Implicit Bias and the OM’s Archival Collection

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

What is implicit bias? 

The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State  University defines it as such: also known as implicit social cognition, implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.  These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control. 

I have previously written about implicit bias in the development of the Oshawa Museum’s archival collection.  At that time, I was looking at how absences in the collection due to the implicit bias of those collecting has created an incomplete history of our community. The collection contains a great deal related to early industrialists, politicians, and the wealthy, with little related to the everyday person, women, or people of colour. This is true of archival collections across Canada and the Western world. It has been recognized, and archivists are working to address the issue and find ways to develop collections that better represent the entirety of our communities.

It wasn’t until this past summer that I became aware of a bias of my own.  I was working through the Lowry Collection, an amazing series of photographs of Lakeview Park during the 1930s that also happens to be one of our most racially and ethnically diverse photograph collections, that I finally noticed an issue with our database descriptions.

The photograph I was looking at was one of my favourites.  It shows a young couple, hand-in-hand, posing for the camera.  In the shadows you can see the outline of the photographer holding their brownie camera, and the popularity of the park is seen all around the subjects.  The photograph is unusual, particularly for the time period, in that it is a young Black man and a young white woman holding hands. This is where I finally took note of something I should have noted long before. 

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The description is as follows: “B&W photo removed from a damaged photo album. Image is of a young African-Canadian and a young woman standing beside one another. The man is wearing a white hat and shirt and dark trousers and sweater. The young woman is wearing a long white coat. The shadow of the photographer is visible. Lakeview Park. Circa 1930s”.

Do you see the implicit bias?  The assumption made that, unless otherwise noted, the people in the images are white. This is an example of implicit bias by the author of the database notation, and it is throughout the accession record for this collection and the entire archival collection.

As part of our work in the archival field, archivists are working to examine archival descriptions for implicit bias, or in some cases outright racism, and begin the work to remove the bias and make the descriptions inclusive. In fact, as part of the programme committee for the 2021 Archives Association of Ontario Conference, I had the privilege of reading several paper proposals examining this issue within different institutions and how they are working to address it.

As for me, I began addressing this starting with the Lowry Collection. Archival descriptions will be edited to remove the implicit bias, and a notation that the description has been changed and the reasoning behind the editing process added to the record.

The Lowry Collection

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

In 1996, Marjorie Lowry donated a photograph album filled with amazing images of Lakeview Park in the late 1930s. The photographs are a glimpse into the lives of a group of friends who spent the summer of 1938 at the lake. They can be seen playing on the beach, joking around with one another and just enjoying Lakeview Park.

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What was Mrs. Lowry’s connection to the photograph album? The connection is the White family, specifically Lloyd White, who can be seen in numerous photographs throughout the album. Lloyd was Mrs. Lowry’s paternal uncle.

Throughout the album, friends and members of the White family can be seen enjoying Lakeview Park and all the amenities the park offered. The album features photographs of bands who played at the Jubilee Pavilion, large picnics, and carnival rides. The majority of the photographs appear to be from the summer of 1938, just after Owen McCrohan and Tom Bouckley took over as proprietors of the Jube. It is a unique glimpse into the summer fun before the world faced war in 1939.

Ruth White at the Jubilee Pavilion (A996.20.98a)

The album is not only a snapshot of Lakeview Park in the late 1930s but also a photographic snapshot of the White family. The photographs show Lloyd, his sister Ruth, and his brothers Bruce and Bill (Mrs. Lowry’s father). The captions hint at some hard times in the family and also indicate that the Second World War would impact the family as we know for certain that Lloyd served overseas.

Personally, this photograph album is one of my favourites in the archives. I love the light-heartedness in the images. I thoroughly enjoy that this is one of the few photographic examples of the ethnic and racial diversity that has been a part of Oshawa for much of its history. Friendship, love, and fun are documented throughout the album, and that is why it is such a wonderful part of our archival collection.

Oak Crawford with The Tramp Band (A996.20.125)

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Owen McCrohan was married to Ruth White. We have corrected this oversight and apologize for the mistake.

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!

Where The Streets Get Their Names – Lakeview Park Drive

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

This year, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of Lakeview Park.  Today, this lakefront gem is approximately 44 acres in size and is used by walkers, picnickers, swimmers and beach-goers, recreational sports teams, events in the summertime, like Canada Day celebrations, and, of course, for those wishing to learn more about the history of Oshawa by visiting us here at the Oshawa Museum.

To celebrate the anniversary, the Oshawa Museum has launched a new online exhibit, Lakeview Park 100, where we will share stories of the park through the years. This post will have links to the online exhibit, or links to older Blog content, and we encourage you to visit and share your own stories!


Prior to the arrival of European and American settlers, the area was part of the traditional hunting grounds of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island.  With the arrival of American settlers in the late 1790s, the land became divided and owned by names such as Annis, Smith, Lockwood and Perry.  In 1840, the first efforts were made to develop the Oshawa Harbour with the construction of the pier and breakwaters by the Sydenham Harbour Company.  The opening of the Harbour brought with it further settlement along the lakeshore, including the construction of the homes that comprise the Oshawa Museum.  Much of Lakeview Park was part of the original Henry Family farm, land Thomas acquired in 1830.

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Oshawa on the Lake

As early as 1890, the area by the lake, referred to more generally as “Oshawa-on-the-Lake,” was used for summer recreation. The Oshawa Railway transported beachgoers with 11 trips per day for a fare of just 5 cents – considered to be very inexpensive even in those times. A popular place in these early days was Mallory’s hall, owned by a resident by the lake who rent it out for dancing, concerts, or religious services. Mr. C. A. Mallory tried to sell his property a number of times through the years, notably in 1896 and 1902, and his pavilion would later be purchased by William Harold & Viola Barnhart.

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In 1920, Sam & George McLaughlin bought the land in the name of General Motors of Canada Limited and deeded it to the Town of Oshawa for just one dollar. There was only one restriction: that the land be used as a public park for the citizens of Oshawa under the control of the Council and Parks commission.  The firm also forwarded a cheque for $3,000 to cover initial improvements and another $6,000 for a suitable park playground.

One of the first tasks undertaken by the parks board was the selection of a name for the new park.  Approximately 240 names were submitted, and Lakeview Park was chosen.  Although open for use by the public in August of 1920, the park was officially opened late in September by Mayor Stacey.  Music was provided by Oshawa Bands, and the Oshawa Railway provided free transportation to the park.

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In 1924 an attempt was made to install a zoo at the park.  George W. McLaughlin provided a number of buffalo from Wainwright, Alberta that were confined in an area to the north-west of Henry House.  They were there until 1931 when the herd began to look somewhat weather-beaten and the odor from the animal pen became offensive to those using Lakeview Park.  As a result, it was decided to move them to the Riverdale Zoo in Toronto.

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For decades through the 20th century, Lakeview Park was dotted with cottages which were lived in or rented through the year. In 1926, it was reported that many out-of-towners were from Toronto, and some were even American tourists. Many people in Oshawa have stories about living in the cottages, which were ill-equipped for winter with no insulation, electricity or running water.  One of the cottages was built by the Oshawa Rotary Club and rented to the Red Cross for one dollar a year.  The Red Cross operated it as a summer holiday cottage for wards of the Children’s Aid Society.  As the years went on, these cottages slowly fell into disrepair as they were divided into apartments.  The City decided that the only way to continue with expanding the park was to tear down the cottages when the leases ran out.  The last tenants left in 1984.  One of the last remaining cottages is was part of the Oshawa Museum complex.  It was located beside the maintenance shed and is used as a storage unit for lumber and large articles until it was torn down in the winter of 2013.

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Improvements and development of the park has continued since it was first deeded to the Town.  In 1927, the Jubilee Pavilion opened to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of Confederation.  It was well known for its nightly dances throughout the year, boasting the best dance floors in North America.

The Lady of the Lake statue and fountain, which today is located between the Museum buildings, was originally located to the west of the Jubilee Pavilion.  City Council spent $4,778 on the statue of a nude nine year old girl; this caused quite the controversy as many citizens did not feel it was appropriate for public display.  The statue was made in Italy and imported by Whitby Stafford Brothers Monumental Works. It was put into an illuminated pool in the park and dedicated on May 24, 1959, commemorating the gift of the pool by General Motors of Canada.  It was relocated in the fall of 2001.

In the late 1970s, a long-range plan of park improvements was to be slowly set into motion. The initial plans included a new and much larger playground, recreation areas (including those designated for baseball and soccer), and the expansion of the road. One important addition was the brick walkway constructed in 1984, extending from the pier to the end of the park.  A plaque bears the following inscription: “This boardwalk was constructed and dedicated for the enjoyment of our citizens as a remembrance of Oshawa’s 60th anniversary and Ontario’s bicentennial, 1984.”

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Finally, in the summers of 1993 and 1994, finishing touches on the park were completed. The pier was reopened, the beach area had been improved, and – significantly – the roads and parking had been upgraded in 1990. The old Henry Street that ran between the three historic homes was gone, replaced by efficient walkways. In 1997, after the passing of Princess Diana, there was a suggestion to change the name to “Diana Lakeview Park,” but this did not come to fruition.

The Oshawa Museum is a proud feature of Lakeview Park.  All museums buildings are on their original foundations, surprising many visitors who assume that they were moved at a later date.  The Museum began with the opening of the Henry House Museum in 1960; Robinson House Museum opened in 1969, Guy House opened in 1985 as the administrative centre, and our Drive Shed beside Henry House was a 50th anniversary project for the Oshawa Historical Society, officially opening in 2009. The Henry House Gardens are used for programs and events and are home to the Ritson Pear Trees, Durham Region’s only heritage designated trees.

The City continues improvements to Lakeview Park through the years by adding more walkways, an additional gazebo, old fashioned street lights, many beautiful and bright gardens and hanging plants, and playground upgrades and improvements.

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Lakeview Park has been enjoyed by citizens of Oshawa and beyond for over a century, and as we celebrate its 100th birthday, we cannot help but be reminded of summer days gone by, cold wintry winds off the lake, and an excitement for the future of this waterfront park.

Flashback Friday – Henry House Through the Years

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

One of our commonly asked questions is about our houses and whether or not they were moved to Lakeview Park.  Visitors are often surprised to learn that the three museum buildings, Robinson House, Henry House, and Guy House, are still standing on their original foundations, or, simply put, they are standing where they were built over 150 years ago.  The three homes were built close together, close to the lot lines; the reason for this is unclear, but one could imagine it would have been handy having neighbours close by.

The documentary evidence for the houses not being moved is overwhelming.  Take Henry House: in our archival collection, we have the land deed which shows Thomas buying the land from his father in 1830.  The 1852 Census of Canada East/West, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia records the Henry family residing in a stone house on Lot 7 Broken Front East Whitby Township, and the 1871 Atlas of Ontario County is dotted throughout, representing building locations.  The Thomas Henry Memoirs also makes mention of the family living in a stone house by the lake.

We also have photographic evidence, and really, who doesn’t like a good, vintage photograph.

One of the earliest photographs that we have are from the Mackie family, who lived in the house from 1917 to the early 1920s.  In the photo below, Doug Mackie is pictured, sitting by the back door.

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This photo, as interesting as it is, does not provide any indication that house was located in Lakeview Park.

This panoramic photograph, however, does.

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Click on the photo to have it open in a new window.  It’s simply overwhelming the width of it and the amount of people being photographed! This is the General Motors Annual Picnic, August 1926, taken in Lakeview Park.  When you take a closer look:

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Henry House is unmistakable!

In the 1930s, Lakeview Park was the place to be, as evidenced by a fantastic photograph collection we have in the archives. Nicknamed the Lowry Lakeview Park collection, it is a series of photographs documenting summers at Lakeview Park, staff who worked at the pavilions, bands who played, and life at the time.  The Jubilee Pavilion opened in 1927, and this photograph of the south facade was taken only a few years later; look to the right of the pavilion, and Henry House is again unmistakable.

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This image of Henry House was captured in the Oshawa Telegram in 1937.

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The caption reads: Built from ballast of Kingston limestone, this house of Elder Thomas Henry, early harbormaster and president of the Oshawa Harbor Company, still stands in old Port Oshawa.  In the great days of the grain trade, schooners landing at Oshawa used to come back light from Kingston, or ballasted with the local limestone to be had there for the loading.  They would throw their ballast overboard to make room for the grain. Elder Henry thriftfully acquired enough of it to build the walls of his second home.

It was in the 1930s that Henry House was inhabited by Ned and Lina Smith; Ned helped care for the buffalo that lived in Lakeview Park for a short time and helped plant many trees in Lakeview Park.

By the 1950s, there was growing concern over the state of Henry House.  The Oshawa and District Historical Society was founded with the intention of creating a historical museum in the City.  Henry House was well suited to accomplish this task; permission was granted in March 1959 to use the home, and it opened to the public in May 1960.

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