Where the Streets Get Their Names – Shelley Avenue

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Autumn is in full swing.  The leaves are changing brilliant colours and falling faster than rakes can catch up, Thanksgiving was celebrated (here in Canada, at least) a few weeks ago, and in the next few days, Halloween celebrations will commence.  On October 31, the streets will be filled with princesses, ghosts, goblins, and vampires.  Perhaps you know someone who will be dressing up as the monster known as Frankenstein. When someone says Frankenstein, this is the monster that comes to mind:

Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s creature; By Universal Studios – Dr. Macro, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3558176

Through the years, popular culture has led to the confusion of Frankenstein, the ‘doctor’ and mad scientist, and his creation, with the creation commonly being called Frankenstein.  This misnomer aside, I’m sure there will be many trick-or-treaters who will be donning green face paint and adding assorted scars and neck bolts to complete their costume.  Dr. Frankenstein and his monster were the creation of a 19th century author, Mary Shelley.

The origins of this tale are almost as legendary as the tale itself.  As the story goes, Mary travelled to Lord Byron’s Villa in Switzerland with her partner (and later husband)  Percy Bysshe Shelley (the writer John Polidori was also a part of this group, as well as Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont).  The weather was dark and gloomy, and as the evening went on, Byron suggested that the group write their own ghost stories.  The short story Mary created was later expanded to her novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.  It is a tale of a scientist who brings a corpse back to life and the consequences of this action.  It is written in the Gothic style and is considered by many to be the first ‘science fiction’ book.

By Richard Rothwell – Scan of a print. Original housed at the National Portrait Gallery: NPG 1235 https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4219463

Who was Mary Shelley?  She was born in 1797 as Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, daughter of feminist philosopher, educator, and writer Mary Wollstonecraft, and philosopher, novelist, and journalist William Godwin.  Her mother died shortly after her birth, and she was raised by her father and later by his second wife.  She first met Percy Bysshe Shelley in the early 1810s; he was married when they first met, however he was estranged from his wife.  She committed suicide in 1816, and Shelley and Mary were married shortly after.  It was earlier in the year of 1816 that the couple famously visited Byron in Switzerland.

Mary Shelley wasn’t the only person to tell a good ghost story that weekend as Polidori would write The Vampyre after that weekend.

Before his death in 1822, Mary & Percy would have one surviving child, a son named Percy Florence Shelley.  Mary passed away on February 1, 1851 at the age of 53.

Shelley Avenue in Oshawa is found in the ‘authors neighbourhood,’ north east of Harmony and the 401.  Other street names in that area are Keates, Shakespeare, Austin, Milton, and Browning.  Was the street named for Mary, her equally noteworthy husband Percy, or for both, I cannot say for sure. Regardless of its namesake, the name Shelley is linked with the tale of a scientist who brought a corpse back to life.

“How dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to be greater than his nature will allow.”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein



Frau Blücher: It’s not rotten! It’s a good brain!

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: IT’S ROTTEN, I TELL YOU! ROTTEN!

The Monster: [lunging at Dr. Frankenstein] RRAAAAAAAA!

Igor: Ixnay on the ottenray.

-Mel Brooks, Young Frankenstein

Meet the Museum: Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

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 our Executive Director’s favourite memory of the Museum? 

Join us and see what happens behind the doors of Guy House.

Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

What do you do at the Oshawa Museum?

My name is Lisa Terech and I am the Community Engagement co-ordinator at the Oshawa Museum.  With my job, I wear many hats! On any given day, I could be co-ordinating our youth volunteers and looking for various youth engagement opportunities at the museum, exploring partnership opportunities with groups in and around Oshawa, assisting with various museum programming and outreach, and coordinating the Oshawa Historical Society membership.  As well, I manage the social media presence for the museum.

Why did you choose this career?

I’ve always loved history and I always knew I wanted to do something involved with history, not just with the skills you learn while taking a history degree in university.  However, I knew that I didn’t want to be a teacher. When I found the museums studies program, I thought it was a great way to marry having a career with what I actually love.  Now that I’m in the field, I knew it was the best choice for me.  I can honestly say that I love my job.

What is your favourite part of your job?

Working with the people.  I’m in a unique position where I get to meet new people every day because we have new people coming through the doors of the museum every day.  There’s also the people I get to see more often, for example the members of the society or our various volunteers.  People who know me know that I’m a people person, and my role here allows me to  interact with different people from our community and beyond.  I also enjoy when I get the chance to engage with different audiences through social media, whether it’s co-ordinating the blog, tweeting or posting pictures through Instagram.  It’s a fun way to introduce the museum to people who may not have the chance to visit or who may not have known about us otherwise.

Victorian costumes in Henry House = Awesome.
Canada Day at the Lake 2015, with volunteer Cathryn and Host Karen

What do you find to be the most challenging part of your job?

Some of the research.  I still undertake a little bit of research with my job, my personal favourite research subject is the Port Oshawa Pioneer Cemetery, and every so often you hit that brick wall, and it’s a matter of pushing through or finding the patience to say, ‘you’re going on the back burner’ and working on something else.  Time management can also be a bit tricky, because I often have several projects on the go!

How did you get into the Museum field?

I took History and Canadian Studies as my undergraduate degree at Wilfrid Laurier University, worked a couple years outside the field, then went back to school for Fleming College’s Museum Management and Curatorship program.  What really helped me ultimately, especially here at the Museum, was volunteering.  I started as a volunteer in 2007, mostly helping behind the scenes and making phone calls on behalf of the Museum from home.  When I finished my program in 2010, I amped up my volunteering, and when a position opened up I think I was the first to have my resume in!  Volunteering proved to be a good way of getting my name known.

Cleaning artifacts in preparation for an exhibit at the Peterborough Museum and Archives, Spring 2010.
Cleaning artifacts in preparation for an exhibit at the Peterborough Museum and Archives, Spring 2010.

What is your earliest memory of the Oshawa Museum?

I remember coming here in grade 4, for a class trip.  We churned butter somewhere in the Henry House kitchen.  It is really funny to me to be able to work here, somewhere that I visited in grade 4, somewhere that I have fond memories for.  I remember that it was known as the Sydenham Museum at that point.  An old classmate, who is now a teacher, brought her class to the Museum a few years ago for our Christmas program, and we had a good laugh reminiscing that almost 20 years later, we’re both back at the Museum for another school tour!


Digging Up The Past – Archaeology Day 2016

This post was originally shared last year, but we thought it was worth sharing again for Archaeology Day 2016!

Archaeology is an important part of the interpretation at the Oshawa Museum.  Our Grandview Gallery in Robinson House helps tell the story of the Lake Ontario Iroquois, a group of First Nations who called this area home over 500 years ago. For far too long, the history of Oshawa began with Benjamin Wilson, an American who settled here in 1790 with his family, and so on and so forth.  By saying our history begins with Wilson, we are completely omitting the Lake Ontario Iroquois, who were settled with 10-15 longhouses, who hunted, who fished, and who farmed for a period of over 70 years.  Archaeology and the evidence it has given us helps us challenge the ‘traditional story,’ and we do so on every tour, through our interpretation and through the artifacts we have on display that were discovered during the excavation of the Grandview site in 1992.

015 copy
Inside the Grandview Discovery Gallery

Fun fact: there were over 11,000 artifacts unearthed during that salvage dig excavation, and all 11,000 are part of our collection at the Oshawa Museum.  Not all 11,000 are on display of course, but you can view exceptional examples when you visit!

018 copy
Tools on display from the Grandview Archaeological excavation

There were two Aboriginal villages discovered through archaeological excavations; theMacLeod Site at Rossland and Thornton was discovered in the late 1960s, and the Grandview Site, around Grandview and Taunton, was discovered in 1992.  Both sites provide valuable information about the lives of the Lake Ontario Iroquois and have helped us at the Oshawa Museum shift how we tell the history of our City.

When people think about archaeology, ancient ruins, Egypt, Greece, Maya, or early First Nation settlements is what frequently comes to mind.  At the Oshawa Museum, we are fortunate to have two collections from late-historic archaeological sites: the Farewell Cemetery Collection and the Henry House Collection.  These two sites date to the mid to late 1800s and they provide information about Victorian lives and culture. Artifacts from the Henry House excavation will be on display in Henry House.

20150507_154034 copy
Coffin handle found during the removal and excavation of the Farewell Cemetery

Curator Melissa Cole gives information on the Farewell Cemetery excavation in her June 2015 Podcast.

Archaeology is a fascinating field, and Archaeology Day is an event where we get to celebrate and showcase the amazing history that has been unearthed here in Oshawa!

Archaeology Day 2016 is happening on October 15 from 12-3pm.  Proud partners for this year’s event are Trent University Durham and Scugog Shores Museum who will be joining us with interactive displays, engaging activities, lectures, and sharing in their knowledge of and passion for the field of Archaeology.


Student Museum ‘Musings’ – Kaitlin

By Kaitlin B., Co-Op Student

My name is Kaitlin and I am student from the CICE program at Durham College. The times that I am here are on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I started my time here three weeks ago and so far it’s a great experience. Some of the duties that I do here at the Oshawa Museum are documenting artefacts, help run tours around the museum, complete computer work on the museum’s website and cleaning the Guy house store, the other houses and the artefacts.

Kaitlin in the Henry House Kitchen

I enjoy the tasks that I do here but my personal favourite thing to do is to is to clean the museum houses and the artefacts that are inside them with either members of the staff here of on my own. I enjoy the peace and quiet of the museum and if I’m by myself, the ghosts here don’t bother me. My favourite house here is the Robinson House because of the rich history of the house and it hold my favourite exhibit, the First Nations Exhibit.  I find the First Nation exhibit interesting because its fascinating to learn how they lived and to learn about their culture.  That is it for my first blog and there will be many more to come through out my experience here.

The Month That Was – October 1922

Did you know that Oshawa’s historical newspapers are available for searching online? Visit Canadian Community Digital Archives to discover Oshawa’s history for yourself!  This month’s edition of Month That Was has been researched and written based on newspapers available on the online database.  Enjoy!


Ontario Reformer

October 3, 1922
Steps are Taken to open Mechanic Street, Alma to Alexandra Streets; R.W. Dixon Donates a Large Strip

Mechanic Street, from Alma to Alexandra, a distance of 2,993 feet is to be opened by the town.  This much needed development which has been pressing for years has come about through the work of a special committee which has been engaged on the problem for several months, of which Councillor R. Moffat is Chairman.

The task of extending this street has been facilitated by the splendid offer of Mr. R. W. Dixon who owns more than half the property required.  Mr.  Dixon has agreed to give this property to the town for the purpose of the street for the nominal sum of $1.  He was also agreed to permit the town to take gravel from the creek where owned by him, sufficient for the purpose of making the street.

In the report which Councillor Moffat presented, the committee stated “We are of the unanimous opinion that the extension of this street northerly should approximately follow the course of what is known as the ‘mill raceway.’ Speaking generally your committee was impressed with the natural lie and adaptability of this land for the particular purpose.  … Furthermore a considerable portion of the said ‘raceway’ is lined with trees which would take years to develop on any new street.”

Ontario Reformer, October 3, 1922
Ontario Reformer, October 3, 1922

October 5

October is an ideal month for motoring. The country looks its best then with its blaze of colour while the tank in the air gives an added zest to an outing.


Oct 10
Facts About St. George’s Church Past, Present and Future

Here are a few facts about the old St. George’s Church and its pact rectors, also information about the new structure.

When complete it is estimated that it will cost approximately $150,000

The chimes have been donated by Edward T. Houston of Cincinnati in memory of his wife’s parents, the late Edward & Mrs. Carswell of Oshawa

The first sod in connection with the erection of the edifice was turned by his Excellency, The Duke of Devonshire, Governor General of Canada, on June 12, 1919.

Ontario Reformer, October 10, 1922
Ontario Reformer, October 10, 1922

October 14
Oshawa & District
Rebekahs Hold Euchre

Oshawa Rebekah Lodge No. 3 held a most successful euchre party and social last Tuesday evening in Engel’s Hall, the attendance being unusually large.  The ladies’ first prize was won by Mrs. Weeks while Mrs. Clark won the second prize.  The gents first prize went to Mr. Robinson and the second to Mr. Harry Carter. Refreshments were served at the close of the game. The proceeds amounted to $55.


October 24
Cedar Dale Annexation Nearer Consummation; Effective on January 1?
Survey of Both Town and Village Must Be Made – Town Council Must Pass Resolution and Majority of Residents of Suburb Must Petition Railway Board
Much detail work to be done; Dale will be separate Ward.

The largest and perhaps the most satisfactory meeting that has been held, with a view to bringing about the annexation of Cedar Dale to the Town, took place in the Municipal offices on Saturday evening.  The Town of Oshawa was represented by Mayor Stacey, Reeve Morris and Deputy Reeve Hill; the Township of East Whitby by Reeve Ellins, Deputy Reeve Nesbitt, Councillors Farewell and French… Mr. G. D. Conant, who has had the matter in hand in an endeavor to arrange an agreement that would be acceptable to all parties, was also present.