Memories Revived by Museum Opening

Originally printed 24 May 1960

Nostalgic memories and pioneer history intermingled at the opening of the Oshawa & District Historical Society’s Henry House Museum last Saturday.

As the years rolled back in the peaceful aura of the Henry House, persons were heard to comment: “Why we had one of those in our home when I was young,” or, “that baby carriage, my mother wheeled me in one just like it, she said it handled beautifully.”

The pioneer days of which Henry House is representative, do not seem so long ago.

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Starr Cuts Ribbon

Labor Minister Michael Starr cut the ribbon that officially opened the Henry House museum.  He led the group of special guests who were the first to enter the museum to sign the register.

Among the official party who spoke prior to the opening of the museum were Mayor Lyman A. Gifford and TD Thomas, MPP.

Hon Brian Cathcart (sic), minister of travel and publicity for Ontario, gave a brief address prior to the opening.

He expressed the appreciation of Premier Frost and of the Ontario Provincial Government for the very great effort put forth by Mrs. Conant in the establishment of the museum.

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Verna Conant shaking hands with the Rt Hon Michael Starr as Hon Bryan Cathcart stands to the side, 21 May 1960

Museums Increasing

The minister at the Ontario government is encouraging the establishment of local museums in the province. More than 100 museums are already in existence.  A half dozen were opened last year and 25 or 30 will be opened this year.

He praised his staff member James Gooding, whom he said was very helpful, and who has provided much of the liaison work for the establishment of this museum.

The speaker stressed the importance of those present in impressing upon others the value of making contributions of their time and effort to help build a better province and a better Canada.

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The first exhibit at the Henry House Museum

To Change Displays

Articles on display in the museum will be changed periodically.  At present on display is a parlor, set up in the manner of the early residents of the district. Many of the articles in this room are heirlooms lent to the museum by the descendants of the Henrys.

Another room displays some of the implements used on the early farms in the community. Antique uniforms, weapons, books, and pictures are also on display.

The children who were on hand at the opening day, and also on Monday, seemed to thoroughly enjoy this step into the past.

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

 

May is Museum Month!

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

My co-workers often roll their eyes at me, but I absolutely adore alliteration (see what I did there?).  So when there’s an event like May is Museum Month, I get a wee bit excited about it! The alliteration is only a small part of my excitement; I do have to give mad respect to whoever thought that one up!

May also means the return of daffodils at Robinson House!
May also means the return of daffodils at Robinson House!

Truly, Museum Month is a wonderful celebration.  Museums are so much more than stoic places of learning; we are places of creativity, of community, of belonging, and of fun! If there is ever any doubt of this, head over to whenyouworkatamuseum.com, a humorous Tumblr site which reflects on what it’s like to be a museum professional and the host of the epic Museum Dance Off!  We were honoured to be a participant this year, and we will continue to be a champion for the Canadian sites still in the running.

Museums tell stories.  At the Oshawa Museum, we do this in a number of different ways, whether it’s the Throwback Thursday we share on Instagram, the monthly Podcast Series that can be found on YouTube, or through this weekly blog.  Many, many thanks to the growing number of those who follow and support us.

We also tell stories as most museums do, through our feature exhibitions.  In honour of May is Museum Month, we traditionally open our feature exhibitions before the Victoria Day long weekend.  Our visitors in 2015 will have the chance to view Mourning After: The Victorian Celebration of Death.  From furniture to mourning dress, and everything in between, this exhibit looks at how the Victorians mourned and celebrated their departed loved ones.  This exhibit will be on display from May through November – our amazingly creative curator, Melissa, has been hard to work on her latest exhibit, and it is one not to miss!

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At the end of May is Museum Month, we are excited to be offer a never-before-seen tour! On May 31, we invite you to Accessioned! Behind the Scenes of the Oshawa Museum. Guests will choose an artifact from the Museum’s education collection and follow it on the journey through accessioning, digitizing, conservation, writing a text panel, and finally, display.  You will truly appreciate everything that goes into preparing the exhibits!

Poster copyAt Accessioned, guests get to see what is behind our closed doors, viewing our collection storage areas, and try your best at assembling pottery shards, just like archaeologists and museum conservators.  Timed tickets are required for Accessioned!  Call 905-436-7624 to book your ticket.

Museums truly are inspirational places.  This month, visit your local museum and discover something new about your community!

Hope we see you soon!