Student Museum Musings – Summer Wrap Up

By Adam A., Lauren R., and Mia V.

1.1 - CopyHello once more! It’s not been long at all since my last blog, but unfortunately summer is coming to an end and with it my time here at the museum. With regards to the Pankhurst transcription I detailed last time; it now sits at around ten thousand words, which sadly only translates to around halfway through the first side of the double sided cassette tape. It has yielded a few more tidbits of information, such as the subjects he was taught in school. Unfortunately I have had to divide my attention between it and the filming and editing of the Summer Student Video, which I hope you will all enjoy as much as I have enjoyed my summer position.

ghdfhgfhgfWow, just like last year, my time as a summer student here has flown by! I don’t quite know how it’s happened but once again, I find myself at the end of the summer reflecting back on what I have accomplished in the past three months of working here.

This summer has gone by in a blur of teas, tours and typing. I’ve been so privileged to help with so many great things this summer – from Grandpa Henry’s Picnic, to Pop-Up in the Park, to our signature Victorian Teas and helping to do research for a new exhibit that is opening this fall. To add to all of this I have also had the good fortune of meeting two wonderful, kind and funny people who were my fellow summer students – Adam and Mia.

In conclusion, I am both so happy and grateful to have once again been given the opportunity to return to the museum as a summer student for this year.

kjhkjhkjhI can’t believe that the summer has come to an end already. I’ll start by saying that I’ve learned such invaluable, yet unexpected, knowledge about myself and my local community, in addition to the expected skills so useful in the museum field. It was a pleasure to have spent time with other people who just “get it” when it comes to appreciating history – my fellow summer students and museum staff, as well as the visitors wandering in for a tour from across the province and even from overseas. Finally, I would just like to touch on the research I’ve done on displaced people settling in Oshawa (which I’ve talked about in my other blog posts, as well as on the website Oshawa Immigration Stories). In coming to understand these people’s stories and learning the context for them, I really feel that I’ve come to know them. With that knowledge is also immense respect for the difficult journeys they took from across war-torn Europe to Canada, Ontario, and finally Oshawa. I am grateful to have played a part in preserving their stories. I hope that, as they are shared, people will be as touched by them as I was and continue to be.

Thank you so much to Adam, Lauren, and Mia for your hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm this summer! Best of luck with your studies!

Student Museum Musings -Transcription Tales

By Adam A., Archives Assistant Student

Hello once more! It has been a little over a month since my last blog post, and I am now overdue to provide an update on my efforts. At this time I am a little over three thousand words into a new transcription project. As my previous transcription project concluded just shy of forty thousand words in length, I am certain that I still have a lot ahead of me.

File545 - Ward Pankhurst
Ward Pankhurst

This time I’m not transcribing a newspaper or any other print medium, rather the subject of my work is a tape recording from 1972. This recording, an interview of Mr. Wardie Pankhurst, has presented some obstacles that have considerably slowed down the project. For one the audio quality of the old tape necessitates multiple hearings of each sentence. Another problem in the nature of the interview, Mr. Pankhurst and the interviewer have the unfortunate habit of talking at the same time meaning that portions of the recording are completely indecipherable.

To expedite the project we have acquired a new devise which reads the tape and produces an MP3 file of it. This will make it easier to move back and forth to rehear segments. Additionally it seems to have also improved the audio quality in some way which will mean that fewer sections will have to be gone over more than once.

Regardless, there is still much to learn from Mr. Pankhurst’s reminisces about his life in Cedar Dale (now part of South Oshawa). As he was born in 1888 and has lived in the area his entire life he has many fascinating stories about Oshawa. Presently I am transcribing his account of the disappearance of the artificial pond he used to swim in. Previously I transcribed his descriptions of his work at the Malleable Iron Company and its role producing parts for Ford. Additionally I learned of the cost to attend high school in the 1890s (a dollar), and that Oshawa was home to a news reporter who had travelled around the globe no less than four times.

Ontario Malleable Iron, c. 1929

I greatly look forward to discovering more of the tape’s knowledge and seeing what the remainder of my time working here this summer will yield.

Student Museum Musings – Displaced Persons in Oshawa

By Mia V., Oral History Project Student

It seems like hardly any time has passed since I first started here this summer, but that goes with the old saying about time flying when you’re… kept very engaged and interested in your work… having fun! Since my last blog post, I have continued to work on the museum’s oral history project, about displaced persons that came to settle in Canada and then in Oshawa following World War II.

In doing so, I have contacted several cultural organizations and clubs in Oshawa who may know of someone who arrived in Canada as a displaced person, as well as those individuals who were considered to be displaced themselves. I have also put together some of the collected stories and documents together into online exhibits at the website Oshawa Immigration Stories. It is a way to pull together many of the common experiences into narratives that can be shared with others. I am really enjoying this task, as I think that these stories are important to many different levels, beyond just individual families – for Oshawa history and for Canadian history as a whole.

Zenia Kolodziejzcak's stateless persons document
Zenia Kolodziejczak’s temporary travel document issued at the DP camp in Germany.

One of the major things I’ve noticed about the documents that have been donated is how many of them were for purposes of identification, and just how many pieces of ID each person needed at different points in their journey – to get to Canada, as well as once they were here. As such, one of the documents that stood out to me the most was a document for travel “in lieu of a passport” for “stateless persons and persons of undetermined nationality.” To me, this document puts into words the feeling of uncertainty that pervaded the immediate post-war era. I’ve also found this sentiment to be heavily apparent in newspapers at the time, some of which have also provided incredible insight for the project.

Student Museum Musings – Kirbi

By Kirbi B., Durham College LIT Student

Hello Everyone!

My name is Kirbi B., I am enrolled in the Library and Information Technician Program at Durham College. This is my final requirement to be eligible for graduation. I am working here at the museum as a placement student in the archives. I am enjoying my time here and this placement provides me with the opportunity to further my knowledge on museums and archives aside from what we learn in class. It provides a “hands on” experience that I would not be able to get without securing a job in the field. This placement will assist me in determining if this is an area I would like pursue after graduation.

I have been working on the creation of finding aids for the archives on General Motors, Oshawa Fire Department and the Oshawa General Hospitals Nursing School. These finding aids contain detailed information about the collection of papers and records within the archive.

General Motors Plant, part of the North Plant building on Bond Street East. 1983 (A997.18.29)

Student Museum Musings – Adam

By Adam A., Archives Assistant Student


Hello reader. I am Adam, the third summer student working at the Oshawa Museum. This is my first summer as an employee here; however I am very familiar with the museum as I have been a somewhat regular volunteer since 2016. Despite this I am still enjoying many new experiences; I have found leading tours to be particularly exciting and fulfilling. At the end of the summer I will return to Trent University Peterborough for the fourth and final year of my degree in History and Media Studies, and so I am eager to get as much experience out of this position as possible.


As the Archives Assistant I spend most of my time in the frigid back area of Guy House, where I work closely with Jenn, and (due to space constraints) shoulder to shoulder with Mia, the writer and subject of the previous Student Museum Musing. My work has largely been directed towards the organization and digitization of the archives. Recently I completed a new and improved finding aid for the contents of our Map Boxes (which also contain schematics!). Prior to that, I was tasked with digitizing the contents of our Photo Albums. However both of those tasks were quick and easy compared to my present task of transcribing the Oshawa Vindicator’s Births, Marriages, and Obituaries from 1863-1871, which I have been working on intermittently since the start of my employment with the Museum.

Despite having thus far transcribed more than 23 thousand words at the time of my writing this, I am still only a little over halfway through the task, and it has granted a strange insight to the past. Most of the individual entries are very short, often even abandoning grammatical standards in pursuit of brevity. There are some exceptions, such as the essay length obituary of Mr. Justice Connor, a former Lawyer and Member of the Parliament of Canada West, but most of what I’ve learned has come from the shorter ones. The first thing I had to learn was how to read them, as previously mentioned they tended to not follow grammatical norms. Instead they roughly adhere to the same formats, for instance all birth records are “[Place], [day of week], [date], the wife of Mr. [First and Last names of husband], of [a son/a daughter/twins].” These records also make copious use of abbreviations and acronyms, some more common ones being: inst. (Instant: the current month), ult. (Ultimo: the previous month), C. W.(Canada West: The portion of the Province of Canada which later became Ontario), Esq. (Esquire: a courtesy title). In addition to those it also occasionally abbreviates given names such as Thomas becoming “Thos” or William becoming “Wm.”

Oshawa Vindicator, 11 Sep 67, p2
From the Oshawa Vindicator, 11 Sept 1867, p 2.

Furthermore, on the rare instances when it does list a cause of death it often uses an antiquated medical term like “water on the brain” or “enlargement of the heart”. On the topic of deaths it can be somewhat unsettling to see a familiar name listed amongst the obituaries, such as a priest who performed many marriages, in a way the obituaries allow one to see the blows a community sustains. Even more unsettling is number of children and infants. I had known from previous studies that infant and child mortality rates were through the roof prior to modern medicine, but I did not fully grasp what this meant until now, as those aged less than 10 will usually account for at least half the obituaries on any given week. It suffices to say that this has served as a good reminder that I am lucky to only be studying and helping others learn about the past, rather than actually living back then.

Read these obituaries and other historical newspaper articles by checking out