Giving Tuesday & The 2018 Curator’s Most Wanted List

By Laura Suchan, Executive Director

We have two days that are good for the economy. Now we have a day that is good for the community too.” GivingTuesday.ca

Once again the Oshawa Museum is taking part  in the global movement known as GivingTuesday. Taking place the Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it is unofficially known as the “opening day of the giving season.” It is a time for charities, companies and individuals to join together and celebrate their favourite causes. (GivingTuesday.ca)

Our staff chose the artefact collection as the focus of the Oshawa Museum’s Giving Tuesday celebration.  A great deal of our work at the Oshawa Museum (OM) centres around the collection which numbers in excess of 50,000 objects.  Collecting the artefacts is only one piece of the puzzle. One of the most important aspects of the collecting process is the curation or, in other words, how the collection is accumulated and selected for acquisition,  presentation and preservation.  Melissa Cole and Jennifer Weymark are the staff members responsible for curating the OM’s collection.  In this process they are guided by their professional knowledge and a collection policy to ensure our collection is diverse and representative of the history of Oshawa and includes the voices, stories and artefacts of all those who have called Oshawa home. In order to strategically develop the collection for future generations, we rely on donations of both money and artefacts. Donations in any amount help us to purchase items we feel will help tell a more inclusive history of our City. We are also asking you to search your attics and basements for artefacts that will help us with our work.

Poster - SM Graphic

To help you, Jennifer and Melissa recently came up with a Curator’s Top 5  Most Wanted artefacts.

  1. Items related to the Henry, Guy and Robinson families including photographs, land deeds, letters, artefacts.
  2. Examples of Smith Potteries pieces or items related to the business. Currently the OM has 25 pieces of Smith Potteries, and we hope to grow this number and learn more about the business that operated in Oshawa from 1925-1949.
  3. Oshawa historic newspapers especially from the period 1880-1930. There are large gaps in the newspaper collection during these years.  Complete newspapers are great, however we also are interested in incomplete copies or single pages.
  4. Anything related to industry and manufacturing, labour history and the 1937 strike.
  5. A more inclusive look at Oshawa’s history means we must do a better job at telling the stories of our diverse community. Current research projects include early Black and Asian history as well as Displaced Persons.

Once again we are asking our members to join us in preserving Oshawa’s  history by helping us to purchase or by donating items that are on the Curator’s Top 5 Most Wanted List.

Recently the staff was sadden to learn of the passing of  one of our long time friends, Tedd Hann.

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Tedd Hann, Jillian Passmore, and Jacquie Frank

Tedd spent many years working for a bread company and then started work with the City of Oshawa.  He retired more than 18 years ago.  Tedd was an accomplished curler and once played on a team that scored an eight ender (a perfect score). Many of our  members will recall Tedd’s Uncle Earl, one of the founding members of the OHS.  Tedd said he donated to the museum in Earl’s memory, after all it was Earl who first got Tedd interested in the work of the museum.   Through donations to the Artefact Fund, Tedd  helped the museum  purchase an exhibit case, publish our WWII book, Stories from the Homefront, repatriate a pair of Ritson Pear Trees and conserve the Granny Cock painting.  Tedd said he got a “great deal of satisfaction” from supporting the museum and was happy to “continue Earl’s work.”

History organizations make their communities more attractive places in which to live, work, learn and play.  A strong arts and culture community is important to the livability and vitality of a community.   Would you be willing to make a donation of $25, $50, $100 or more to help us meet our goal?  Please use this link to make a donation: http://bit.ly/top-5-artefacts. You can also send your donation by mail to Oshawa Historical Society, 1450 Simcoe Street South, Oshawa, Ontario L1H 8S8.

We thank you for your support to strategically manage and develop the collection as a growing resource for education and research.  We also extend an invitation to you to visit the Oshawa Museum and experience first-hand Oshawa’s Home to History.

Everhard-Phillips Glass Plate Negative Collection: Back Home in Leavenworth, KS

Background:

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EE (Eben) Henry; from the Oshawa Museum Archival Collection

The Oshawa Historical Society and the Leavenworth County Historical Society share a history and an interest in a gentleman by the name of Ebenezer Elijah Henry.

E.E. was the last of five sons born to Thomas and his first wife Betsey.  His childhood was spent along the shore of Lake Ontario where the family lived and cared for their farm and orchard.  As E.E. reached his late teens, he attended Starkey Seminary in New York State, and it was here that E.E. met his future wife Harriet.  They married, lived briefly in a home close to Henry House before moving to Port Hope where E.E. opened his first photography studio.  Photography appears to have been E.E.’s passion and one he took with him when he and Harriet moved to Leavenworth, Kansas.  It is here that he began, unbeknownst to him, a photography collection that would document the growth of Kansas and showcase the people who called Leavenworth home.

We have been fortunate to create a partnership with the Leavenworth County Historical Society.  This partnership will help both sites to better understand the life and impact of E.E. Henry.  The following article showcases the hard work by their Historical Society to bring this collection home and to make use of it to learn more about their history.


Guest Post by: Mary Ann Brown, President of the Leavenworth County Historical Society

Museums around the world often count a historically significant photographic collection among their holdings.  While sometimes taken for granted by the general population, as common place as they may seem, these collections offer an instantaneous window into history, many times without the need of accompanying commentary.  Such artifacts will maintain their importance overtime and henceforth gain wider acclaim, appreciation, and recognition in their own particular time and place in history.  It is not every day that a collection is uncovered that spans 100 years of a single town’s history, specifically from the early days of its founding and from work carried out by its pioneer photographers.  What is even more significant is the that these images depict life in a western town, from which the United States border advanced.  Before Kansas became a state, the western most border of the United States was the Missouri River and the infant town of Leavenworth became the First City of Kansas.

In 1998 the Leavenworth County Historical Society in Kansas acquired such a collection in the form of thousands of photographic negatives—glass plates, nitrates and safety film—representing the first century of Leavenworth history, from the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage (now known as “The Autry National Center”) in Los Angeles, California.  That same year, nearly 4,000 negatives were acquired from David R. Phillips, photographer-collector of Chicago, Illinois, who had purchased the original collection from the Miss Everhard Photography Studio in Leavenworth upon her retirement in 1968, when her efforts to sell it locally were unsuccessful.  Over Labor weekend, four tons of glass plate negatives were removed from Miss Everhard’s Leavenworth studio, loaded into a U-Haul van and transported to Chicago, Illinois.  Comprised mostly of portraits, the collection represents the elite and founding fathers of Leavenworth, Kansas, the first city of Kansas and gateway to the West.  In addition to the cross-section of the people of Leavenworth County, from the wealthy businessmen and society wives, to coal miners, Ft. Leavenworth soldiers, store clerks, and children, there are also photos of Leavenworth homes, the Old Soldiers’ Home, St. Mary College, storefronts, parades, and government buildings.

Miss Mary Everhard, for whom the collection is named, had purchased the studio of early Leavenworth photographer, Harrison Putney in 1922.  This studio had been established in 1866 by E.E. Henry, for whom many of the older and later notable residents posed.  Henry and step-son, Harrison Putney had produced thousands of photographic images over the years which Putney left with the studio.  In 1940, another photography studio closed in Leavenworth, the city’s oldest, which had been opened by Richard Stevenson in 1858 and continued by his son, Harrison.  Their negatives were left behind in the vacated studio so Miss Everhard added those to the Henry/Putney collection.  While Phillips eventually sold portions of the collection to the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage, the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, and other museums, he recognized the value, as did Miss Everhard and her predecessors, in not only preserving but sharing an amazing photographic record of a most historically significant town.  Images made from these negatives are beyond compare.  A debt of gratitude is owed Mr. Phillips for saving this wonderful collection of early Kansas history, for when Miss Everhard approached a Leavenworth banker in hopes of using it as her retirement fund, the banker laughed and suggested it was of no value and ought to be thrown into the muddy Missouri River!

Judge Fenlon & Family 1871
Judge Fenlon & Family 1871 Photographer: E.E. Henry

In the summer of 2015, the LCHS launched a major campaign to bring back to Leavenworth the balance of the collection still held by Mr. Phillips.  It consisted, in part, of the oldest studio portraits and a very rare collection of wet-plate stereonegatives.  Mr. Phillips was finally convinced that these negatives needed to be back in Leavenworth.  For nearly 50 years he had preserved and promoted the collection with exhibits, published articles, and books.  This final piece of the original collection of Leavenworth history is considered the centerpiece of the entire collection and a national treasure.  Several trips were made to Chicago to transport negatives back to Kansas as funds allowed.  The museum also purchased from Mr. Phillips a 24” Epson printer to be able to make over-sized prints from the negatives for sale as a means of support for the museum.

Besides a general plea to the museum’s membership, town leaders were called upon to make generous donations.  A dinner theatre fundraiser and kick-off breakfast were held early in the campaign.  Grants were written to secure funding for exhibits of a selection of prints made by Mr. Phillips, news articles were written and a series of presentations were made locally explaining what a glass negative was and what effect the ownership of the collection would make on the museum and Leavenworth.  Grants were also written to foundations, with little luck, and the campaign stalled.

The deadline to raise the necessary funds was set for December 31, 2016 and as it fast approached, the funds needed to acquire the collection were significantly short.  In the fall of 2016, it was discovered that a Kansas City, Kansas resident had ancestral ties to Leavenworth—Mr. Henry Wollman Bloch.  Now in his 90s, Mr. Bloch had founded successful and nationally recognized H & R Block, a tax preparation company and the H & R Block Foundation for his philanthropic work.  Mr. Bloch’s ancestor was the Jonas Wollman family, early settlers in Leavenworth, owning and operating a clothing store in the early business district.  The family later relocated to Kansas City and then New York City, where they became quite wealthy.  Remembering his roots, Mr. Bloch sent a personal check to the museum right before Christmas (Hanukkah for him), to make up the shortfall, thereby officially ending the campaign and securing the balance of the collection.

Buffalo Bill's Wedding Photo 1868
Buffalo Bill’s wedding, 1868 Photographer: EE Henry

 

Now the museum seeks to begin Phase II of the campaign—to raise the necessary funds to design,  build, and maintain an annex, where this and other collections can be archivally stored and studied as we seek to become a research center for early Kansas history.  The annex will be a carriage house style building, reminiscent of one that once stood on the property.  Handicap facilities and accessibility, as well as parking, will also be included.  An extension of the Victorian herb and heirloom gardens is also planned to incorporate the original Planters House Hotel steps from which Abraham Lincoln stood on his first and only visit to Kansas and Leavenworth in 1859.


Visit the Leavenworth County Historical Society’s Website

Visit the LCHS Blog

Future Planning at the Oshawa Museum

By Laura Suchan, Executive Director

OHS-60-FNL-RGBThe Oshawa Historical Society is celebrating 60 years of presenting the history of Oshawa.  Throughout the year we have been taking a look back at what we have accomplished, assessing where we are now and creating a vision for what our future will look like.  We consider the three historically designated buildings the most important artefacts in our collection, however they do present some challenges with regards to the scope of programming we can offer.  The physical limitations of the three heritage buildings are reflected most acutely in two areas: a severe lack of programming space which restricts the number of participants in our events and the kinds of events we can host, and a lack of suitable exhibit space to accommodate our collections and travelling exhibits.

In 1996 Sears & Russell completed a Facility Study of the Oshawa Museum (OM) and concluded:

“The existing structures do not fully support the OSMA’s [OM’s] current curatorial, programming and administrative activities.  The artifact and archival collections storage facilities are totally inadequate in terms of spatial requirements, accessibility, security and environmental conditions.  Both permanent and temporary exhibits are limited by space and environmental conditions.  Educations and other public programs are restricted by size and other demands on the program room in Guy House.  The administrative area, also in Guy House, is overcrowded.  There are no curatorial work areas, and the archival area is inadequate and inappropriate.” (Sears & Russell Feasibility Study, pg. 45).

In 2016, the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) was engaged by the Board of Directors to conduct a facility assessment which concluded that the OM, in partnership with the City of Oshawa, are managing the preservation risks to the Museum collection despite limited resources within heritage facilities that are not well designed for the purpose. The recommendation was to:

“Consolidate collections in new, purpose-designed collection spaces. Lack of space is a key constraint for all Oshawa Museum activities, putting existing collections at risk of damage and restricting future collection of Oshawa’s heritage. Oshawa Museum staff have exhausted options for using historic spaces efficiently; therefore, new space is needed.” (CCI: Oshawa Museum Facilities Assessment Final Report, December 2016, pg. 11.)

Furthermore the CCI review noted “the key recommendation of the 1996 Sears & Russell master plan is even more pertinent today, twenty years later.” (CCI:  Oshawa Museum Facilities Assessment Final Report, December 2016, pg. 44).

The Board of Directors is committed to providing space and facilities that are both aesthetically pleasing and effective in preserving and interpreting Museum collections and can perform these functions efficiently and sustainably.  To provide the best conditions for our collection, improved visitor experience and better community engagement, the Board of Directors has decided to move forward with plans for a facilities expansion project.

 

What Does this Mean to the Oshawa Museum/Oshawa Historical Society?

Collections

Spaces

People

  • Improved collection care
  • Improved collection storage areas
  • Curatorial support areas
  • Repatriation of Oshawa archival records from Archives of Ontario
  • Improved visitor amenities
  • Rental opportunities
  • Improved exhibition areas
  • Purpose built space allows for enhanced visitor experiences
  • Potential partnership opportunities
  • More community engagement

 

Our Curator, Melissa Cole, looks at our current facility and the challenges we face in this video, accessible HERE from our YouTube Channel.

Memories of the Civic

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

My family moved to Oshawa in 1986, not long after I turned seven years old. We lived in a nice area within walking distance to schools, shops, and the Oshawa Centre, but best of all the Civic Auditorium. I have so many great memories of the Civic that were brought back after commenting on a photo in the Facebook group Vintage Oshawa; it was posted a few weeks ago and I decided to write about those memories.

Civic Auditorium

My brother, sister and I all took swimming lessons at the Civic. This was brought on after my brother fell into the creek at Camp Samac and could not swim. Back then, the levels were divided up by colour and you received a badge if you passed the level. Currently all of mine are sewn onto my campfire blanket that we used for Cub and Scout campfires at Samac. At the time, the Civic also had two diving boards, the ‘high diving board’ and ‘the low one.’ I can clearly remember my sister belly flopping off the high one. I only jumped off once and that was enough for me.

We took swimming lessons because that is what my parents said we had to do. It was ok, but I have awful memories of being made to go grocery shopping (Miracle Mart in the Whitby Mall) afterward with dry skin from the pool and static-y hair from the dryers.

My best friend in elementary school was a synchronized swimmer and their club trained at the Civic. I spend many evenings there watching her train and watching competitions. Until 2005, the only viewing gallery was upstairs. For swimming lessons, parents would get their kids changed in the lower floor change rooms then go up to watch their kids in the upper gallery. Within the gallery there was also tiered seating. The higher up you sat, the hotter it got – but that’s where the cool kids sat to watch the synchro competitions.

Me and another girl helped our synchro friend ‘train’ by running the track in the Dome with her. Mostly we would just mess around, but that changed when the Dome was removed to be replaced in 1990. It seemed like it was down forever! In 1999, the Dome actually did collapse under high winter winds in March. It meant months of seeing a weird gap where it had once stood until it was reopened on November 1, 1999.

We spent an enormous amount of time in the arena as a family too. Almost weekly, we would walk over on Sunday’s for public skating. Low wooden boards, only comfortable enough to sit of a minute or two, partitioned ‘the baby section.’  The grown ups and big kids skated counter clockwise around the rest of the rink. I don’t remember the direction alternating. There were tons of great songs to skate to, but the one that sticks out the most was the instrumental Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire by David Foster and the version with lyrics St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion) by John Parr. Any time I hear the first few bars of that song it instantly takes me back to that time.

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At a Gens game, December 1990. From the Oshawa Times Collection, Oshawa Museum archival collection

In addition to public skating, there were also a number of ‘Skate with the Generals” days. Getting to skate with the ’89 and ‘90s teams was so much fun! The Generals (and all of the OHL players for that matter) always seemed so grown up, but it was not until I grew up that I realized what babies they were – most of them still in high school! I wish I still had all of my OHL hockey cards! We knew the schedule of the games, we knew when practices were and watched them often. My friends and I had a regular section we sat in; one of their cousins played for the Pete’s, so those games were always interesting. Games against the Kitchener Rangers or Sudbury Wolves were always good too. I saw a few bench clearing brawls back in the day. There was always the 50/50 draw at the games. One time my Dad won. I remember him taking home a brown lunch bag of change! At each game, a giant six-foot sub was given away too!

I’ve taken my kids swimming there a few times in the last few years. Some of the ambiance is the same, the blue walls and railing as you walk down to the stairs to the pool area (even though the Sports Hall of Fame photos are no longer on the wall,) but mostly it seems big and impersonal. Sometimes I completely forget that the arena is no longer there. You could always open the doors and see who was in there practicing or what event they were getting ready for. As I’m trying to finish writing this more and more memories keep flooding back – seeing the Barenaked Ladies there on their first ever tour, countless trips to the Circus and even sledding down the giant steps that faced Thornton Road during huge snowstorms. I could go on forever, but I’ll finish by wishing that my kids end up having memories of a place like this to look back on as I do when I think about the Civic.


Sources:
Oshawa Museum archival collection: Civic Auditorium Box 0002, File 0047

Student Museum Musings – Durham LIT Students

Their semester has wrapped up, but before they were finished, two students from the Durham College Library & Information Technician program shared their experiences as interns at the Oshawa Museum.  Here’s what they had to say.

Jenn

As part of the final year at Durham College’s Library and Information Technician program, I am at the Oshawa Museum completing field placement hours. I have had the opportunity to work on the museum’s newest publication – The Annotated Memoirs of Rev. Thomas Henry. I got thrown onto this project as a sort of “happy accident:”  I was originally slated to be working in the archive, but help was needed elsewhere.

The book is being annotated by Laura Suchan, Executive Director of the Oshawa Museum, and Stoney Kudel, president of the Oshawa Historical Society. I have been designing the overall layout of the book.

A973.13.1_1
A973.13.1 – Elder Thomas Henry

As an out-of-town student, working on this book has been my introduction to the history of Oshawa and the Henry family. I can’t begin to say how much research has gone into this publication. On my part, it was mostly because I was unfamiliar with a lot of the stories that I was reading about, and I wanted to relate what was happening in Oshawa (then East Whitby Township) to what I knew about the history of Ontario and Canada as a whole.

The museum is fortunate enough to have a lot of the Henry family’s history. I’ve had the opportunity to search through letters, early censuses and photographs, all in the sake of finding information for this book. I’ve enjoyed learning the different histories – being told to sit down and do research has been a dream these past few months.

Unfortunately, with the semester ending, I am finished my internship at the museum, and as of now, the book is not yet complete, though it should be soon. I look forward to seeing how all the work we’ve done comes together in print.


Amanda

I’m a firm believer in what we learn from our past will guide us in the future so history has always been a huge interest of mine. Learning about how an archive and museum are run in class was fun, but actually getting to come into the archives and be able to see and touch history with my own two hands was another experience all together. From my time at the archives I was able to see the real behind the scenes of how an archives is run and operated daily. Through the task I was assigned I got to see what it was like to actually go through a donation and learned the value of recording everything. I also got a chance to see just how much time one project can take. From going through the newspapers, clipping, photocopying, and encasing them it took around 19 hours. With how little staff and money is usually given to archives you can see how much one person needs to do.

I’m very grateful for the experience! and now when I go to museums/archives I will truly know the value of them, not just from a preserving history stance.


Thank you to Jenn and Amanda for sharing their stories!

Want to know more about our Winter Semester post-secondary students? Jenn, Peter, Sarah, and Elora introduced themselves in an earlier post!