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Work Study Profile: Vasanthi

Vasanthi profile picture

Hello! My name is Vasanthi Pendakur, and I just started working at the museum in September 2014.

As part of my program at Western, I will be working at the museum for the next year as an Education Assistant. I was drawn to this position because of all the new skills I could gain from it. I also have some background in First Nations history from when I worked for a private research company specializing in land claims and rights. This position seemed like the perfect place to combine this knowledge with the interpretation and educational programming skills I could learn. Read more

Agents of Deterioration

Agent deterioration

An agent of deterioration is a term used to identify the nine major active agents that threaten museum collections. These active agents can be sudden and catastrophic or gradual over a period of time. Museums have employed and refined different strategies over the years to help mitigate these nine agents. However, these agents aren’t just confined to museums; take a look around your home or neighbourhood. How many of the agents can you identify? Read more

Nailing down Iron Artifacts

Iron is a common material used to create tools, weapons, and everyday equipment. It is distinguishable from other metals as it is magnetic and corrodes into rust. It is a very common find for archaeologists on historic sites in Ontario as it dates back to European contact. Iron was introduced from Europe in the 15th century.

Iron nails

The most common iron artifacts found on historical sites are nails. Nails have changed throughout the years as different processes have become available. By looking for different features, archaeologists are able to tell how old a building might be. Read more

Ceramic Identification

Ceramics artifacts have a long human history, dating back 27,000 years. Ceramics are a useful artifacts for archaeologist as they are hand made, durable, and can last thousands of years without changing from their original state.

Clay, in its natural form, is white in colour. impurities such as iron make it a different colour. When clay is heated, water evaporates and the minerals fuse to become a ceramic. This process is irreversible once the ceramic has been created, and is similar to making glass.

Identifying qualities of Historic Ontario Ceramics: Read more

The origin of moccasins

Although the word “moccasin” is synonymous with the First Nation shoe, the origin of the word refers to footwear which includes the sandals, boots, and leggings that First Nation peoples wore.

Moccasins are protective footwear, often to keep feet from freezing. They were designed for the environment that the person lived in. For example, hard-soled moccasins of the Plains groups were made for rocky terrain while the Apache moccasins were characterized by turned-up toes to prevent sharp objects from piercing into the foot.

Moccasins are made from the hide of moose, deer, elk, or buffalo. Brain-tanned hide is similar to commercial leather today and is softer and easier to sew than buckskin (although not as durable).To create moccasins, patterns are made with the grain of the leather since they stretch when worn and are sewn with sinew. To punch through the leather for sewing, bone awls were traditionally employed whereas leather punches are now used. Read more

Jury’s Life on the Farm

Excerpt of Annual Cycle of Life on the Farm as a Boy

Written by Wilfrid Jury February 24, 1967

I remember potato digging, in fact all the fall work, as father used to go out west on the harvester excursion.

Wilf Child
Wilfrid Jury and his sister Irene as children in Lobo, Ontario.

When I was fourteen he left mother and I to cope with it. Looking back I wonder how we did it. That finished my schooling but it gave me confidence. There was no time to get into mischief. Up at the break of day work until sundown. Mother and I carried on. When dad returned everything was in ship shape and we were proud of the words of praise. I usually had a day off to go squirrel shooting before Dad went up to Port Franks duck shooting for two weeks. Later he went deer hunting. The drive to the Port in the democrat was a long one, leaving home at 5am and getting there before dinner at George Hurdon’s, the proprietor of Waverly Hotel. After the horse had a good feed I’d start home. The horse knew the way; I didn’t. I got home in time to help milk. Then on a Saturday, two weeks later, I went up and got dad and his friend Jim. They had shot a barrel of ducks. We had wild duck off and on all winter.

Each year Dad would come home with one or two Indian relics that he had picked up in the sand hills around Port Franks. On his return from shooting, I’d usually have the fall ploughing started. We always summer-fallowed a large field. Other fields had to be ridged so they would dry out early in the spring, enabling us to have an early seeding. There was a long open ditch that ran through the pasture field to the swamp, this ditch carried off the water from all the drains of the entire farm. Through the spring and summer the cattle drank out of it. They also tramped on the side wall. It was a fall job to open this with rubber boots, a long handled shovel and a lot of hard work. This annual job was completed. Read more

Mammoths & Mastodons

mammothsvsmastadon

One of the largest mammals known to man is the elephant. What most people don’t know is that the elephant is a descendant from the mammoth and mastodon. After the dinosaurs died off, the mammoth roamed Asia, Europe as well as North America. They were known to be alive up until about 4,000 years ago. Unlike the dinosaurs, the mammoth lived amongst the humans. We know that the mammoth lived because of the drawings that were found in caves of the humans hunting the mammoth or simply drawings of the mammoths themselves. Read more

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. Read more

Dream Catchers

dreamcatcher

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”. Read more