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What is a longhouse

longhouse MOA

Longhouses were built with a frame of saplings supported by large posts in the house interior, typical longhouses were covered with sheets of bark such as elm bark and birch. Openings at either end were used as doors, while openings in the roof acted like chimneys, letting the smoke from the fires out. Fireplaces or hearths were spaced down the length of a central corridor in the house (an average of 1-6 fires), and were flanked with two platforms: the lower for sleeping, and the upper for food and storage.

The historic record shows that each hearth was shared by two families; one family lived on either side of the longhouse. On average, families had six to eight members. A medium sized longhouse like the one reconstructed at the Lawson site, would have been occupied by 38-40 people, all related through the female line. When a couple got married, the husband would move into his wife’s family longhouse.


What is a Longhouse display
What is a Longhouse display, MOA permanent gallery
longhouse interior

A very large portion of the longhouse was used for storage. The upper platforms would have been filled with personal possessions and a variety of food supplies such as strings of corn, dried and/or smoked fish and meat. As well, there were cubicles at the ends of the houses for storage of firewood and large pits were dug under the bunk lines for further storage of foodstuffs.

In the winter months, the longhouse was the focal point of village life. Tools and other personal items were made and repaired; stories and folklore were passed on from one generation to the next and numerous social and ritual events were held. In the summer months a large portion of the inhabitants lived away from the village itself, maintaining nearby fields of corn, beans and squash.

How did archaeologists know where a longhouse used to be? Small dark brown circles or stains in the ground, called post moulds indicated where the large structural poles were erected. Archaeologists look for these signs to determine the size and location of villages (such as the one found on the Lawson Site at MOA).

As part of your visit to the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, you can go into the reconstructed longhouse to experience life in a longhouse 500 years ago. Our educational programming is further hands on with storytelling, legends, bannock over the fire, and even cooking Three Sisters soup in the longhouse.

Dream Catchers


Dream catchers originated in Ojibwa culture. In the mid 1800s, early explorers recorded dream catchers being used to protect infants from illness and evil spirits. A dream catcher is a handmade object that consists of a willow hoop with a woven sinew net or web on the inside of the hoop. Within the webbing, beads, charms, and found objects may be woven in. Anthropologists recorded the use of dream catcher charms amongst the Ojibwa, however it has also been found that Crees and Naskapi also employed charms for protection.

How dream catchers work:
Dream catchers filter dreams, allowing only good dreams to pass through while bad dreams are caught in the net, beads, or charms until the first rays of sun struck them. The feathers send the good dreams to  Dream catchers were mostly given to the children, which would hang above their beds. Since dream catchers are traditionally made of willow and sinew, they aren’t meant to last forever. They are intended to dry out and break down once the child enters the age of “wonderment”.

The legend of the dream catcher:
The legend of the dream catcher began long ago, when the child of a Woodland chief fell ill. Unsettled by fever, the child was plagued with bad dreams and unable to sleep. In an attempt to heal him, the tribe’s Medicine Woman created a device that would “catch” these bad dreams. Forming a circle with a slender willow branch, she filled the center with sinew, using a pattern borrowed from our borther the Spider, who weaves a web. This dream catcher was then hung over the bed of the child. Soon the fever broke, and the child slept peacefully. It is said that at night, when dreams visit, they are caught in the dream catcher’s web, and only the good dreams are able to find their way to the dreamer, filtering down through the feather. When the warmth of the morning sun arrives, it buns away the bad dreams that have been caught. The good dreams, now knowing the path, visit again on other nights.

At the Quillbox Gift Shop, MOA:
The Museum of Ontario Archaeology has numerous dream catchers of varying sizes and colours for sale. Prices range from $3 to $30. The majority of the dream catchers are locally made, unless otherwise stated.

Oberholtzer, Cath. “Dream catchers: legend, lore and artifacts”. Firefly Books Ltd., New York. 2012.

Medicinal Teas

Herbs and hot drinks have been around for a long time. Certain herbs can be used for medicinal purposes and have been made into teas. Medicinal teas can have a lot of different affects and can help with a lot of different sicknesses or problems. The uses of these herbs for medicinal purposes have been linked back to Native Americans.

A few examples of medicinal teas/plants and their uses:

Pitcher plant was used by Native groups as a tea made from the root as a specific cure for small pox. The treatment not only shortened the term of the disease but also prevented the formation of “pox” marks or scars.

"FountainSpringsWintergreen" by Mike Serfas - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -
“FountainSpringsWintergreen” by Mike Serfas – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons –

Wintergreen berries were used by the Mohawks as well as the Ojibwes. They knew the teas, as a medicine as well as a healthful beverage. Wintergreen contains methyl salycliates, the active pain killers of aspirin, useful for colds, headaches, and to bring down fevers. Tea was used to treat kidney problems, colds, fever and asthma. Tea and berries were used to increase the mother’s milk flow and delay menstruation. Also used as an aromatic antiseptic to relieve sores and joint aches.

Yarrow tea is used for irritated eyes, measles, chicken pox, poison ivy/oak, and many other general itching. Tea was also used for women to promote their menstrual cycle and stronger doses were used to induce abortion. It was ingested to treat malfunctioning kidney and liver systems.

Medicinal plants are used today in modern medications such as Tylenol and are still effectively used by many all around the world.

MOA provides an adult tea tasting workshop where you can sample traditional teas such as cedar, lavender, sassafras, and a few others while learning about their health benefits. Call 519-473-1360 for further details.

-Heather : co-op student, April 12, 2011.

From the Archives: Real Photo Postcards

Real Photo Postcards 1899-1930s

Real Post Card and Cabinet card-2
Real Post Card and Cabinet card-3

MOA has a vast collection of hundreds of Jury Family personal photographs beginning in the 1890’s and ending in the 1960’s. Within the collection we see the unique shift of photography during the early 1900s, especially with the introduction of the real photo postcard.

The real photo postcard began after the development of the dry plate process and roll film in the 1880s. The introduction of roll film was integral to the shift of professional photography allowing for photos to be created by the ‘common man’. Many companies opened during this time in order to supply the public’s demand which in turn depressed the entire market. George Eastman, the man most responsible for the real photo postcard decided in order to survive the highly competitive market, he needed to create something unique. He created the new camera system Kodak with a highly recognized marketing campaign; you press the button, we do the rest.

Real Post Card and Cabinet card-4

By 1899, the first real photo post card was created which proved cheaper to make than the traditional cabinet cards. This revolutionized the photo industry since it allowed the ‘common man’ to take their own images, including scenery, and have them developed at a quicker pace for a minimal fee. Professional photographers found it hard to compete in the new open market and many of them took up selling their own postcards in order to make ends meet. That being said, sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between a mass produced image and a one of a kind.  Whats extrodinary about the new real post cards is that it offers museums and historians alike a glimpse into the ordinary lives of people in the past.

Real Post Card and Cabinet card-1

Additional Sources:

A Guide to Real Photo Post Cards

Online Photography Magazine. 2009. Real Photo vs. Printed Photo Postcards.


Staff Only: Behind Scenes Part 2

STAFF ONLY: Behind the Scenes Part 2

As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. I believe the same can be said for exhibits and the design process from its initiation to the final grand opening.  Museum exhibits focus on two areas, the permanent and the temporary. We often have temporary exhibits planned months if not years in advance because it allows better scheduling and team management since exhibits require a lot of preparation and work. I think the best way to talk about it is to divide it into three main stages.

The Planning

Roots Nation (3)

Every exhibit starts with an idea and a goal. For the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, our goal is to share knowledge through visual stories that engage the public and connects us with one another. Recently, the curatorial staff reimagined our permanent exhibit, Roots of a Nation, to include ethnographic items from all over Canada. Previously, Roots of a Nation talked about plants and its uses to Indigenous peoples. We thought that Roots of a Nation can take on a wider meaning, it can mean beginnings, the beginnings of clothes, the beginnings of baskets, and of all essential daily life items and how it has grown and prospered into what the items we recognize today. To facilitate this idea we create text panels for the exhibit and every artifact in order to explore deeper meanings and create connections between the artifacts and people.

The Preparation

Nicole (2)

Exhibits take a lot of hours, a lot of teamwork, and a lot of creativity to become successful. But one of the best parts, if not THE best part of building an exhibit is going through the collections to see what we have and what we can use. The Museum of Ontario Archaeology collections is currently in the process of becoming digitalized by hooking the accession file up with the object and its location on PastPerfect, the museum cataloguing software. If the item isn’t in PastPerfect we simply sift through accession records and open boxes to see what is inside. Once the objects are selected and found, their condition and location are updated in PastPerfect after which they are prepared to be carefully relocated by the curatorial staff to the exhibit. All the artifacts in the old Roots of a Nation drawers are taken out, and safely moved by staff so the case can be cleaned and prepped with inert material for the new ones to enter. After all of the artifacts are in place the didactics (text panels) are printed, drymounted (pressed to foam board), cut, and hung, then the lights are placed to better highlight the new exhibit.

The Finale

Opening day, the fruits of our labor coming together for show. We double check the exhibit and make sure nothing is misplaced or forgotten. The Museum of Ontario Archaeology holds official openings for all temporary exhibits featuring delicious foods and drinks for the public. We use social media and the website to post our upcoming events such as exhibit openings. All exhibits the Museum of Ontario Archaeology creates is for the public, sharing our story with the public which in turn helps us grow and become a better institution.

exhibit opening

Work Study Profile: Nicole


I have been at the Museum for two months as the Archaeological Interpreter and I instruct groups of school children activities that are offered by the Museum. As well as providing demonstrations that better explain archaeology to children. I became involved with the Museum through volunteer work that began in 2013 which provided me with experience with the collection of artifacts and how the Museum operated. I am in my fourth year of the Honors Specialization Program of Anthropology at the University of Western Ontario. The Archaeological position offered at the Museum allowed for me to transfer my knowledge acquired through my education to be applied to a practical workplace environment.

The atmosphere at the Museum is welcoming and the staff members are all wonderful. They make working at the Museum an absolute pleasure. The Museum of Ontario Archaeology allows for children as well as adults to learn about a group of people that not everyone knows existed and that the City of London was previously occupied hundreds of years ago by the Attawandaron people.

Currently I am working on creating a demonstration to provide some insight into an Archaeologist’s job. Archaeology does not just involve digging but rather collecting data from the artifacts and placing them into a context to better understand the lives of individuals from the past. The demonstrations that I have prepared illustrate decomposition in various environments while the second demonstration explains soil formation and how levels of the earth indicate different time periods.

When I am not working I enjoy baking and cooking. Recently I have begun to select recipes pertaining from one country and make a dinner based off of that one country’s main meals. Then I will switch to a different country and attempt their food as well. Finding all of the ingredients can be a challenge but once the meal is complete it is all the more enjoyable.

–          Nicole Braden

Who is Wilfrid Jury – the man behind the collection

Dear Readers,


During my internship here at MOA, I decided to dive into Jury’s personal records, reflections, and photos in order to gain an in depth knowledge of the man. After creating a search base for all of the records left through both his estate and through years of collection by our previous directors, I decided to put my search aid to use and share my experience.

What I thought would be a tedious endeavor became one of intrigue. Elsie Jury puts it eloquently enough,

“[Wilfrid Jury has a] leprechaun or whimsy quality. Pranks, shenanigans, ‘never a dull or idle moment’ for those who have worked with him.”

When first looking at his journal articles, photos from his childhood, and Awards of Merit, you see a very straightforward archaeologist whose desire is to uncover the knowledge of the past in order to share it with the people of the future. Within his journal articles you can feel that passion grip you through the pages, allowing you to understand that which he speaks. His voice is authoritative and straight to the point. However, past the multitude of files containing his scholarly articles was a small file of short stories for the London Free Press. Stories such as A Farm Boys Christmas and Thrashing Time 75 Years Ago characteristically brings out that wittiness for which Elsie speaks.

Last week, I was tasked to find an artifact that was possibly donated to him in the 1950’s. So I began to dive through his
appointment books where he consistently kept record of where he was, who he saw, what he acquired, and other interesting novelties. His descriptions of artifacts were based on first impressions, explanations such as black shrug, old lady like are characteristic of his notes.


In his journals, he mentioned multiple times that his grandfather taught him never to throw stuff away. This impacted Wilf immensely and I believe that is why his notes are so in depth, recording every moment of his day from taking a nap to being lonely the days Elsie left to Toronto. Items such as the weather, the time he woke up, the mail he received, the score of the baseball games (It seems New York was his favorite team), and his tasks for work were daily occurrences in his journals. Special things such as wearing a new suit on Elsies birthday were set apart from the rest of the paragraph, creating a delicate balance between work and social life.

I feel as though the people who have met Wilfrid Jury, experienced this vibrant personality first hand. However, I only know him through his writings and Elsies memoirs since he died before I was born. The saying never judge a book by its cover sums up my experience here. The deeper I dove, the more fascinated I became in learning about the man who helped pioneer Southern Ontario Archaeology.

– Thanks for reading!
Nicole Aszalos

Curatorial Intern, Summer 2014

Work study Profile: Samantha


My name is Samantha Keller and this summer I am working as an Education Assistant at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology. I just finished my undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario with an Honours Specialization in Archaeological Anthropology and a Minor in History. I am very excited to be working at the Museum this summer with the excellent summer staff!

In June, my job mostly consisted of running programs for the visiting school groups who came to see the Museum. Once school was over at the end of July, I began working on developing a new program. The program I am working on is called “Context in Archaeology”. This program has to do with looking at the artifacts we find at a dig site as “clues” to understand what a room or area was used for. It also has to do with understanding how the different layers in the soil can give us some idea about how old an artifact or a site is.

I also run the Dig It Archaeology Day Camp with the other Education Assistant, Jonathan. This past week we had a lot of fun learning about Ontario Archaeology and Archaeology around the world.

This job provides me with a very unique opportunity to share the knowledge and experience I’ve gained while also learning about local history and culture. I can’t wait to see what the summer brings!

Journey Across Canada Camp

For this week’s theme, the campers will embark on a journey across Canada starting from the West Coast.

On Monday, we will learn all about Canada’s westernmost province, British Columbia, and explore this beautiful, mountainous area replete with sparkling lakes and volcanoes. Since northern BC is rich in Aboriginal culture and home to several ancient village sites, the kids will also be crafting their very own miniature totem poles. They will get a chance to practice the symbolism commonly used in Aboriginal culture and choose animal totems that they believe best represent them. There are various cool symbols such as horses for freedom, a sun for energy, and wolves for leadership. Another cool activity for this day will be examining ancient woodland art, and striving to replicate the styles and imagery with our own woodland paintings.


Tuesday is when the campers will travel eastbound into the flat land of the Prairies. Consisting of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, this region is also known as Canada’s “bread basket” as the Prairies are a major source of wheat for Canadians. We will largely focus on the furry residents of the Prairies, such as the prairie dog, owl, fox, and bison. The kids will have the opportunity to learn more about the prairie food chain through a fun, interactive game, and even construct their own prairie dog as a craft.

Continuing our expedition across Canada, Wednesday is dedicated to the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The campers will brush up on the main landmarks of Ontario such as the CN Tower, Giant Nickel, and Niagara Falls, being that it is our home province. Then as we trek to Quebec, we will learn about the many exciting events that happen during the “Carnaval de Quebec”, such as ice sculpture contests, canoe races, and masquerades. As per this Quebecois tradition, the kids will also design their own masks to be used in an activity later on in the week.


On Thursday, the campers will journey to the Maritimes, which is a group of provinces residing along Canada’s eastern shores. While we learn about their seafood diets and tour around the hundreds of lighthouses located in the Maritimes, the campers will piece together their own stained glass lighthouses with coloured tissue paper. If they shine a light through their lighthouse in the dark, they will be able to see all the colourful lights they used! An additional craft for this day is building sea creature themed puppets since the Maritimes is surrounded by large bodies of water.

We will be ending our adventure in the territories of northern Canada, also known as the Great White North. On Friday, the campers will explore the icy tundra and its inhabitants, as well as build their own arctic igloos out of marshmallows. They will also be able to assemble a miniature inukshuk, much like the ones built by northern aboriginal communities, with small stones which a counsellor will hot glue together. Furthermore, since Fridays are our camp’s designated Quest Day, the campers will be divided into small groups to complete Canada-related “quests”. Some of them include searching for baking soda and vinegar to mix into a BC volcano, completing an obstacle course in the Prairies, fishing in the Maritimes, and finding images of famous Ontarian landmarks. As the counsellors here at the camp love to conclude the week with a fun recap of everything the campers learned along the way, we do our best to make sure everyone is enjoying themselves.

August Palisade Newsletter

In this August 2014 newsletter:

  • Camp fun at MOA
  • Story of Our Grandfathers – Exhibit ends August 25th
  • New feature exhibit coming this September
  • What’s new: Interactive exhibit, summer guided tours, new birthday party theme
  • Behind the Scenes: promotional videos, blog: MOA’s mission
  • Pow Wow: September 13 & 14, 2014
  • Wilfrid Jury Day recap

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