Student Museum Musings – Kirbi

By Kirbi B., Durham College LIT Student

Hello Everyone!

My name is Kirbi B., I am enrolled in the Library and Information Technician Program at Durham College. This is my final requirement to be eligible for graduation. I am working here at the museum as a placement student in the archives. I am enjoying my time here and this placement provides me with the opportunity to further my knowledge on museums and archives aside from what we learn in class. It provides a “hands on” experience that I would not be able to get without securing a job in the field. This placement will assist me in determining if this is an area I would like pursue after graduation.

I have been working on the creation of finding aids for the archives on General Motors, Oshawa Fire Department and the Oshawa General Hospitals Nursing School. These finding aids contain detailed information about the collection of papers and records within the archive.

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General Motors Plant, part of the North Plant building on Bond Street East. 1983 (A997.18.29)

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Student Museum Musings – Adam

By Adam A., Archives Assistant Student

 

Hello reader. I am Adam, the third summer student working at the Oshawa Museum. This is my first summer as an employee here; however I am very familiar with the museum as I have been a somewhat regular volunteer since 2016. Despite this I am still enjoying many new experiences; I have found leading tours to be particularly exciting and fulfilling. At the end of the summer I will return to Trent University Peterborough for the fourth and final year of my degree in History and Media Studies, and so I am eager to get as much experience out of this position as possible.

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As the Archives Assistant I spend most of my time in the frigid back area of Guy House, where I work closely with Jenn, and (due to space constraints) shoulder to shoulder with Mia, the writer and subject of the previous Student Museum Musing. My work has largely been directed towards the organization and digitization of the archives. Recently I completed a new and improved finding aid for the contents of our Map Boxes (which also contain schematics!). Prior to that, I was tasked with digitizing the contents of our Photo Albums. However both of those tasks were quick and easy compared to my present task of transcribing the Oshawa Vindicator’s Births, Marriages, and Obituaries from 1863-1871, which I have been working on intermittently since the start of my employment with the Museum.

Despite having thus far transcribed more than 23 thousand words at the time of my writing this, I am still only a little over halfway through the task, and it has granted a strange insight to the past. Most of the individual entries are very short, often even abandoning grammatical standards in pursuit of brevity. There are some exceptions, such as the essay length obituary of Mr. Justice Connor, a former Lawyer and Member of the Parliament of Canada West, but most of what I’ve learned has come from the shorter ones. The first thing I had to learn was how to read them, as previously mentioned they tended to not follow grammatical norms. Instead they roughly adhere to the same formats, for instance all birth records are “[Place], [day of week], [date], the wife of Mr. [First and Last names of husband], of [a son/a daughter/twins].” These records also make copious use of abbreviations and acronyms, some more common ones being: inst. (Instant: the current month), ult. (Ultimo: the previous month), C. W.(Canada West: The portion of the Province of Canada which later became Ontario), Esq. (Esquire: a courtesy title). In addition to those it also occasionally abbreviates given names such as Thomas becoming “Thos” or William becoming “Wm.”

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From the Oshawa Vindicator, 11 Sept 1867, p 2.

Furthermore, on the rare instances when it does list a cause of death it often uses an antiquated medical term like “water on the brain” or “enlargement of the heart”. On the topic of deaths it can be somewhat unsettling to see a familiar name listed amongst the obituaries, such as a priest who performed many marriages, in a way the obituaries allow one to see the blows a community sustains. Even more unsettling is number of children and infants. I had known from previous studies that infant and child mortality rates were through the roof prior to modern medicine, but I did not fully grasp what this meant until now, as those aged less than 10 will usually account for at least half the obituaries on any given week. It suffices to say that this has served as a good reminder that I am lucky to only be studying and helping others learn about the past, rather than actually living back then.


Read these obituaries and other historical newspaper articles by checking out http://communitydigitalarchives.com/newspapers.html

The Month That Was – July 1947

All articles originally appeared in The Oshawa Courier

Oshawa Harbour Must be Developed as a Port Without Delay

This season’s prospective development of Oshawa’s harbour as a port-for which most residents have devoutly wished for years- would seem now to have been post-poned indefinitely. The supplementary estimates of the Department of Public Works of the Dominion government recently introduced into the House of Commons contain no such item. This is certain proof that no work such as the dredging required for Oshawa harbor will be undertaken this year. When the Hon. C. D. Howe, Minister of Reconstruction in the King Cabinet addressed the Chamber of Commerce here recently, he had impressed upon him by several local Liberal stalwarts and others the urgent need of something being done by way of Oshawa’s harbor development as a port. Mr. Howe promised to take the matter up with his colleagues in the Cabinet, but temporarily at least his efforts have not been crowned with success. This negative result shows that it is never advisable to build too high hopes upon any imminent harbor development here.

Possibly the King government at Ottawa will pretend to be more deeply interested as the federal election date approaches more closely.

The present delay should occasion no feeling of intense disappointment. Unfortunately, some governments can be impressed, only by pressure political and otherwise. City council and the Chamber of Commerce must strive to press their suit at Ottawa until the government is forced to lend a willing ear.

Even a government must not be permitted to stand in the way of Oshawa’s harbor development as a port which is so linked up with commercial and industrial progress of Oshawa as a city.

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Flying Saucers are Merely Figments of a Vivid Imagination

These are what may be termed “dog-days.” Because of the intense heat, things generally are in doldrums, and people turn to anything and everything with a view to extracting something novel and sensational.

That was the only basis for the so-called “flying saucers”. Many of us are still so ignorant, gullible, and superstitious that we are eager to believe anything and everything, and agree with others with sheep-like acquiescence.

This applies with even greater force to the people of our southern neighbour where any hair-brained theory is seized upon with avidity; the more absurd it is, the more popular it becomes. But the seeing of so-called “flying saucers” was not confirmed to any one country. Some residents of many countries were certain they had witnessed this strange phenomenon.

But it would seem that our senses, which are far from perfect, deceive us occasionally, if not more frequently. Those individuals who are blessed with vivid imaginations can indulge in much wishful thinking and wishful seeing. And there are those who wishing to agree with the adage that “great minds run in the same direction,” always see what somebody else pretends to have seen.

At any rate no vestige of evidence worthy the name has been produced to justify the existence of the so-called flying saucers.

Perhaps those individuals reported to have seen them were “in the cups” or just victims of “tea-cup reading”. The dog-days have arrived in earnest, so do not be unduly perturbed about the many strange things that you may hear or even imagine that you see.

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Will Consider Possibility of New Collegiate

Possibility of erecting a new 20-roomed collegiate on the former Bishop Bethune property will be considered at a special meeting of the board of education next Monday evening.

The school designed to meet the needs of the southern section of the city will provide a full high school education and will comprise 18 classrooms, one home economics room and a general workshop. The building will be a straight collegiate with no effort being made to combine it with vocational institute facilities.

The department of education at Toronto has approved the suggested site of the old Bishop Bethune property on Simcoe Street South as the site for the proposed school. The department pointed out however, that it did not consider the three and a half acre property as large enough for a complete physical training program. With this in mind, the board will meet with officials of the C.R.A. and Rotary Club to determine it a portion of Rotary Park playground cannot be used for this purpose.

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Miniature Car Derby is slated for August 9th

Get ready kids, Oshawa is going to have another miniature car race again this year. The big event is carded for the evening of August 9th and will be run off under the auspices of the Community Recreational Association.

Plans are under way at present to have the winners of each of the events and also those finishing second and third to take part in a much longer competition that will take in Whitby and Bowmanville.

Regulations governing the contest state that each contestant must build his own car. In each class the entry will compose a team of two boys. The boys must also build their own cars and the total cost of each is not to exceed $6.00. The ages of the contestants will be between 11 and 12 years inclusive in one class and between 13 and 15 in a second classification. The ages will be taken as of August 1st this year. All work done on the cars must be done by the contestants themselves.

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Student Museum Musings – Mia

By Mia V., Oral History Project Student

Hello everyone. I’m Mia, one of the summer students here at the Oshawa Museum. I have presently finished my second year at the University of Toronto, majoring in socio-cultural anthropology and history while minoring in French. Since learning about different cultures and eras of history has been a passion of mine ever since I can remember, I have naturally always gravitated toward museums. Being on the other side of the museum experience – helping to bring the history the museum offers to the wider public – is something I’m very glad to be able to do, not least because it is something I want to continue to pursue once I finish my studies.

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In taking on the role of Oral History Project Coordinator, I have focused a lot of my time on familiarizing myself with the museum’s ongoing Displaced Persons project. The aim of the project is to collect and preserve the memories of individuals who immigrated to Canada and Oshawa after the Second World War – from those people themselves or from those that knew them. In continuing this research so far, I have compiled some of the stories and artifacts into online exhibits for a website I’ve created. In comparing the similar experiences of people’s accounts, I feel that I’m getting a better feel for this time period of history than I ever could otherwise. I am so pleased to be able to work on such an important and genuinely fulfilling project, as I am convinced that these are stories that need to be told and ones that will continue to resonate with so many people.

To continue to talk about my experience at the museum so far, I must point out the people – the staff who have been so welcoming, as well as the visitors that come in. It’s great to work with people who are so clearly passionate about what they do and, with the new faces that come in every day, there has certainly hardly been a dull moment. As such, I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to tour people through the houses, including the children that come through! It was quite something to put on a Victorian dress and guide groups of kindergarten kids through Henry House. You never know who among them will grow up to be history lovers, too! Although I was initially just a bit apprehensive about what it would be like to lead a tour, I have since learned so much about what it is to engage people with history. The chance to give tours is now already one of my favourite things to do here at the museum.

Additionally, I have enjoyed learning about the history of Oshawa, since I didn’t know very much local history until now. I have a particular fondness for the First Nations exhibit in Robinson House, which tells of the communities who made their homes in Oshawa as early as the 15th century. This exhibit puts the scope of Oshawa’s history into perspective for me – enabling me to visualize the layers upon layers of history that can be uncovered. I also love touring people through this floor, as so many are just pleased as I am to see the way the exhibit is set up (with the interior of a longhouse!) and to learn more about this piece of Oshawa’s past.

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Our three summer students, Adam, Lauren, and Mia!

Given that each day differs to the next, I am looking forward to what the rest of summer will bring.

Student Museum Musings – Lauren

By Lauren R., Summer Museum Assistant

Hello there! I’d like to start out this blog post by saying how excited I am to be working as a summer student for the second year in a row. I am already at the end of my third week back at work and it feels as though I’ve picked up right where I left off at the end of last summer. This summer I am once again having the pleasure of being involved with numerous projects, including two larger projects that are a constant work in progress. Trust me – it’s keeping me on my toes!

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Lauren assisting with silver polishing earlier this month

The first of the projects that I have undertaken this summer has to do with the Education Kits that the museum offers as resources to schools to enrich the learning experience for students. While these programs are very useful it was put to me that we may be able to do more with them. Specifically, that there may be more of them! With this in mind, I am helping to look at new ways to present the material that we already have and at how to make more of these kits available for teacher use, bridging a vast range of topics. In my first few days back on the job full-time I went through each of the kits, reading all of the information that they had to offer and then examining their complementary artefacts. From there I made it my goal to read several books on programming to see if there was anything that they could offer me to enrich the way that I was looking to construct the programs. After all of this research, I had the pleasure of joining one of my colleagues at a school to see how these outreach kits work in person and the response that they produced from students. Thus far I have come up with 7 new programs that can be introduced to our selection of Education Kits. I am going to endeavour to make each of these 7 kits flexible so that they can be used by both older and younger grades, bringing the count of new education kits to 14!

The second thing that I have been engaged in this summer is research for the new Medical Exhibit being created! For this I have been hard at work reading up on the history of the Oshawa General Hospital and how it came to be. So far I am finding the story fascinating! The original building for the Oshawa Hospital came about as the result of the hard work of a group of determined women. In 1906, the debt of the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church was cleared with the work of some of the local women’s societies. Seeing that their work had been completed, and that they could focus their attention on a new and worthy cause, Mrs. R.S. McLaughlin gathered a representative from each of the local societies to vote on the next cause that should be attended to. The cause that was chosen was the Oshawa General Hospital. In 1906 the campaigning for the hospital began and it was built soon after and opened in 1910. I have absolutely fallen in love with the story of how the Oshawa General Hospital came to be. It highlights the great things that can be accomplished when a group of strong-minded and determined people come together for the greater good. I look forward to learning more about each bit of Oshawa’s medical history as I strive to construct an interesting and engaging exhibit around it, though it is proving difficult to narrow down what fascinating facts to include when there is so much interesting information at hand!

There have been many more interesting things I have been doing but there will be another blog post for me to talk about those. For now I work diligently at the Medical Exhibit and wait with baited breath to see it come to reality…