In honour of Archives Awareness week, we at DRAAG wanted to give you a glimpse into who we are and what it is that we do day-to-day! Throughout this week we will be posting profiles on just some of the individuals who work to preserve and celebrate the amazing history that can be found throughout the Region of Durham.
Jennifer has earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree with Honours from Trent University, her Museum Management and Curatorship diploma from Sir Sandford Fleming College and her Masters in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester.
Let’s learn more about Jennifer!
What do you do at the Oshawa Museum?
I am the Archivist which means that I manage the archival collection. The archival collection is made up of historical documents or records related to the history of Oshawa. Within the collection, we have photographs, maps, oral histories, newspapers, land deeds, diaries, personal correspondence and so much more.
It is my job to ensure that this information is preserved and made available to those interested in researching.
Why did you choose this career?
I was in third year university when I took a course on public history. This course opened my eyes to the many different ways a degree in history could be used. The whole first half of the course focused on the history and role of museums and I was hooked. From that point on, I shifted my focus from be coming a teacher to working towards a career in the museum field.
What is your favourite part of your job?
The fact that each day comes with the possibility of some new discovery. Whether that be stumbling upon an obituary that helps us to better understand someone or reading through a handwritten letter that changes the way we look at our history, there is always the potential to discover something new each day.
What do you find to be the most challenging part of your job?
From a research perspective, I do find the lack of early Oshawa newspapers to be rather challenging. There are large gaps in Oshawa’s newspaper record due to a fire that wiped out so many prior to having them microfilmed. There is a gap between 1873 and 1922 and once again during the period of the Second World War. Newspapers provide such a great snapshot of life at a very specific time and it very challenging that so many of Oshawa’s early ones have been lost. It is for this reason that we recently had several of our hardcopy newspapers from these missing times digitized.
How did you get into the must/archival field?
Honestly, I was in the right place at the right time. I had just finished my internship at the Canadian War Museum and had graduated from the Museum Management and Curatorship course from Sir Sandford Fleming when a job was posted for Tour Guide at the Oshawa Community Museum. I was hired here in September 1999 and worked hard in that position until the following September when the position of Archivist became available. Collections management had been the area of museum work that I truly loved and I was over the moon when I was hired as Archivist.
What is your earliest memory of the Oshawa Museum? OR What is your favourite memory of the Museum?
My favourite memory of the Museum is the reopening of Guy House after the fire. That was such a challenging time but we persevered and continued to focus on ensuring that we advocated for the importance of heritage in Oshawa.
Do you have a favourite artifact or collection?
There is a collection of letters written by a Pvt. William Garrow that hold a particular place in my heart. These letters detail not what his life was like in the trenches during World War I but they also give us glimpses into what Oshawa was like during that time. Garrow’s writing makes history more personal, more relatable. Of course, there is also the Thomas Henry Correspondence collection that just came into the archives this past summer. This collection is simply amazing as it contains letters from not only Thomas but also several of his children. This collection makes the family that lived in Henry house more real and I cannot wait to spend more time going through the letters.