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

Kindergarten in the Victorian Age

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

Some days it feels as if my world revolves around education in Oshawa, from a historical perspective as well as from the present. My daughter will be entering Senior Kindergarten this week and that has gotten me thinking about how different it was when I was that young and even how different it was when my parents were in school.

In Junior Kindergarten last year, my daughter was learning about architectural styles of castles, space, life cycles of butterflies and how to make vermicomposters. I clearly remember naptime, playing with wooden blocks and story time in a circle. There were no computers, no iPads to record students’ memories and no one even thought about composting!

Before the kindergarten system was established, student sat in rows of seats according to their grade level. The youngest sat on benches in front of the other student’s desks, their feet barely touching the ground. With all of the other students begging for attention from the teacher, the little ones often got overlooked. Research into the education and psychology of young children only began to occur in the late nineteenth century. Most people thought that educating the young was a waste of time. According to the Oshawa Museum’s Olive French Manuscript “Some of the doctors in the 1860s/70s were noticed to have said that small children, even up to the age of seven or eight, should not attend school. They should be home and allowed the freedom of play in the fresh air and sun. This would build up stronger constitutions and also relieve the overcrowding in the schools.”

Students of the South Simcoe Street School, c. 1926, A983.4.5.3

Overcrowding was an issue for Oshawa schools from the beginning. Buildings in downtown Oshawa such as the Disciples Church and Sons of Temperance Hall were often pulled into service as classrooms when space was needed.

Eventually, Centre Street School underwent a complete reconstruction and renovation and in 1923 the school would have “twenty four rooms, including facilities for a Kindergarten and a spacious auditorium. The restructuring of the school would cost the School Board $175 000.”¹ Olive French claims the school was built for $220 000 and accommodate 700 students. It would be another twenty four years before a second kindergarten class would become operational at Ritson Road School. Kindergarten classes were added to most other schools in Oshawa during the 1950s; South Simcoe School in 1950, 1952 at Simcoe Street North (Dr. S.J. Phillips), and 1953 at Coronation, duke of Edinburgh and Woodcrest Public Schools.

Not a lot is known about the local kindergarten curriculum at that time. Miss Greta Ellis taught kindergarten out of her home in the early 1920s before being hired by the School Board in 1924. Miss Ellis would play the piano; later while she taught, her assistant would play.²

Today I’m wondering what the School Board of the past would have thought about paying their new Kindergarten teachers to supervise naptime. I’m not sure if I’d have liked going to school in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century’s. Many of the schools in Oshawa’s past were quite poorly constructed, dim, draughty, and inadequately supplied. I think I’ll stick to my happy naptime memories of the 1980s and see what 2017 brings for my daughter.

  1. Ross, J. Douglas. Education in Oshawa. 1970.
  2. French, Olive. Education in Oshawa. Unpublished manuscript. 1967.

Student Museum Musings: Wrapping Up Summer 2016

Another wonderful summer has passed for the Oshawa Museum, and what a summer it was! Canada Day, the Pokemon phenomenon, tours, oh, and ice cream making! Oshawa Museum staff can’t thank our summer students enough for the hard work and enthusiasm that they bring to our site through the summer months.

To wrap up the summer, we asked our four students to answer five questions about the past months.  Here’s what they had to say:


1. 017Why did you choose to spend your summer at the Oshawa Museum?

This summer was actually my fourth summer here. I have really enjoyed my previous summers working here and wanted to continue not only the learning but growing as well.

2. What surprised you the most this summer?

I found two things surprising this summer; One – How big Pokemon Go became and how a portable game can and did affect our numbers. We did get creative to draw people in and it really worked. And two, having Freemasons take us on tour. We are always the ones giving the tours but it was nice to learn about masons and the work they do from masons. They also were able to provide some more information that we could tell visitors on tour.

3. What part of your summer did you find the most challenging?

The most challenging part would also have to be the Freemasonry exhibit. I had a few people go through who already had their set views on masons and wouldn’t accept anything I was saying. We ended going through the rest of that exhibit rather quickly.


4. What will you miss about the Oshawa Museum?

At the end of each summer I have worked here the one thing I miss is the people and the environment. It really is just a great place to work and I always found myself excited to come in to work every day.

5. What are your plans for September?

My plan for this September is finishing my last year of university. I go to Guelph-Humber for Media Studies and specializing in journalism. It’s strange to think when I first came here I was finishing up high school and now they have seen me grow into a full adult.


13724937_10157109032130335_5114078161389576173_o1. Why did you choose to spend your summer at the Oshawa Museum?

I chose to spend my summer at the Oshawa Museum because it is an all-around great place to be! There are wonderful people I have the opportunity to work with and I get to meet new people every day. The location is picturesque; the calming lake surrounded by flowers and the occasional little critter, I get to wake up to them every morning.

2. What surprised you the most this summer?

The most surprising thing this summer was all of the Pokémon Go hunters who came to the Museum! We were flooded by people catching Pokémon in our buildings; it was a lot of fun for me to learn more about Pokémon through our guests.

3. What part of your summer did you find the most challenging?

There were a couple of challenges this summer, but the most challenging was keeping up with our Victorian Teas while wearing a full Victorian costume, in this summer’s heat. Many days were hot and humid but us summer students prevailed and served tea to all who came! Needless to say, I drank tons of water this summer to keep up with the weather. And the air conditioning helped cool us down too.

4. What will you miss about the Oshawa Museum?

I’m going to miss all of the excitement and adventure that comes with working with the staff and other summer students once  the summer is over. Every day is unexpected at the Lake with all of our ongoing programs and projects. Some days we are busy little beavers in the pond, while other days it’s so quiet you can hear a pin drop. Plus, you never know who will be walking through those Museum doors and what their request might be!

5. What are your plans for September?

The summer is ending and as summer comes to a close, I’m excited for September to get back to school for my 3rd year at Trent University. I have a lot of fun and new courses I can’t wait to start in the fall! I’m also really excited to spend some time with my sister helping her plan for her upcoming wedding in November; this fall is going to be full for my family.


0101. Why did you choose to spend your summer at the Oshawa Museum?

About two years ago now I had completed my Co-op placement at the Museum, mostly working with Melissa. I continued to volunteer when I was able to and so when I was offered the chance to work here this summer I jumped at it. To have the opportunity to work at the Oshawa Museum was amazing opportunity. I had wanted to spend my summer doing something that I wold enjoy doing and so this was the perfect fit to do so, and it has been a completely wonderful summer working here and I’ll miss not having to come in to work here in the fall.

2. What surprised you the most this summer?

The thing that surprised me the most during my time here this summer would have to be the sheer amount of people that came into Guy House and would claim to have lived in Oshawa all their life and had either never come down for a tour, or didn’t even know that the Museum existed. Had I of known it would be such a common occurrence I would have suggested a tally chart just to see how many people actually don’t know that we’re down here. I honestly can’t get over it though, because one would think that with all the advertising and events that are put on and that the museum attends that it would be commonly known to the Oshawa residents.

3. What part of your summer did you find the most challenging?

The one aspect of this job that I found to be the most challenging would have to be when I first started to lead tours on my own. I have always hated public speaking, it’s never been my strong point and if I was able to avoid it in school, you can be sure that I did exactly that. But once I started to tag along on tours and slowly started to get more familiar with the script and began leading tours on my own I started to feel more comfortable speaking and leading the tours than I had initially. And so after a full summer of leading tours in front of so many different groups of people I feel that now I will probably feel more comfortable at speaking publicly when it comes to my academic life as well.

4. What will you miss about the Oshawa Museum?

I will miss absolutely everything about working at the museum. The ladies (and gent) who work at the museum are some of the most amazing people that I have had the pleasure to work with. They love what they’re doing and that makes the environment of the museum all the more lively. And I’ll miss working on cataloguing the Henry House collection. It was absolutely fascinating being able to take a look at all of the artifacts that are not currently on display, being able to see what some of the more unusual artifacts actually are and what some things were used for, or the Oshawa souvenir collection, which had some odd knickknacks.

5. What are your plans for September?

This September I will be going back to Peterborough to attend my second year at Trent University for my four year archaeology programme. I will also be moving into my house that I am renting with five other friends from Trent.


1761 Why did you choose to spend your summer at the Oshawa Museum?

When I was looking for places to do my internship, I knew I wanted to be at a smaller site with a historic house. Oshawa Museum has 3 historic houses, so it was a no-brainer. It’s also in a beautiful location in the park!

2. What surprised you the most this summer?

That there were archaeological digs in Oshawa! I’ve lived in Whitby my whole life and never considered the area to be considered “worthy” of an archaeological dig. The result has allowed people to learn more about Oshawa’s early history.

3. What part of your summer did you find the most challenging?

Learning how to navigate the archives. I have taken some intro courses to archival work, but coming to the museum I was able to learn so much more.

4. What will you miss about the Oshawa Museum?

The people, first and foremost. All the staff are so nice and welcoming it will be difficult not coming in every day. I’ll also miss being in Lakeview Park and seeing the ships come in.

5. What are your plans for September?

I’m moving out to Halifax, Nova Scotia to begin a new adventure! I’ll be looking for jobs in the museum field while enjoying a change of scenery.

Student Museum Musings – Digitization Surprises

By Jodie L., Summer Student

As I was working on the Henry House Digitization I came across a decorative bowl that I hadn’t given much thought to other than how heavy the thing actually was. But as I was cropping the photo, I had zoomed in on the picture because something looked slightly off. What I had thought were only rose designs were actually Dragons and roses. I was surprised that this old looking antique decorative bowl that had probably belonged a nice old lady, had these super cool looking dragons on it. This isn’t something that I had expected when I started working on the artifacts in Henry House but it did make it way more interesting as well as really wanting to know the story behind this dragon bowl.