Meet the Museum: Jillian Passmore, Visitor Experience Coordinator

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.

What do you do at the Oshawa Museum?

Currently I am the Visitor Experience Coordinator for the Museum.  I am responsible for keeping everyone at the Museum happy! I schedule events and school bookings, I get to facilitate programs and teach people of all ages about the history of Oshawa. I began my career at the Museum as an Interpreter (what we now call Visitor Hosts). I gave tours en masse. Next I was the Public Programs Coordinator. Under this title I developed and created many programs for March Break, summer and Birthday Parties before settling into the role of VEC in 2007.

Jill leading a birthday party, one of the many programs she has developed for the Oshawa Museum
Jill leading a birthday party, one of the many programs she has developed for the Oshawa Museum

Why did you choose this career?

From a very early age, I always knew I wanted to work at a museum. I grew up travelling to Annapolis, Maryland and Washington D.C. My parents instilled a love and respect for history for me and my siblings.  I have vivid memories of touring the various Smithsonian museums and monuments from throughout the area.

In high school I took as many history courses as I could and majored in history and classical studies at Brock University. Most people assumed that I wanted to become a teacher, but I assured them that I would be working in a museum. To say that I love history is an understatement.

Immediately after graduation in late summer of 2002 I noticed an ad from the Oshawa Museum seeking historical interpreters. The rest is history!


What is your favourite part of your job?

My favourite part of my job is teaching people about local history; teaching people that Oshawa’s has a longstanding history and that there is much more to Oshawa than just being an automotive town or a suburb.


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

I find that the most challenging thing is bringing awareness of local history to teachers. So much of what is in the curriculum can be adapted to include local aspects. It’s disappointing that many teachers do not see the value in teaching local history.


What is your favourite memory of the Museum?


My favourite memory of the Museum was getting married in the schoolroom exhibit, surrounded by friends and family. My new husband and I, along with our Maid of Honour and Best Man were allowed to take photos on the top balcony of Robinson House – which is never open to the public. It made the day that much more special.

Jill & her husband (centre), on their wedding day, January 2011
Jill & her husband (centre), on their wedding day, January 2011


Do you have a favourite artifact?

For more on my favourite artifact, check out what I wrote about the Olive French Manuscript. 

Where the Streets Get Their Names – Skae Drive

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Found in an industrial area in the very south west of our City is Skae Drive.  The man after whom this street has been named is more closely associated with Oshawa’s downtown. Here is the story of Edward Skae.


Edward Skae was born around 1804 in Scotland, and 26 years later, around 1830, he immigrated to Canada and settled in a community known as Kerr’s Creek.  Skae became associated with a man named Macdonald, and together, they operated a successful general store along King Street West.  After a number of years, the business partnership dissolved, as they can do, and Edward Skae opened his own store at the main intersection of the community, at the south east corner of King Street and Simcoe Street.  There, he “erected a one and half storey brick building in which he conducted business a number of years” (Pedlar Papers).  His checkerboard store became a landmark along the road from Toronto to Kingston.

An artistic rendering of Edward Skae’s general store, King & Simcoe Streets, by Joan Stacey; Oshawa Archives’ Collection

Due to the popularity of his business, the community was becoming known as ‘Skae’s Corners,’ and Mr. Skae operated as an unofficial post office for locals.  In 1842, he submitted an application to the legislature to become an official post office.  John Hilliard Cameron, representing Skae’s Corners as part of the Home District in parliament, replied that a post office could be granted, however, a name other than “Corners” must be chosen for the post office as there were already too many place names containing corners. The circumstances surrounding the suggestion of ‘Oshawa’ remains unknown, however, the name was chosen and we have continued to grow and thrive under this name. Oshawa translates from a Native dialect to mean “that point at the crossing of the stream where the canoe was exchanged for the trail.”

Edward Skae became the first postmaster on October 6, 1842. According to the Ontario Reformer, May 19, 1905, Mr. Glenney opened the first mail bag brought to Oshawa.  It contained 4 letters, 2 British Colonists and one Examiner and from the east, 2 Montreal Gazettes and six letters.

Edward was Postmaster for less than six years, as he passed away in 1848.  He is laid to rest in Union Cemetery beside his wife, Mary.

Edward Skae headstone, Oshawa Union Cemetery

The Month That Was – June 1928

The Oshawa Daily Times:

June 1, 1928

Good Looks Drawback to Girls as Engineers
London, June 1 – Good looks seem to be a drawback to a girl taking up engineering work. This assertion was made by Miss Hazlett, organizer of the Women’s Engineering Society, at a conference here on now careers for women.

“We put forward a woman for a drawing office appointment,” said Miss Hazlett, “and her qualifications were excellent, but the director said quite frankly that she was too good looking for the job, and would probably upset the men in their work.” Another director, expressing the technical qualifications required by a girl, added, ‘And she must not jump if the foreman says ‘Damn’.”

“A girl must also get rid of the idea that if she goes in for engineering she will spend the rest of her life in dirty boiler overalls. She passes through that phase, but it soon goes. Parents are often a great handicap for they think that a girl is abnormal if she wants to take up engineering – that is not a nice, ladylike profession like secretarial work. This is true in a wat, for a girl has to work with men, wear knickerbockers on occasion, and sometimes do night work. But this does not make us abnormal, and we want to cease to be regarded as curiosities. We want to work with men and not against them.”

Miss Hazlett later informed enquirers had received a very good post abroad,

Leaders of industry, to whose attention Miss Hazlett’s remarks have been directed, are not inclined to agree with  Miss Hazlett’s conclusions.

Sir Stanley Machin, a former president of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, said; “My view is that good looks are rather an advantage than otherwise. Good looks in the hands of an irresponsible woman in business may be dangerous, but in the hands of a properly conducted woman good looks are certainly a benefit. If a woman merely uses her good looks to attract the men with whom she is working, then they are wasted, but otherwise they are a benefit. I quite disagree with Miss Hazlett that good looks are a drawback.”



June 8, 1928


Six-Footers from the Hebrides
Four stalwart crofters; all over six feet in height; who left the Hebrides where they “scratched a bare living by tending sheep”, to settle in Ontario. They reached Canada this summer in high spirits. The picture shows three cabin boys comparing their stature with the settlers aboard the Anchor-Donaldson liner Lititia, on which the Hebrideans crossed the Atlantic to begin a new life.


For thirty-two years this flying dragon faced the sea from the prow of the “Empress of Japan.” A new steamship age relegated the monster to the wrecker’s yard mill a few months ago when it was discovered by the Vancouver Daily Province, restored and presented to the citizens of Vancouver. Its nose still points to the seas over which the newer “Empresses” of the Canadian Pacific traffic from the Western Port. PicMonkey Collage

June 15, 1928

Southampton, June 13. – The Canadian Pacific liner Montreal sailed from here yesterday on one of the most unique voyages ever undertaken. She is chartered by the Baptists of Europe to send their 600 delegated to the World Baptist Congress at Toronto the Congress being held during the last week in June.

Of these delegates 70 are Baptist ministers. Never before have so many ministers crossed the Atlantic in any ship is taken by this delegation. There will be many nationalities represented drawn from many of the countries of Europe.

None of the usual entertainment associated with trans-Atlantic voyages will be present. There will be no dancing, no card playing, no alcohol, no gambling. The ball room is converted into a chapel where the pulpit will have prominence. The orchestra will not play fox-trots and other dances, but hymn tunes and anthems and sacred music. Every day will begin with devotions in which all the passengers will take part. Each evening there will be another service for prayer and praise. During each day, at least once there will be a preaching service at which, among others, one of the following ministers will preach, Drs. Fullerton, Brown, Roberts, Grey, Griffith, Ewing and Lang.

Besides, there will be debates on every kind of religious subject. There will be plenty of enthusiasm for there are modernists and fundamentalists, bond and free Baptists among the delegates.


A series of educational meetings have been arranged by the local Automobile Workers Union, in which employees of each of the departments in the local plants affected are being given an opportunity to hear explained the purposes and accomplishments of the union. A number of meetings have already been held, as follows:

The Chevrolet and Pontiac assembly line men met Monday, June 11. The dayworkers on Tuesday, June 12, the Millroom on Wednesday, and the Imperial and Pontiac body line on Thursday, the 14th. A meeting of the girls employed in the plant has been arranged for Monday, June 18, and the export, domestic shipping and unloading departments are meeting on Tuesday, June 19. Other meetings will be arranged later, union officials state.


June 22, 1928

Chatman, June 21. – A bee which attacked the driver of a car on the highway near Louisville today caused the man to lose control and ditch the machine. The occupants were painfully bruised, but the injuries are not serious. J. W. Grosse, the driver of the car, and his son are under the care of a doctor, while Mrs. Grosse and her daughter, May, are being treated at the General Hospital.


Night Club Proprietress is Sent to Jail for Selling Liquor
(Cable Service To The Times By Canadian Press)
London, June 22. – Mrs. Kate Marrick, night club proprietress and mother-in-law of two British powers, was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment today, without hard labor. She was found guilty of selling liquor without a licences and supplying liquor after permitted hours. She received a similar sentence for a similar offence in 1924.

Mrs. Merrick’s daughter Dorothy Evelyn was married to Lord De Clifford in 1926. Another daughter Mary Ethel Isobel was married June 6 to the Earl of Kinnoull.


Amelia Earhart After Seeing London Society, Studies Social Service Work
Lays Wreath on Cenotaph Accompanied By Stultz and Gordon

(Cable Service To The Times By Canadian Press)
London, June 22. – Miss Amelia Earhart, who halts her social work temporarily to fly the Atlantic, returned to it this morning. Visiting Toynbee Hall, one of the largest settlement houses in London, she exclaimed, “there is no place like home.”

After enjoying several days amid the heights of London society the Boston girl went to the other extreme and spent several hours among the lowliest of the city.

Miss Earhart went to the slums in the east end of London after laying a wreath on the cenotaph in memory of Great Britain’s warrior dead. Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon, who flew with her, assisted her in placing the wreath. Miss Earhart later visited the statue of nurse Edith Cavell. This afternoon she went to Ascot for the races and luncheon.


June 29, 1928


The pupils of four public schools, Scarborough schools numbers one and three and Myrtle and Little Britain schools had a picnic at Lakeview Park today. Mr. Frazer, manager of the Jubliee Pavilion, kindly consented to allow the picnickers to hold their sessions in the Pavilion, the weather not being suited for an outing. The combined school affair was a huge success and enjoyed by everyone present.


Gasoline Spilled on Pavement Catches Fire, Threatening Car
(By Staff Reporter)

Whitby, June 29 – Gasoline spilled on the pavement in front of Jones, Garage, Brock street north, caused a spectacular, through short-lived conflagration, when in some unknown manner it caught fire, shortly before three o’clock, yesterday afternoon, and threatened to do serious damage to a Ford sedan was parked right over the burning liquid. For a minute tall flames enveloped the machine and there was serious danger of them catching, but prompt action on the part of Mr. Jones, proprietor of the garage, who secured a fire extinguisher and hastily put it to work, saved the situation. An alarm was sent to the fire brigade but by the time the chemical truck had arrived on the scene, the blaze had been extinguished.

As soon as the fire ball rang people rushed out to the street from shops and offices and in no time large crowds had formed on both sides of the road and men, women and children hastened to and fro with a common query, “Where’s the fire?” Someone would say, “Jones’ garage,” and numbers would hasten in that direction only to turn back in bewilderment when all that met their gaze was a car standing on what looked to be damp pavement, but which in reality was the remainder of the treacherous gasoline.

Student Museum Musings: Laura

By Laura G., MMC Intern

When I was younger, my Dad would take my two brothers and I to exciting places in Toronto like the ROM, Casa Loma, the Science Centre and the Zoo. He would also take us to museums closer to home such as Pickering Museum Village, Lynde House, and the Oshawa Museum. I was so fascinated by the history, collections and culture of all these places at such a young age. When I was around 4 or 5 I told my parents that I wanted to be a “Museum Lady,” and it stuck.

I had dreams of becoming a number of things when I grew up such as fashion designer, a pastry chef, and even a marine biologist. Whenever I would tell people these dream careers I would always add “or I want to work in a museum.” I remember telling one of my tenth grade teachers I wanted to be a curator, she told me it was an uncommon career choice and she was surprised I even knew what a curator was. I happened to know what a curator was because while searching for post-secondary choices in a careers class, I stumbled across a program called Museum Management and Curatorship at Fleming College. This is the program that had my interest piqued as I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do. All my education from that point on was focused on taking the Fleming program and working in a museum some day. I took all the history and arts electives in high school. I was accepted into Trent University where I completed a double major in History and Cultural Anthropology. I gained some experience by volunteering at the Peterborough Museum & Archives and Pickering Museum Village. Then, after taking a year off school, I attended Fleming College for their Museum Management and Curatorship (MMC) program.

The program is incredibly well-rounded, I learned all kinds of things I never even thought about, such as how to properly research for an exhibit, how to care for a collection, museum math (not as bad as real math), and so much more. I get to put all that learning to use this summer as I complete my internship at the Oshawa Museum where I’ll be helping with collections management, digitization, developing the upcoming exhibit and many other projects!

Laura, digitizing our latest acquisition, a wonderful collection of early to modern telephones

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.

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!

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.

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.