, where one strolled casually from shop to shop, Gruen invented the outdoor shopping mall with the intent of encouraging a more slow-paced and social experience.[1]

1968 Ad, as appeared in the Oshawa Journal, March 13, 1968 (A999.19.282).

One of the developers of the Oshawa Shopping Centre, John P. van Haastrecht, made similar connections between the necessity of the mall and a post-war society which had seen rapid changes – especially noting the impact of the suburbs and widespread ownership of cars. Oshawa was considered to be the perfect place for a mall – car ownership and average household income were both reportedly quite high in the city with a population just nearing 50,000. For that reason, the mall often boasted of being “one of the five outstanding Shopping Centres on the North American continent” when it first opened.

Over the years, we’ve all gotten quite used to the Oshawa Centre changing its face! If you’re like me, spending a lot of time at the mall growing up, you probably have quite a few memories attached to certain iterations of it.

In 1968, the mall was enclosed – a roof added over the existing stores – and Sears joined Eaton’s, Hudson’s Bay, and Loblaws as anchor stores. Three years later, in 1971, an office tower was added, along with Famous Players cinemas (both of which you can see in the above photos). Seven more years after that, the south end of the mall was added and a second level as well. In 1989, there were 125 new stores added and the theatre was renovated. Four years later, in 1993, the food court was transformed with a 1950s theme – its signature black and white checkered tiles and overall design calling back to the decade when the mall was built. Finally, most recently, there was the 2016 renovation. A whole wing was added with several dozen new stores and the overall look of the mall was redesigned as well.

Ax995.308.1b / East side of the Oshawa Centre, 1990s.

Of course, in very recent weeks, the social aspect imagined by the Oshawa Centre’s original developers is lacking, with all seating areas being closed off to encourage social distancing. Moreover, the impact of technology – or, more specifically, of online shopping – has also changed the reality of the mall as a social space. In any case, what becomes clear is that a building is never just a building – but rather more like a reflection of the society that built (and repeatedly changed!) it.


[1] Ian Bogost, “When Malls Saved the Suburbs from Despair,” The Atlantic (February 17, 2018), https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/02/when-malls-saved-cities-from-capitalism/553610/.