By Laura Suchan, Executive Director
In February, I celebrated 30 years of working with the Oshawa Historical Society. I like to use the word celebrating because I have enjoyed my years of service to the OHS. I’ve had the pleasure of working with incredible staff, volunteers, board members and friends of history throughout the years. Things have changed in the last 30 years, and I am proud to have a small part in making the Oshawa Museum the dynamic place it is today.
Recently I was thinking about my first few days working at the museum. Jerry Conlin (now the Director of Municipal Law Enforcement and Licensing Services at the City of Oshawa) was the Director of the Museum, and I was hired as a Curatorial Assistant to look after the artefacts and help with exhibits. In February 1989, Henry House was under renovation to correct some structural deficiencies. The house had been closed since November 1987 and staff and volunteers were looking forward to its re-opening on July 1, 1989. All of the artefacts had been removed and the entire house seemed to be full of dust, construction personnel and tools. During my first week of work, Jerry gave me a tour of Henry House so I could at least help in the preparations for re-staging the exhibits. I remember standing in in the front room (now the study) listening to Jerry explain the work to me when suddenly part of the floor gave way, and I was up to my knees in floor boards. Not exactly the start to my career that I had envisioned!
The construction at Henry House continued for my first few months of work, and things soon became hectic as the July 1 deadline for the re-opening of Henry House loomed. Once the construction finished, staff had to add the finishing touches, such as paint and flooring as well as re-establish the exhibits in the house. This involved moving artefacts across Henry Street which at the time dissected the museum site. I can remember staff moving Thomas Henry’s portrait across the street dodging the cars coming into the park on a busy summer day. Those weeks leading up to the official unveiling were busy ones, but I’m happy to say we made the deadline, and Henry House opened in front of an enthusiastic crowd on Canada Day. This date also marked the designation of Henry House, Robinson House and Guy House as historic sites under the Ontario Heritage Act, the first buildings in Oshawa to be designated as such.
Although I started at the museum in the middle of the Henry House project, I can remember my sense of pride in being part of this project. Henry House looked great and was once again able to be open for public tours. Talking with many enthusiastic visitors that day, I was able to get a sense of just how important a landmark is Henry House for the people of Oshawa.