Student Museum ‘Musings’ – Emily

Hi there, I’m Emily, one of the summer students working at the museum this summer. I am a fourth year English Literature student at Trent University, hoping to go into Archival or Library Science in post graduate studies. I also volunteered here before this summer.

What I’ve spent most of my summer doing is digitizing a Thomas Henry Correspondence Collection. This collection is what you would get if you took Thomas Henry’s desk and poured it all out. In this collection there are correspondence letters, bill of sales, receipts, and a few essays among others. I finally finished digitizing this collection last week and the final count of items in this collection was 525. By digitizing these papers I spent most of my time scanning, so far this summer. While the collection has 525 items, I ended up scanning 1043 scans. And on an average I probably did about 40 scans per day.

An envelope, addressed to the Rev. Thomas Henry
An envelope, addressed to the Rev. Thomas Henry

Among the letters in this collection there are about 40 family letters, which have begun being transcribed, and being the English student that I am, what I find most interesting about the letters that are in this collection is the lack of uniform punctuation, grammar, and spelling throughout the letters. Within one letter a single word could be spelt different three times, and I really find that fascinating because of how structured language has become in today’s world. I feel like the difference between writing today and writing from say 1863 is a very interesting marker in how different things are today. It seems to me that the evolution of language is equally as important when studying history, as studying the evolution of other aspects of our society, as is more commonly looked at and taught in schools.  It seems that both today’s structure of writing and that of 150 years ago have their strengths and weaknesses. And reading these letters on thing that came clear to me is how these letters seem to flow much easier than a letter of today. Whereas in contrast a letter of today do have much more uniform writing, something that the correspondence of this collection more often than not, do not seem to have.

Thomas Henry - this oil painting hangs in the the Henry House Parlour
Thomas Henry – this oil painting hangs in the the Henry House Parlour

But overall, what I took away from looking at these correspondence letters is that while it changes frequently, writing is extremely important for communication, and while it can change mediums overtime, which is clear as I write this blog post, it still seems to maintain the same weight and importance for a man like Thomas Henry, as it does today.

Student’s Museum ‘Musings’ – Caitlan

Since the last time, I told you that I was starting to work on the Robinson Book. So far, so good! The first rough draft has been printed and we have begun the first round of editing – So far everyone seems to enjoy it! Also I told you how I never did tours with my morning co-op and how I was afraid to mess up. I was quite surprised to find how much the information was in my head. Although my first tour was nerve racking, now when I go on a tour my mouth just seems to work on its own!

Robinson House on a lovely summer day
Robinson House on a lovely summer day

The book and tours were not only my first here at the museum; last Thursday was the museum’s first summer garden tea. It was also my first tea and it went perfectly. The sky was clear and blue, it was not too hot plus all the guests had really big smiles on their faces! Setting up and taking down all the tables was a bit hard, as I do not exactly have a whole lot of strength, but the food definitely made up for that! Towards the end of the tea when some of the guest left for the tour I was caught a couple times by Laura Suchan stuffing my mouth full of the leftover sandwiches. In all truthfulness, they were absolutely delicious and I just could not help myself (the cucumber and cream cheese is my favourite!)  Although I am not the type of girl that likes to wear dresses or skirts and having to wear the costumes is really awkward for me, the amount of fun I am having here is definitely worth it!

Lastly I have begun to transcribe letters we received that the Henry family wrote. One really stood out to me so far. It was written by George to his mother, Lurenda, shortly after Thomas’ death. George talks about how much it hurts to lose a father but it hurts even more to see his mother in pain. George continues on with this beautifully well-written metaphor on life. He says life is like a “great train” that we’re all “stepping off one by one”. That there is no return train and “all alone we walk through the dark vally and shadow of death with the blessed hope of the saviours strong arm to lean upon.”  At the end of the letter he writes “I remain as ever your son George”. While reading this letter you just become lost in his words and you could sense his pain he had after losing his father. The letter was absolutely heart breaking to read yet so incredibly beautiful. 

Letter from George Henry to his mother Lurenda, 1880.
Letter from George Henry to his mother Lurenda, 1880.

Student’s Museum ‘Musings’ – Caitlan

HI, it’s me again, Caitlan, you all know me as the co-op student here at the museum. I have had a blast here. I love my mornings here and I know I originally I said I would be here till mid June. But it seems the museum and I are not ready to part ways yet. I am very excited to say that I will be here till the end of August. I will be continuing my co-op until my ‘last day’, June 18, and then I become part of the staff.

Catilan working hard in the Programming Office
Catilan working hard in the Programming Office

Over the next 2 months I will be working on the Robinson book. It seems the museum has loved all my photo manipulations and poster designs that the museum, that they want me to design the book. I want to keep a similar layout as The Story of Henry House, as the book will be quite similar; the Robinson book will also have about the family, the house & lot and the house as a museum, so I want it to have the similar feel. Also one thing that I never got to do since I have morning co-op was the tours, but since I will be here for the summer I will start doing tours. Although I am a bit nervous for giving tours I know I will have all the information down pat in no time. I encourage anyone to come down have a tour, take a walk on the path by the lake, I can say you will have a great day!       

One of Caitlan's photo manipulations.  The Robinsons of yesterday come back to their house today...
One of Caitlan’s photo manipulations. The Robinsons of yesterday come back to their house today…

Student’s Museum ‘Musings’ – Shawn

Authored by Shawn, Returning Summer Student, 2013

The skies have not seemed entirely welcoming as we have jumped into this first week of June. In fact I think the temperature has been growing more miserable as we approach summer! However, this has not impeded the Oshawa Museum. On Thursday afternoon Lisa and I managed to brave the rain in Downtown Oshawa as we practiced for the Downtown Walking Tour to be held this Sunday. The windy weather has also been unable to prevent some amazing visitors such as George Gordon who came to explore our Railway Exhibit and told us much of his own personal experiences working on the Oshawa Railway.

The inside of Guy House has also been anything but dreary. It now seems a bustling full house with the other new summer students – especially with the recent and excitingly large donation of documents relating to Thomas Henry. It has also been pleasant to catch up with the full-time staff – I had almost forgotten the unfamiliar healthy foods these ladies have exposed to me. Jenn Weymark makes the topic seem an entirely different language.

Shawn at the research station in the Oshawa Archives!  Welcome back Shawn!
Shawn at the research station in the Oshawa Archives! Welcome back Shawn!

 

Primarily, I have been busying myself with research for the Guy House book. This means taking on the intimidating records of plot sales and learning of Thomas Guy Jr.’s ‘active’ marriage life. It is certainly intriguing to handle and learn from the documents themselves and I hope than I can be of some use putting the story of the house in perspective. While looking into the Guy House history I also accidentally stumbled upon an informative collection of papers of Philips Jesse Phillips compiled by his grandson, Alan Philip Dickson. This was quite interesting because I had been recently collecting and organizing some information on World War One Veterans from Oshawa. It so happens that this Philip Phillips, which has been staring at me through a portrait for some years now in the Archive Office, was born in 1875 and actually enlisted in the army in 1915 – fighting in the 18th Battalion until he was killed at Vimy Ridge. He also worked for the Williams Piano Company in Oshawa and had at one point been asked to make a piano for the King of Siam! I was surprised to learn so much history behind this man on the wall. So, despite the cloudy weather it has been an en’light’ening (I’m so sorry) week!

The Oshawa Archives; the oval framed photo on the left is Philip Jesse Phillips
The Oshawa Archives; the oval framed photo on the left is Philip Jesse Phillips

 

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