By Sara H. & Sarah P.
This article was originally published in Fall 2022 Historical Happenings, the quarterly newsletter of the Oshawa Historical Society. Subscriptions to Historical Happenings are available for Oshawa Historical Society members. To learn more about membership, see the OHS website: https://oshawahistoricalsociety.org/become-a-member/
Hi! We are Sarah and Sara, two of the students who were at the museum this summer. One of the main projects we worked on was a partial inventory of artefacts stored in the Robinson attic. This was a great introduction to the collection as we were able to really immerse ourselves in the artefacts, learn more about the museum, and the history of Oshawa. When we were first introduced to the attic, it was a bit daunting as neither of us had done an inventory before, and there are a lot of artefacts in our section of the attic. But, being this close to artefacts and having a “behind the scenes”’ look at the collection was a great way for us to become comfortable with the inventory process and learn about collections care and management. We also learned about the deaccession process and made some recommendations for deaccession. From the Canadian Museum Association, “deaccessioning is the formal process of removal of an object from the collection of an institution.”
The inventory and deaccessions gives us more room and more opportunities to expand our collection and represent more of Oshawa’s history.
We started by mapping out the attic and labelling everything according to its row and shelf. We went through each row and labelled them with ‘super professional’ sticky notes that had their row and shelf number. We then organized our Excel spreadsheet in the same sections so that if someone else had to find an artefact it would be easy for them to look through and figure out what section of the attic it lives in. We started going through the rows that were easiest to access, the end rows 1 and 3. These rows contained a lot of farm and yard care equipment, such as rakes, shovels and even an interesting looking baby stroller!
The middle row was more challenging to access; we had to move shelves around so we could access the objects that lived on each one. It was very EXCITING to see and work with objects made from different types of materials, from wicker baskets and suitcases, to tiny ceramic figurines, and even all sorts of metal tools. Working with this collection has opened our eyes to how large and different museum collections can be. There were many artefacts, especially in the farming sections, that neither of us had seen before, but we were able to understand their importance within the collection. Even though the Oshawa Museum is a smaller community museum, the collection tells such a big and important story about our community. As we immersed ourselves in this environment, we realized that we had our favourite artefacts in the attic that we hope will someday be displayed in future exhibits at Oshawa Museum. We were particularly intrigued by our discovery of a typewriter on the bottom shelf of row 1 as it was in fantastic condition!
The photograph shows the typewriter that immediately captured Sarah P.’s attention, a Remington Noiseless 6 from 1925. Prior to this artefact’s home in our lovely attic in Robinson House, this typewriter was located at Landers Coal, which later became Landers Stark Coal and Company. Like many of the artefacts in the attic, this typewriter inspires a sense of curiosity within us concerning the people who have used this object over the years. Sarah in particular has always wanted to own an old-fashioned typewriter, as she believed it would make her a great writer. Sadly, she must continue her writing pursuits using modern technology!
Before we began this project, we usually only considered how museums acquire and exhibit their artefacts. Still, as we end the inventory process, we have been participating in recommending objects for deaccession. At first, we thought it would be difficult to consider which artefacts could be removed from the museum’s collection. However, once we were comfortable with these artefacts, we began to analyze how particular objects may no longer be relevant to the mandate and collection’s policy, or if the condition had deteriorated to the point that it was not fit for display. We also noticed numerous repeats of artefacts that often had us looking at each other, wondering how many spigots were necessary for our museum to possess. Even though we are not the individuals to make the final decision about what is removed from the collection, it was beneficial for us to learn about this critical aspect of working in a museum that is often forgotten by the general public.
We also have to mention how appreciative we are of having this phenomenal experience of working at the Oshawa Museum. All of our co-workers have honestly been amazing, we have learned so much from each of them and have had a great time with them along the way! We both have gathered so many new skills and experiences that have truly helped us grow in our passion for history and pursuing a career in this field.
Wishing the best of luck to Sara and Sarah with their future studies!