A University Student’s Entry on the Pandemic

By Jessica R., Summer Student

As I am writing this post, I have been working at the Oshawa Museum for almost a month. Unsurprisingly, I have yet to enter the museum. The reason that this is unsurprising pertains to the issue of COVID-19. Its newfound changes have caused me and the rest of the world to continuously adapt to its decisions. Since this blog aids in archiving and documenting local Oshawa history, I believe adding my perspective on how a university student lives within a pandemic could potentially be useful for documenting the experiences for future historians. I won’t be stressing statistical data since that is heavily documented and shared by our government and media.

March 2020 was the last time I entered a school. Since then, I have been attending school virtually. COVID-19’s continuous variation and ability to spread has stopped most in-person experiences and businesses from opening. As someone who enjoys being around others, stopping suddenly and staying home was a learning curve. I’m lucky to say that my quarantine periods were spent quite uneventfully since many experiences by others can vary in levels of stress and negative moments. Finishing high school felt rushed, confusing, and bittersweet, but I still carried optimism for recovery.

Once I finished high school in June 2020, I was on my way to experience all of my first year of university online. The self-teaching moments of self-discipline and independence gave me an overwhelming wave of stress that I, and many other first-year university students, endured in our first semester. Never going on campus while having the difficulty of not participating in clubs, making friends, and maintaining a daily schedule continues to make me feel a detachment from my university after my first year. It took many months for me to learn how to follow a virtual way of studying instead of the 12 years of in-person studying I had been accustomed to. By trying dozens of different methods just to study, I can say that I have achieved a level of stability that kept me afloat during online schooling.

In the second semester, I was feeling my efforts finally being rewarded and had seen my livelihood and marks improve. As the weather started to warm up and vaccinations started to increase, Ontario’s government promised a brighter future by the end of 2021. As the year continues with these changes, as may be expected, I had to continue to keep up with its pace. The tiredness I once felt when I was in lockdown was fading and I began to see opportunities of being productive again. By the end of June 2021, I decided that I was going to find a job again.

I honestly had no expectations of gaining a job with major career experience or one that fit my interests so soon. I give credit to my mom for being able to see a job application for my current position at the Oshawa Museum. If I’m being frank, this was one of the highlights of my whole year. I am an individual greatly swayed by my passions. So, being able to learn and communicate with people who share the same energy and passion encourages me to work hard and aid in exploring my community in depth. The people I had the pleasure of meeting at the Oshawa Museum have already exceeded my expectations and gave me hope for my future. Although I have only met them online, I’m becoming accustomed to the familiarity of seeing them on Zoom (another part of my life that has become somewhat normalized for someone my age). It sounds cheesy but I consider it a landmark for helping me feel capable of achieving the long-term goals I thought were out of reach during COVID-19.

One thing that the pandemic taught me is that stability in daily schedules is not as promised as we wish them to be. Being someone who values stability in my life, specifically in work and in school, COVID-19 completely shifted my perspective on change. I did a lot of self-reflection and endured times of emotional stress and hard times. However, I can also say that it did teach me more about how I view life, while also helping me realize the priorities I value most. Hopefully this post aids in painting the picture of the experiences I had in COVID-19. No two people’s experiences are the same, but collectively as a community, we have grown stronger together. I hope all the stories from our community, from the good to the bad, continue to be documented as we move forward to help us to reminisce and reflect.

Student Museum Musings – In My Own Backyard?

By Dylan C., Museum Management & Curatorship Intern

Being a resident of Whitby for the better part of 24 years, I have been encouraged through sport to view Oshawa as my rival, which has led to a rather lackluster attempt to learn what Oshawa has to offer. It wasn’t until recently, that life led me to discover the Oshawa Museum for my internship as part of Fleming College’s Museum Management and Curatorship program (MMC).

After only a couple weeks on site, I have gained a considerable amount of knowledge about Oshawa by exploring the waterfront trail and by learning the history of the harbour and the surrounding structures.

Although I have ventured into Oshawa via the waterfront trail from Whitby, or from riding near Oshawa Ice Sports after hockey, I never knew how extensive the trails were in Oshawa and how they bleed out into the city streets creating a somewhat hidden bike transit system. These trails are so extensive that Oshawa and the Durham region offer Cycle Tours. The Waterfront trail extends all the way to Toronto and easily connects to GO station stops. This network can provide residents of Oshawa with a greener alternative to their daily transit, at least in the warmer months of the year.

Both photos taken at Emma Street looking north to King, 1992 and 2016. The rail line is now the Michael Starr Trail

The museum has provided me with a platform to learn and explore Oshawa, but it also taught me how to explore. Without the direction from the museum I would not have known where to start my discovery of the city.

My Experience to Date

So far, the museum has been able to provide me with a wide range of experiences from photographing and cataloguing an archaeological collection, to providing supplementary research for an education program.  I have also been able to help install a Smith Potteries exhibit in Robinson House.

Smith Potteries Collection; Picture from Dylan C.

The archaeological dig was completed by Trent University Durham students in 2015 and uncovered 19th century waste pits surrounding Henry House. Cataloguing this archaeological collection has given me the opportunity to apply some of the skills I learned in the MMC program such as proper care and handling of artefacts, photographing, and detailed documentation practices. It has also provided me with insight into the life of the early inhabitants of the area by literally examining what was buried in their backyards. I’ve learned what animals they farmed and what items they had in their homes including ceramics, glass, nails and buttons. Handling these objects makes it easier to connect with the residents of the past because I am essentially documenting their garbage. The past owners did not bury these objects hoping that someone would dig them up 165 years later; they did it to simply discard their waste. For some reason this humanizes them more for me than even walking in their perfectly preserved homes. Perhaps, you can tell a lot about a person from their trash after all.

Cataloguing Station; Picture from Dylan C.

In the upcoming weeks I will be familiarizing myself with the museum’s database as I enter the information from the archaeological collection. I will also be working on a research project that explores the topic of audio transcriptions and engaging at-home volunteers. And lastly, I will be continuing my tour guide training as the museum adapts to the current COVID-19 regulations.

Student Museum Musings – Mia

By Mia V., Summer Student

Hi all! Since I’ve been fortunate enough to spend another summer here, I was able to pick up where I left off in researching post-WWII immigration and the resettlement of displaced people in Oshawa. So far, I’ve been kept busy digging through the archives and collections at the museum, as well as other ones nearby with a similar focus.

It was following a trip up to the Archives of Ontario that I became convinced that in-depth archival research is 1) never dull and 2) always worthwhile. For the first conviction, it was when I was casually sifting through a box of negatives that a very tiny photo of a postcard caught my eye. I took a closer look to see that it involved one party sending the other a very thinly veiled threat (but that’s a tale for another time)!

My second conviction came when I discovered the piles of information that Ontario’s archives had on one of Oshawa’s cultural communities that I had begun researching – the Slovak community. I was sure that they must have been active, given that the location of their heritage museum had once been in Oshawa. Unlike some of the other communities that were still active and that had plenty of historical material, there had not been as much information on them. The most I knew originally was that, given that there is still a Slovak Byzantine Catholic Church on Ritson Road, they must have once been quite present. It turned out that this parish had formed in February of 1952, with the church itself being built in January of 1955. Indeed, these post-war years had been full of renewed immigration to Oshawa, and Slovaks were did not prove to be the exception.

Slovak Church - google images
Slovak Byzantine Catholic Church, 464 Ritson Road South; photo from Google Streetview

However, it still wasn’t quite clear to me just how far back the history extended. In 1968, according to the Oshawa Reformer, the Slovak League in Oshawa (Branch 6) and the First Catholic Slovak Union (Branch 786) celebrated their 40th anniversary at the Slovak National Hall. These were centres of community activity that I had not come across in my research before, and so they helped to fill in some of the gaps. The celebratory event marking the milestone was attended by Slovak communities from across Ontario and also included local guests such as the M.P. Michael Starr and Jo Aldwinckle of the Oshawa Folk Arts Council – two names which have come up frequently in my research. It is for this reason – seeing all these common threads come together – that the search felt so worthwhile.

Mia at the AO
Mia at the Archives of Ontario for her research trip!

Going forward, this information from various archival sources will nicely complement what has been collected through oral history so far. As with before, if anyone has a connection to this period of immigration to the city, we would be glad to hear your stories! I’m looking forward to continuing my work over the following weeks, but, in the meantime, you are welcome to have a look through some of the posts at the Oshawa Immigration Stories website.


References

Mihal, Ondrej. Slovaks in Canada Through Their Own Eyes. Toronto: Slovak Canadian Cultural Heritage Centre, 2003.

“Slovaks celebrate anniversary,” Oshawa Reformer, May 8 1968, Archives of Ontario.

 

Student Museum Musings – Gabby

When I first started my co-op, I knew I would be here during the change of exhibits within Robinson House. What I did not know is how active I would be in the instillation. I expected to take predetermined artefacts and put them in predetermined places. However, what I got was almost the exact opposite.

Melissa Cole has been super amazing and allowed me to pick multiple of the artefacts that are going into the exhibit. I have chosen cameras, pottery pieces, medical instruments, photos and even quotations.

Student Museum Musings 1

The entire process is much harder then it seems. You would think that it is as simple as picking some artefacts and laying them out nice and pretty; while that is actually what happens, it is hard. “The bigger artefacts go in the back and the smaller in the front, right?” Wrong. “These two are similar colours so they go on the same side.” Nope. “I can do this in half an hour and then get to the other project I am working on.” You wish.

Student Museum Musings 2

While figuring out how to best display artefacts is difficult, so is choosing them. While some artefacts have dear little places in our own hearts, we also have to consider which artefacts the community wants to see. I may love one for one reason where someone else dislikes it for the same reason.

Student Museum Musings 3

The other aspect of picking artefacts that makes doing so difficult is that there are so many. I want to pick them all. If I could, I would put all 300+ cameras on display. However, that is an insane number of cameras and so only nine or ten can actually go out! That is only 3% of that entire collection. See where the difficulty lies?

Another cool thing about the new exhibit is how the two halves of my co-op are coming together. I get to promote it on social media, and even design activities for visitors to do while taking tours!

Student Museum Musings 4

I hope that all of you who come to see the new exhibit Celebrating 60 Years enjoy viewing it as much as I enjoyed helping with its creation. This amazing exhibit runs from April to November 2017.

Logo for OMA copy

Student Museum Musings – Peter

My name is Peter McKenzie.  I am an intern from Trent University, conducting an internship here at the Oshawa Museum.  Having nearly completed my required 100 hours, I am able to reflect on my time here.  Having majored in anthropology, and soon to be attending a museum curatorship program, the chance to work at a local museum immediately caught my interest.  The staff have been very kind.  Understanding my interest in museum studies, they have been accommodating enough to give me a broad experience of museum tasks, from accessioning fascinating artifacts to assisting with social media productions to designing small exhibits to guiding tours of the houses.  Guiding the tours has become my absolute favourite experience at the museum (especially at Henry House).  Getting dress up in nineteenth century attire, and lead groups through the houses, is an immersive and fun experience.  Not only have I been able to learn so much more about Oshawa’s history, but I get to pass all that I’ve learned on to the museum’s guests.  The Oshawa Museum has a wealth of interesting historical knowledge, a delightful charm, and a wonderful staff.  I had an amazing time interning here, and know I’ll have to visit again soon!

PicMonkey Collage