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What’s in a Collection?

Help preserve our collection with the Adopt an Artifact program

The recent discovery of Beatrix Potter’s Kitty in Boots in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Potter archive highlights the tremendous challenge museums can face in managing their collection and the information about them. With often thousands of objects and documents held in trust within museum collections the task of knowing not only what’s in the boxes but where in the museum it’s located, often falls to a select few people.

Museums hold their collections in trust for the public and that responsibility includes not only caring for the collection but making the information and knowledge about it accessible.  Having worked with, and for museums, for over 15 years, I’ve seen examples of extraordinary collections management processes as well as “We don’t know what we’ll do if (fill in name) retires.  They’re the only person who knows where everything is.”

Every object conveys a significant message or meaning therefore the record of an object is just as important as the object itself. Object records provide accountability for the collection and allows us to better preserve the tangible and intangible knowledge the collection provides for both current and future generations. – Nicole Aszalos, MOA’s Curator

MOA’s collection began with a group of artifacts obtained by Wilfrid Jury (1890-1981) and his father, Amos Jury (1861-1964).  This became the museum’s core when it was established in 1933.  Since then, the Museum’s collection grew through field excavations conducted by museum staff and generous donations from the community.

From the Collection: Image of Wilfrid and Amos Jury

From 1933 to 1944, Wilfrid conducted small scale investigations at a number of sites in Southwestern Ontario and then shifted his area of research to Huronia, after WWII.  During the 1970’s the museum established regional research programs in the Crawford Lake area and in the City of London. Large-scale projects were also undertaken at the Toronto International Airport (Draper and White sites), the Keffer site near Toronto, and on the Christian Island Indian Reserve in Georgian Bay.  Since 1977 the museum has completed more than 400 Cultural Resource Management projects, resulting in the discovery or investigation of 830 sites; 103 of which the museum has partially or totally excavated.

MOA’s collection includes artifacts spanning the entire archaeological record.  One site in the Matthews Woods area in Southeast London yielded artifacts from components spanning the Paleo-Indian to the Iroquoian culture of the terminal Woodland Period. Additionally the Museum holds artifacts from a number of pioneer log cabins and homesteads from the London, Mississauga, and Kitchener-Waterloo areas.  The museum’s collection also includes ethnographic and historical objects, library and archival materials, and contemporary art.

Collection Manager Nicole A work

Needless to say, MOA has a massive collection acquired through over 83 years of donations and archaeological excavations.  We estimate that the museum has almost 2 million archaeological artefacts as well as ethnographic material, archives, maps and artwork.  Managing the information about our collection is extremely important and is a major area of focus for our Curatorial Team.  Since 2012, we’ve been transferring our collection records from paper files into Past Perfect, an electronic collection management system. Creating digital records for our collection will enable the museum to quickly access important information about all the objects we hold in trust for the people of Ontario and for those interested in learning more about Ontario’s past.  Even more exciting, it allows us to make our collection database available online for anyone interested in accessing this information.

How can you help with our Collection?

As you can imagine, digitizing all our records is a massive undertaking and we are grateful for all the volunteers and students who are working with us to make this happen. It’s through the tireless efforts of the our Curatorial team and those wonderful volunteers, that we’ve made great strides over the past few years. But, as you can imagine, there is still much to do and we could use your help!  If you’re interested in getting involved, check out our Volunteer page to find out how.

MOA has also instituted an “Adopt an Artifact” program for those that are looking to make a financial contribution to this important work. You can learn more about how you can get involved to help preserve our vast assemblage of artifacts by following the link above to our blog post about the program, or go directly to our page, to make a contribution.

Artist Profile: Hugh Hill

Hugh Hill

Hugh Hill (Laka’tos), from the Oneida Nation, lives in St. Thomas, Ont. A drum maker for the past 18 years, Hugh has been making and sharing the traditional crafts he has been taught through his elders.  Attending and participating in traditional dance at many pow wows and traditional gatherings throughout the year (including MOA’s which takes place the third weekend in September) provides Hugh an expression of his native roots.
Hugh has been gifted many teachings.  Respectfully talking and listening to elders (among others) in his travels has contributed to the repertoire in his workshops. As with all of the teachings he has learned along the way, these teachings are to be passed along.
Through workshops on both traditional and social hand drums, traditional and social big drums (pow wow drums), the Medicine wheel and sewn rawhide rattles, these teachings are shared with both large and small groups. Hugh has worked in various locations across Ontario, Michigan and Quebec as well as special interest groups touring from Europe and Asia. Hugh continues to learn and teach; believing in passing along what his has been given and told.

Join us at our Family Day event on Monday, February 15th, when Hugh shares his teachings in a Medicine Wheel Teaching and Art Workshop. The Medicine Wheel represents all creation, harmony and connections.  Come and learn about the teachings and significance of the Medicine Wheel in Aboriginal culture in this interactive and family fun workshop. Each participant will paint their own Medicine Wheel art piece to take home.

Join Hugh Hill at his workshop will being offered at 11:00am-12:00pm and again at 2:00-3:00pm

Pre-registration recommended  (limited spaces available)
Cost: $15.00 for adults; $13.00 for children/youth (age 5-17) (includes admission to Museum)

More information on our Family Day event can be found here

More information on the Medicine Wheel

Why be an Education Volunteer

Why should you volunteer as an Education Assistant at MOA?

Do you enjoy making crafts, playing games, and helping children explore, discover and learn? If the answer is yes, then being an Educational volunteer at MOA might be for you.

Educational programming aims to create an engaging and interactive museum experience for visitors of all ages and volunteer opportunities within this area are ideal for those who enjoy working with children and have experience with or hope to go into teaching.  It is also an excellent opportunity for those interested in gaining experience in museums, as it allows the opportunity to interact directly with museum audiences.

Simulated digs are really popular at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology.

Benefits of volunteering with Museum Education and Interpretation:

  • Gain practical experience with teaching in a non-classroom setting
  • Develop skills related to working in the museums and heritage field
  • Increase skills in public speaking and communication.
  • Learn more about archaeology, and the history of Ontario and its Indigenous People.

Education volunteers get to enjoy many different, hands on teaching opportunities.

What can I expect when volunteering as an Education Volunteer at MOA?

The role of an education volunteer can change throughout the year.

In the School year (September to June), Volunteers will have the opportunity to help with the delivery of curriculum-based education programming to students from the London Area and beyond. These programs are interactive and hands-on; Students engage with gallery and village tours, as well as craft and activity workshops. Volunteers will be encouraged to work towards delivery of programming components to small groups of 20-25 students.

In the Summer months (July and August) programming shifts from curriculum-based programming to our week-long summer day camps. AT MOA camps, children ages, 5-9 play games, make crafts, and learn through activities centred around different themes. Volunteering with our camps is an excellent opportunity for anyone interested in teaching at the primary level or early childhood education. It is also an excellent opportunity for secondary students to complete their 40-hours or more!

Simulated dig supported by education volunteers.

Many student staff and volunteers from MOA’s education department have gone on to pursue careers in education and museums. Here are some of their experiences in their own words:

  • “It gives you an awesome experience of how to “teach” outside the classroom and allows you to interact with people of all ages and especially children of all age ranges, which gives you a well-rounded approach on how to explain and teach to different audiences.”- Ilinca
  • “Interpretation is an important part of learning within the museum; having a role in how students interact with the museum, what they learn, and what they take away is incredibly rewarding.” – Rebecca
  • “I feel like it’s a great opportunity to explore history, and to teach the next generation why [history is] so important in a unique and interactive way.” – Ashley
  • “I volunteer at the MOA because of the people, the environment and the kids. Having worked in a cultural, educational and community-focused workplace, I have learned and developed some key work skills. Teamwork, leadership skills, public speaking, creativity, communication and a workplace mindset, which has strengthened my other work experiences. As a volunteer you can help with tours; such as the Life in a Long House with storytelling and campfire cooked food, make clay pottery, learn about the fur traders of Canada, touch and handle real 1,000-year-old artifacts, dig a simulated dig site and learn about archaeological stratigraphy. […] MOA is an excellent place to become a volunteer where you can be a part of the community while inspiring the next generation in Canada’s history, culture and archaeology.” – Brenna
  • “The education program was a great experience, through teaching and giving tours I was able to interact with people of all ages, while learning myself! It enhanced my understanding of First Nations cultures of Canada, especially right here in Ontario historically and contemporary through archeological and anthropological perspectives.” – Nadine

For more information on how to volunteer, contact Katie at

Read more about the benefits of volunteering – Great article from the Werklund School of Education in Calgary:

Educating future Educators through volunteering. 

Look Back: The Formative Years

The History of the Museum of Ontario Archaeology

Long before the creation of this blog, and before the digital Palisade E-Post, the museum sent out paper newsletters.  The museum’s first newsletter was published in February 1979.  That newsletter chronicled the early history of the Museum of Ontario Archaeology.

As 2016 begins lets look back on the formative years of the Museum of Ontario Archaeology.

The wording of the newsletter has been changed slightly.  Changes are enclosed in [ ].

February, 1979, Vol. No. 1

The Museum of [Indigenous] Archaeology:
The Formative Years 1926 – 1976

“It was in 1926 – 27 that my father and I were asked by W. Sherwood Fox, Fred Landon, Arthur Ford and Ray Lawson, to bring our collection of [indigenous] material excavated and collected by us and our Pioneer collection to the University.” (Excerpt from Dr. Wilfrid Jury’s final annual curator’s report to the President of the University of Western Ontario, 1976.)

Wilf and Amos Formative Years photo

This marked the beginning of London’s first Museum which is now known as the Museum of [Indigenous] Archaeology. Fifty-three years later, this Museum operates one of the largest archaeological research programs in the province, and is one of a few museums in Canada specializing in archaeology. The history of the development of the Museum is a fascinating story of the innovation and determined efforts of Wilfrid Jury to realize a life long dream.

As a first step, Dr. Jury began the study of the 11,000 year occupation of southwestern Ontario by native peoples. In the early years, he conducted a comprehensive survey of the local area, which resulted in the location of several hundred [indigenous] sites. Through excavations and the acquisition of collections from local residents, Dr. Jury amassed one of the largest collections of Indian artifacts from sites in the region. This collection forms the basis of the Museum’s present interpretative and research programs, and has made a significant contribution to our knowledge of local prehistory.

Exhibits of Dr. Jury’s collection have been continuously displayed at the University, and have been shown throughout southwestern Ontario including the Western and Stratford Fairs.

During the course of his investigations, Dr. Jury was innovative in his adoption of new archaeological methods. For instance, the Burley site located south of Grand Bend, excavated in 1950, was the first archaeological site in Canada to be Carbon 14 dated. Archaeological investigations were also conducted at numerous other sites in this area. The results of these early investigations were used to establish a Museum Bulletin which is now the oldest viable archaeological publication series in the province.

After World War II, the Museum’s area of interest shifted almost totally to Huronia where financial support was more readily available. Here Dr. Jury continued his innovative approach to archaeological studies. In 1950, the first field school in Canada was established. For most of the fourteen years that the field school operated, excavations were conducted at the Forget site, a 16th century Huron village. This became the first Iroquoian site in Ontario to be almost completely excavated using modern techniques. This archaeological research in Huronia led Dr. Jury and his wife, Dr. Elsie Jury, to undertake the reconstruction of several prehistoric and historic sites. These unique projects were designed to increase public awareness of our native and pioneer heritage. In 1954 – 55, the Jurys built the Huron [First Nations] village in Midland, the first [First Nations] village reproduction in Canada. Hundreds of thousands of school children and tourists have visited the village, and have seen and participated  in everyday Huron life.

Beginning in 1963, the Jurys began the reconstruction of two major historic sites; Ste. Marie Among the Huron in Midland, and the Naval and Military establishments in Penetanguishene. These have become major tourist attractions in southern Ontario.

While working in Huronia, Dr. Jury also continued to build the Museum’s pioneer collection. In 1957 – 58, the collection was used to establish Fanshawe Pioneer Village, a co-operative project of The University of Western Ontario and the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority. This was one of the first pioneer villages in Ontario, and has become a popular attraction in London.

In 1969, Dr. Jury was instrumental in acquiring the Lawson site; the property donated by the Lawson family, long-time friends of the Museum. Elizabeth Klinger and Martha Hamilton of the Fuller family also donated property to provide access to the site. This site is currently being developed as the first on-site [First Nations] village reconstruction in Canada. Plans are also underway to construct a new building beside the site to house the Museum’s collections, exhibit gallery and research facilities.

Since 1976, the policy of the Museum has reverted to that of 1934; to work primarily in southwestern Ontario and to establish the Museum as a centre of study for the archaeology of this region. To date, the emphasis has been primarily on the study of the prehistory of Elgin and Middlesex counties. Future newsletters will contain reports on these investigations.


You can sign up for the Museum of Ontario Archaeology’s Palisade E-Post to keep up to date with the museum now!

Welcome to 2016


On behalf of the Board and Staff at MOA, I hope everyone enjoyed the best of the holiday season. We’re looking forward to an exciting year at the Museum and I wanted to take this opportunity to share what’s happening over the coming months.

The Board of Directors is looking forward to re-affirming our partnership with Western University. Since the days of Wilfrid and Amos Jury, MOA has had close ties with Western and the MOA Board is committed to maintaining a positive and productive partnership with the university. As we transition from our previous agreement (which has recently expired) to a new agreement, we are excited about the positive role the museum can play, not only at Western, but throughout Ontario.

Gallery (1)

Building on our vision to inspire the archaeologist in everyone, we are also working hard to create a welcoming and engaging environment at the museum. Deciding how we will share Ontario’s rich archaeological heritage through new exhibit development will be a major focus over the coming year. In the short term, our Curatorial staff and volunteers are continuing to refresh our exhibit spaces by incorporating rotating exhibits within the permanent gallery, updating exhibit text, partnering with students from Western University and Huron College on a number of exhibit projects, and painting various parts of the gallery. The Lawson Site is also getting some much needed attention as developing a site management plan is one of our priorities for 2016.

Creating Moccasins at the MOA Moccasin Workshop

We are also looking forward to continuing to provide a variety of programs and workshops for students, families, and people interested in archaeology and First Nation’s heritage. Working with local artists, we want to provide more workshops for people interested in First Nations’ arts and crafts. The moccasin and drum making workshops were well received and the workshops offered during the Annual Harvest Festival and Pow Wow are always popular. We will also be offering flintknapping workshops and hope to provide opportunities for the public to participate in an archaeological excavation.


With winter weather being so unpredictable, we have changed the program for our Family Fun Day event being held on February 15th this year. While we will be keeping outdoor activities like snowshoeing and snow-snake in our back pocket in case the weather cooperates, our focus will be on indoor activities that everyone can enjoy. We are also looking forward to celebrating our 8th Harvest Festival and Pow Wow on September 17th and 18th.

Programs - Edu (3)

Our educational programs continue to be a key focus throughout the school year and we hope to expand the programming we can offer by recruiting and training volunteers interested in being a part of outreach programs.

These are just a few of the things we are working on in our ongoing efforts to better serve our community. Our continued success is a result of the dedication and hard work not only by the museum’s staff, but as a result of the many volunteers who share their time and talents helping us inspire the archaeologist in everyone.

We are looking forward to an exciting year ahead and look forward to sharing Ontario’s archaeological heritage with you.

Changing Landscapes: Archaeology in London

Introduction and Summerside Site


Welcome to our four-part blog series titled Changing Landscapes that takes us on the journey into London’s archaeological past! Although there are hundreds of archaeological sites located throughout London and its surrounding area, we are going to focus on four sites in this series. These sites are featured in our feature exhibition Changing Landscapes: Unearthing London’s Past until April 2016 and highlights archaeology in London.

Before we dive into specific sites, let’s consider why these sites are excavated. The archaeological process in Ontario is not as simple as picking up a trowel and digging a square! The process is guided by rules and regulations set by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport under the Ontario Heritage Act. Since 1974, this act has defined the process that evaluates, investigates, and manages the cultural heritage resources of our province.

Construction is one of the driving forces behind archaeology. New development such as subdivisions, road widening, and sewer lines can all lead excavation, offering archaeologists the opportunity to study portions London’s history. Contracting parties, like developers, hire Cultural Resource Management (CRM) firms to perform an archaeological assessment and see if the proposed development will impact any archaeological settlements. If archaeological sites are found steps are taken to understand the heritage value of a site. Then an archaeological investigation can be conducted to collect and preserve cultural heritage information.

Photo from Changing Landscapes exhibit.

Let’s begin our journey with the oldest and most continually used site in our exhibit: Jackson District/ Summerside! Summerside is a large subdivision development in southeast London that is in the process of becoming a community of 15,000 people. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the area was extensively farmed by pioneers tied to local towns, such as the historic community of Jackson. Before that the site sustained Aboriginal peoples for nearly 11,000 years.

The first archaeological investigations of Summerside occurred in the 1980’salthough the site was a known to archaeologist William Wintemburg in the early 1900’s. In 1981 while surveying the lands, a previously unknown Iroquoian was discovered and later named Brian Site.  Surveys on this 3 to 4 acre site revealed middens and hearths, possibly associated with longhouses. Based on the style and the types of artifacts found, the site was likely occupied around 1500AD.

In addition to the survey of Brian site in 1981/82, MOA also surveyed two parcels of land in the northwest and northeast corners of Summerside. These investigations resulted in the discovery of seven new archaeological sites!

The sites found include a Middle Archaic camp dating to around 2500BCE, and a multi-component camp dating from the Early Archaic (8000-7500BCE) and Transitional Archaic (1600-1400BCE) through to the Early Woodland period (900-400BCE).

In 1988, the remaining land was surveyed by the museum. Another 49 archaeological sites were discovered! Twelve of these sites had diagnostic artifacts, these are artifacts that are indicative of a certain period. The diagnostic artifacts that were found collectively represented an 11,000 year occupation date for the area. Once development began on Summerside, Brian site was set aside as a green space protecting it from any future development.

Elsie Jury: Pioneering Local Archaeology

Elsie Jury Typing Notes in the Field
Elsie Jury Typing Notes in the Field

The career of Dr. Elsie Jury is just as fascinating as the career of Wilfrid Jury, and she played a huge role in fostering the acceptance of women in Ontario archaeology!

Elsie was of Irish and Scottish decent; her parents had immigrated to Millbank (Mornington Township) in Perth County in the early 19th century.  Her father was a doctor and her mother stayed at home to raise their family.

Elsie was very ambitious but during the early 20th century women’s education wasn’t always valued.  Regardless, Elsie went to the University of Toronto and completed her undergraduate degree specializing in English and History in 1933.  She then received her MA in History at Columbia University.  In her MA thesis Elsie wrote about the heritage of her ancestors, the Scottish settlers of Perth County.

In 1935 Elsie went back to the University of Toronto.  She worked as a research for the Toronto Public Libraries while she worked on a degree in Library Science from the university. Not long after, in 1942, she took a job at the University of Western Ontario Reference Library. Elsie was very involved in the Ontario Historical Society, helping with their publications, lectures, and research.

Wilfrid and Elsie met at the University of Western Ontario.  In 1944 Wilfrid mentions going on a number of chaperoned dates with Elsie in his diaries. During this time Wilfrid hired Elsie as a historical researcher on the Fairfield project. The dates continued for three years until their wedding in 1948. Elsie and Wilfrid’s marriage marked the beginning of their long lasting partnership and careers.

Elsie played a big role in Wilfrid’s excavations at Saint Marie I in 1947.  As part of her role as historical research Elsie contacted every institution, teacher, and historian that could have material on the period to help gather information—she even contacted the Russian Ambassador (Jesuits escaped to Russia during the French Revolution)!

Elsie helped establish Fanshawe Pioneer Village and, of course, the Museum of Ontario Archaeology.

Elsie worked on almost every project worked on during his career as an archaeologist. Elsie would support the project and conduct valuable research to help the projects move forward.  Their passion for history and archaeology in Ontario helped further our understanding of Ontario, and promoted conservation of the past.

Even when Wilfrid passed away in 1981, Elsie continued to work with the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, and at archaeological sites across Ontario until she passed away in 1993.


Want to learn more about other women pioneers of archaeology? Check out our blog post about a few of them!

Fur Trade: How and Why?

fur trade

The fur trade was a major commercial enterprise in Canada for nearly 300 years.  Beginning in the 17th century the Fur Trade lasted until the mid 19th century.  When Europeans arrived in the New World fur trade became a large part of European and First Nations interactions.

Before the fur trade, fishing was the activity Europeans took part in the most.  It was off the coast of Newfoundland, and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where there was a large supply of cod, that interactions with First Nations peoples fostered the fur trade.  The cod needed several weeks to dry, and during that time the Europeans wanted to maintain their relationships with First Nations groups.  Europeans would often trade metal and cloth goods to the First Nations for fresh meat and furs.

Beaver felt hats are one of the major reasons why permanent European settlements came to Canada.  The popularity of beaver felt hats in Europe, where there are no beavers, grew during the 17th and 18th century.  The fur trade was increasingly taken advantage of in order to get enough pelts to satisfy the growing demand for hats.

The fur trade spread across North America, while most fur trading posts and settlements were located around Montreal and Northern Alberta.  Each spring, fur traders, or voyageurs, would head to Fort William, now called Thunder Bay, where they would hold a “rendezvous” to trade with First Nations in August.  Afterwards the fur traders would head home to deliver the furs to their trading company.  The Hudson’s Bay Company, established in 1670, was the most famous trading company and is still around today.

Fur wasn’t the only highly prized trade good.  Glass beads were another important part of trade between the First Nations and European settlers and traders.  Makers marks also started to appear on items like pipes, axes, and metal decoration that was often traded.  These materials are important to archaeologists and historians as they can help map trade routes and their use.


Did you know?  It could take 13 weeks for voyageurs to travel from Montreal to Thunder Bay.

Medicine Wheel Teachings

By Dakota Ireland

Medicine Wheel

These teachings come from the Anishinaabe people. There are different variations of these medicine wheel teachings; this is only one of them. The medicine wheel is a circle because it demonstrates that it is a never-ending cycle. It is continuous. It is further divided into four sections each with its own distinct colour. Each colour represents the original four races of man that the Creator made. Each section has its own meanings and representations such as the four directions, seasons, and sacred medicines.

There are more in depth teachings behind the medicine wheel. I would encourage you to seek a knowledgeable elder or individual within the Anishinaabe culture to share any other teachings with you.


Why is Wilfrid Jury’s office here?

Wilfrid Jury's Office
Wilfrid Jury’s Office

Museum staff are often asked, “Why is Wilfrid Jury’s office displayed at the museum?” Why is this exhibit here when most of our artifacts come from First Nations or colonial contexts?

Well, Wilfrid Jury, and his office, played a big part in the establishing and development of the Museum.

Before the Museum was built on Attawandaron Road, Wilfrid and his father Amos began the Museum at the University of Western Ontario.  In 1927 they started the Museum using artifacts from their own collections.  The majority of Wilfrid’s work, from the writing of excavation notes on the sites he had researched, to the curation of the museum, was completed in his office.  Wilfrid also used his office as a collection space.  He kept a number of the artifacts he had been gifted from across Canada, or had discovered himself, in his office.

Wilfrid Jury in his Office
Wilfrid Jury in his Office

The office we have on display is a reconstruction of Wilfrid’s office from around the 1950s.  At the time his office was in the basement of Middlesex College at Western.  He would often display artifacts in the hallway so passers-by could take a look.

When the Museum opened on Attawandaron Road in 1984 the curators decided to include an exhibit featuring Wilfrid’s office furniture and supplies.  The recreation now has a permanent home in the Museum as we honour his family’s legacy in London archaeology.  After all, without all of the collections work, writing, and compiling Wilfrid did in his office the Museum probably would not have nearly as many artifacts, or be the repository of so much information, let alone exist.