Final Musings from an Intern

By Clare Kennedy, MMC Intern

It’s hard to believe it, but my time as an intern at the OCM has come to a close. The past four months have flown by, and I feel that I have gained valuable experience here that I will take with me as I continue my journey into the heritage field.

One of the projects that I have enjoyed during my time at the museum has been reading and analyzing letters from the late nineteenth century that were sent to Thomas Henry. Through the letters, I have had the privilege of encountering history in a more personal way than many people. These letters revealed complex family relationships and attitudes that have piqued my curiosity, and I hope that someone finds more documents associated with the Henry family, so I can learn more about their joys and struggles. This project has been rewarding for me because my research will help with the writing of an upcoming publication by the museum.

A013.4.12 - Envelope addressed to Rev. Thomas Henry, dated 1869
A013.4.12 – Envelope addressed to Rev. Thomas Henry, dated 1869

Working at the Oshawa site this summer has provided me with a number of other exciting learning opportunities. One valuable experience was attending the Archives Association of Ontario conference, which was held locally. This allowed me to discover more about the relevance of archival work, the different struggles that archivists face, and strategies they use to deal with these challenges. I also attended outreach activities, including a couple of workshops for the upcoming Reflections of Oshawa exhibit, and the local Swing into Summer event. These events were useful because I got to see how museums build relationships with community groups, as well as how museums promote themselves as public events. Another opportunity I have had is developing collections management experience, which sounds a bit boring, but is something that I have come to find very rewarding.

Programming is not a particular area of interest for me (I tend to enjoy curatorial and archival work more), but I still was able to get a taste of this important facet of museum work. By watching an educational program in action, I have learned some strategies that the programming staff use to engage children. I have even given a few tours of the museum, and rediscovered my interpretation skills, which have been lying dormant since my high school volunteering days at Lang Pioneer Village.

Thank you Clare for all of your hard work this summer! We've loved getting to know you, and all the best for the future!
Thank you Clare for all of your hard work this summer! We’ve loved getting to know you, and all the best for the future!

Overall, I have to say that my time at the OCM has given me a truly well-rounded experience in museum work. In the end, I am glad that I chose a small site, because of the flexibility that it offered and the chance it gave me to interact with all of the wonderful staff at this museum. I will count myself very lucky to find another museum team that is as supportive as the OCM staff. Goodbye for now– it’s been a pleasure!

Summer at the OCM

By Caitlan Madden, OCM Summer Student

With July and August quickly approaching, many people have already begun to plan out what to do for the summer. Here are 3 reasons to add Oshawa Community Museum to your list.

 

1. Oshawa’s Past

At the OCM we pride ourselves in keeping Oshawa’s history alive. With Henry House set up as a 19th century home, you will be given the chance to see what is what like to live in Oshawa back then. In Robinson House is where we keep our rotating exhibit spaces to make sure there is always something new to look at. Currently we have a school room, general store, an archaeology exhibit and our newest exhibit IT’Story which is based on our collections.

Downtown Oshawa, from the Oshawa Community Archives
Downtown Oshawa, from the Oshawa Community Archives

2. Our location

With the museum being located in the beautiful Lakeview Park, one can really spend the whole day here. You could pop in for a tour, and then spend the rest of the day in the park enjoying the fresh air, delicious food/ice cream. Also once the weather starts to warm up you can go swimming in Lake Ontario to cool off!

Lakeview Park
Lakeview Park

3.  Air Conditioning

Yes we have it! Although over 100 years ago air conditioning did not exist, it surely does now and we love it!

Awesome exhibits AND air conditioning!
Awesome exhibits AND air conditioning!

So why not come in to Guy house to start a tour!

Museum Musings – Thoughts from an Intern

By Clare Kennedy, MMC Intern

Well, another Friday has come and it’s hard to believe that I have just finished my fourth week as an intern at the Oshawa Community Museum. I am at the museum until early August, completing my final semester in the Museum Management and Curatorship program offered by Fleming College.

One of the focuses for my internship is to research the recently acquired collection of letters and documents related to Thomas Henry for a publication that will be written over the next year or so. This project has allowed me to pursue my interest in research associated with museum and archival collections, but has also served as an enlightening introduction to the Henry family, who I knew nothing about before I came to the museum.

Ebenezer Elijah Henry, from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
Ebenezer Elijah Henry, from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

Many of the letters in this collection are from Thomas’ son Ebenezer Elijah (often written as E. E.) Henry. Ebenezer was the fifth and last child of Thomas and his first wife Elizabeth Davis. I have found the exchanges between Thomas and Ebenezer to be the most intriguing ones in the collection. Ebenezer’s letters reveal an interesting relationship between himself and his father that is reflective of many familial relationships today.

The problems between Ebenezer and his father seem to revolve around Ebenezer’s interest in spiritualism, his father’s disagreement with this religious trend, and their misunderstandings of each other’s intentions. However, Ebenezer’s letters reveal the existence of deeper issues beyond those religious differences.

In a letter from September 1, 1878, Ebenezer writes to his father, “I have always thought that if there was a prodigal son you certainly looked on me as the one in your family.” His father had apparently written that he was the favourite of the family. Ebenezer begins an emotional response arguing that he has been treated unfairly. In particular, he complains that he (unlike his brothers) has never been given any property by his father, and he notes, “I have had to paddle my own canoe for myself.”  It is likely that all of us can relate on some level to Ebenezer’s feelings of envy and unworthiness.

Based on the letters, it is clear that Ebenezer feels that he has been a great disappointment to his father, and his deep desire for his father’s approval and love is apparent. At one point, he is so desperate to prove his worth that he describes all of the attributes that make him a good person. He defensively writes to his father, “I am a Temperate man in all things. I have always tried to shun low bad company I don’t use tobacco I don’t swear nor use bad language. I try to avoid Evil I love the company of the good and I love to help the poor.”

After reading such passages, it is impossible not to feel some sympathy for Ebenezer. It is these passages that humanize him and make his experiences relatable to our everyday life. I think this is why his letters to his father are among my favourites in the collection.

Unfortunately, the letters in this collection only offer a small glimpse into the lives of the Henry family. Many questions I have about the relationship between Thomas and Ebenezer, as well as the relationship between Ebenezer and his siblings, must remain unanswered – at least until another collection is discovered.

Musing about our Student Musings

As summer is winding down, we will shortly be saying goodbye to this year’s summer students.  Some will continue to volunteer, and others will inevitably return to visit, so it’s not a true goodbye, but we want to take this moment and thank them for all of their work this summer and sharing their thoughts about the Museum and their projects!

Shawn, Emily, and Caitlan, thank you for all of your hard work! All the best for your upcoming school year!

Awesome Students of Summer 2013!
Awesome Students of Summer 2013!

Read their past posts here:

Student Museum Musings – Caitlan

Student Museum Musings – Caitlan

Student Museum Musings – Emily

Student Museum Musings – Emily

Student Museum Musings – Shawn

Student Museum Musings – Shawn

Student Museum ‘Musings’ – Emily

Hi there, it’s Emily again, and I’ve continued the transcribing of the Thomas Henry Correspondence Collection, which I mentioned in my previous post. Through the transcribing and digitizing I have looked at numerous very interesting pieces related to Thomas Henry, and the Henry Family. But there are two pieces in particular that stand out for me within this collection. One of which is a photograph taken by E.E. Henry, the son of Elder Thomas Henry. This photograph is titled a “Spirit Picture,” and contains the image of two men and one women, one of the men however is deceased, being “[b]orn again into the spirit life, July 20th, 1825.” The second piece from this collection that is very interesting is a correspondence letter, which was written by Thomas Henry, June 10th, 1873, and addressed to E.E. Henry. This letter is especially interesting because it is Thomas Henry’s response to the Spirit Picture sent to him by his son.

A013.4.449 - Spirit Photograph
A013.4.449 – Spirit Photograph

The elder Henry’s response to his son is a very interesting read after looking at the Spirit Picture, because being a Christian Minister, one could assume that Thomas Henry has very firm beliefs in regards to the spirit word. The correspondence letter sent to E.E. is strongly worded, long, and firm, scolding his son for taking part in what Thomas believes is unsavory activities. Thomas states in his letter, “I do not dispute but what the picture has been taken. It is not of god, in my humble opinion, But of the Divil[SIC], and show very clearly to me a falling away from God, and disbelieving his word.” Thomas Henry continues through his letter to argue to his son the abomination that is the Spirit Picture sent to him, and writes of the story of King Saul, Samuel, and the Medium at Endor.

Ebenezer Elijah Henry, from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
Ebenezer Elijah Henry, from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

The relationship between Thomas and E.E. Henry is very fascinating because after scolding his son through this letter, and yet Thomas ends is letter by writing, “you might have taken the old prophets picture, and now I would not wonder, but what Dr. Taylor and his medium might get a picture of some of your friends if so send me one.” In another unrelated letter from this collection E.E. writes to his father, “you well know you have left me out in the cold as it were, and I have had to paddle my own canoe for myself. You have as you say in your letter helped all the rest, but me, and now you tell me that I am the favorite. Well God knows I am glad and hope it is so.” It seems to me that parental approval was one of, if not the most important aspects of life for Victorians. And that the Spirit Picture may have been a way that E.E. was seeking that approval by showing to his father his work.

 

This collection has been fascinating to go through, and has helped me understand the Henry family, and Victorians, much more than I had before by the digitizing and transcribing of these letters and pictures.

%d bloggers like this: