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Museum Curator’s Secrets

We asked our Curator, Nicole Aszalos, to comment on this Guardian Article and share her Museum Curator’s secrets.

Image of Nicole holding an artifact from the collection
Nicole and a Birdstone

The Secrets of the Museum Curators from The Guardian is a well written article, with some of England’s top flight curators sharing thoughts on their careers. Although the article is not an in-depth discussion of the curatorial field, it does provide some effective and honest career insights for the aspiring curator. In the short article the curators also try to solve some misconceptions commonly associated with the profession.

Often when I say I am a curator, responses run along the lines of ‘Oh that’s interesting.. .What is that?” Now when we compound that on the fact that I am a curator at an archaeology museum, it can make for some interesting conversations due to the uniqueness of the position. The most common misconception about a curator’s role is that the majority of your time is spent doing exhibit design and selecting objects to make a gallery look pretty. Realistically, that is maybe 25 percent of the job. Curators are the keepers of the museum’s collection. This means we research, catalogue, preserve, conserve, and house museum objects for current and future generations. We maintain the gallery AND collection space and coordinate interns and volunteers. In actuality, it is a lot more behind the scenes than many people realise (editor’s note: imagine an iceberg. What the public gets to see in a museum is only the tip, above the water). Read more

Lawson Field School Update

The Lawson Site Un-Field School Was a Success!

By Dr. Neal Ferris, Lawson Chair of Canadian Archaeology, Western University.

Students and volunteers at work

It has been a few weeks since the end of our first “Un Field School” here at the Lawson site, with students and instructors since moving on. But, for me, I finally have a moment now to reflect on the field school and what we discovered during those three weeks. Below is an update and brief summary of what we managed to achieve.

This Lawson field school had several aims: First, it needed to be instructive and a good learning experience for the Western anthropology students who took the course. Second, it had to serve the needs of the Museum’s Lawson Site Management Plan and provide insight on how we can best manage this site long term. Third, it had to be a successful experience for the volunteers and visitors who joined us. Our goal was to make archaeology accessible to non-archaeologists and to underscore to the class the bigger context within which we do archaeology today. Finally, I was hoping to learn just a little bit more about the Lawson site. Not just to care for it as the Lawson Chair, but also to have a better sense of the importance of this place. It has been both an ancient home and village and is one of the oldest continuously excavated sites in Canada. Really, when you think of it, the entire history of Canadian archaeology has happened on this site! Read more

Thank You from Joan Kanigan

Joan Kanigan headshot
MOA ED Joan Kanigan

Four Years at MOA, by Joan Kanigan

It is with a combined sense of anticipation and regret that I prepare my final blog for the Museum of Ontario Archaeology.  I am proud of what the museum has been able to accomplish over the past four years and my decision to leave was difficult.  As I write this blog, our Summer Camp program is completely full, the roof and HVAC systems are being replaced, and we are in the process of adding movable shelving in the collection storage room. So much has changed over the past four years that I wanted to take this opportunity to review and celebrate what has been accomplished as the museum prepares to develop exciting new exhibits, increase community partnerships, and improve the management of the Lawson Site. Read more

Archaeology Field Kit

MOAs resident archaeologist Ontario Doug and his tools

 

 

Have you ever wondered what tools archaeologists use and why they are important?  Ontario Doug is helping answer those questions by sharing the contents of the professional archaeologist’s tool kit.

The most iconic tool in an archaeologist’s field kit is the trowel.  Trowels allow archaeologists to carefully clear thin layers of soil, making it easier to reveal features in the ground.  At the Lawson Site, a common feature archaeologists find are post moulds, which look like dark circular stains in the ground.  An archaeologist needs to have a good eye to catch the changes in soil colour when excavating. Read more

The Thornton Abbey Project

 One Curator’s Journey in Archaeology

By Nicole Aszalos, Musuem of Ontario Archaeology Curator

For the month of June, I spent most of my days out of the office and in the trenches at Thornton Abbey in North Lincolnshire, England. Since this was my first time in England, I wanted to experience as much as I possibly could. To do this, I left a few days early to travel to the cities of York and Leeds to gain an understanding and appreciation of the history I was hoping to unearth. And, being the Harry Potter fan that I am, I just had to venture on a day touring The Shambles, an opportunity that the nerd in me fully appreciated.

Nicole at The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds. Also had the opportunity to shoot a crossbow here which was a cool experience.
Nicole at The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds. “I also had the opportunity to shoot a crossbow here which was a cool experience.”

My goal in York and Leeds was to gain an understanding of the museums and their presentation of history, since this is something I am passionate about.  I spent my days touring museums and historic sites such as York Minister, York Castle Museum, and the Royal Armouries in Leeds just to name a few. It was exciting to see how interactive these museums were with engaging the visitor in history.  The museums I visited created immersive experiences by combining both historic objects and modern technology in their displays. One of the most immersive and unsettling experiences happened while exploring the dungeons of York Castle Museum where projections of actors, representing some of the most notorious people hung at the gallows, performed in each cell.  Being the active person I am, I also spent a couple hours hiking historic paths including what remains of the Roman Wall in York. Read more

Meet Desiree Barber

As part of our behind the scenes series: Meet Desiree Barber, an MOA Intern

Desiree_Barber_Education

When travelling in Europe at 16,  I fell in love with art history and architecture.  Consequently, I decided working within art, history and culture was what I wanted to do as a career.  However, after receiving some advice, I took a detour towards college for Dental Assisting.  After finishing the program I decided being a dental assistant for the rest of my life was not what I wanted.  So, I entered university to pursue my dream.  After I received my Bachelor of Arts, I saw the need for a post-graduate program.  I started at Georgian College for the Museum and Gallery Studies program. The final semester requires an internship, which I am completing at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology (MOA). Read more

Year in Review

2015/2016 Year in Review

As seems to be the case every year, this year in review highlights how much has been happening at MOA. The museum has continued to improve over the past year. Plans for much needed repairs to the building are well underway, such as the repairs to the roof and HVAC system.  We have also planned exciting new exhibits, community partnerships, and better management of the Lawson Site.

Language_Exhibit_8
Oneida and Anishinaabe/Ojibwe Language Exhibit

The past year has seen tremendous growth in the museum’s reach through our social channels and community outreach. We’ve established a strong partnership with Huron College and First Nations studies at Western University that has resulted in major exhibits at the museum this past year. We’ve increased opportunities for students in various programs to complete internships and research projects at the museum. We’ve also begun building a partnership with the Huron-Wendat Nation and the Jesuits in English Canada to create a Community Memories exhibit about Ste. Marie II. This is an exciting partnership, and the resulting online and physical exhibit will explore a story of struggle, sacrifice, and change during one of the most significant periods in early Canadian History. We have also been able to more actively promote the work of Ontario Archaeological Society Chapters, and look forward to working even more collaboratively with the OAS in the coming year. Read more

Southdale Site Longhouse

Long before the creation of this blog, and before the digital Palisade E-Post, the museum sent out paper newsletters. First published in February 1979, each Palisade Post issue is a snapshot of what was happening in Ontario archaeology during this time, and is the basis of our Look Back series.


The Southdale Site Longhouse

(1988 Volume 10, Number 1)

An intriguing page of the London area’s early history was unearthed in south London during July with the Museum’s salvage excavation of the Southdale site on Southdale Road.  Of particular interest to Museum archaeologists was the discovery of a 14th or 15th century Neutral longhouse that measured an incredible 53 metres (174 feet) in length.  While larger longhouses have been found in other parts of the province, the Southdale house becomes the largest prehistoric structure ever documented in the London area.  This unusual find has revealed a hitherto unknown aspect of prehistoric Neutral settlement patterns, yet as often happens in archaeology, we have come away with more questions than answers. Read more

The Attawandaron Discoveries

by Marjorie Clark
(Part 3 of a 3 part series)


This article, part 3 of this history series, was previously published in the Puslinch Pioneer, 2015 and re-printed here with permission from the author, Marjorie Clark, and PuslinchToday


The Huron First Nation called their southern neighbours “Attawandaron”, meaning “People of a slightly different language.” The French labelled those same people “Neutrals,” as they remained neutral between the Huron and Iroquois.

The Attawandaron or Neutrals inhabited dozens of villages in Southwestern Ontario, stretching along the north shore of Lake Erie from the Niagara Peninsula to the Detroit River, perhaps as far north as Toronto in the east and Goderich in the west.

A semi-nomadic society, the Neutrals lived in villages, which would usually be abandoned after about twenty years. When the game, the soil and the wood in an area became depleted, the area would be left to regenerate and the village would relocate to a new spot. The largest Neutral village site in Wellington County and perhaps in Ontario, covering thirteen acres, was in the Badenoch section of Puslinch, on the east side of Morriston, lot 32, concession 8. The other one situated within the Badenoch area was on lot 28, rear of concession 8, the former McPhee farm.

In 1615-1623, some of Samuel de Champlain’s men travelled south from Midland to meet the Neutrals and in 1625-1626, Etienne Brulé spent the winter among them. A Récollet priest, Father Joseph de la Roche Daillon, described them in a letter dated July 18, 1627. At the time, there were approximately 40,000 Neutrals Read more

Monica Norris, Intern

In the collections storage room cataloguing
Monica In the collections storage room cataloguing.

Meet Monica, who is completing an internship at MOA

Hello!  I am Monica Norris, and I began my Collections internship with the MOA in May.  I am completing my final semester of the Museum Management and Curatorship post-graduate program at Fleming College.  The reason I chose to study at Fleming College is because the program is intensive and very hands-on.  A lot of material is covered, not only from an academic approach, but I also had many opportunities to apply concepts in a practical manner.  This has given me a more realistic experience than other programs might offer.  The skills and tools I acquired through the MMC Fleming program have prepared me for real life situations, and given me the ability to perform a wide variety of tasks that are common practice in medium to small sized museums.

I will be working in collections management this summer, helping to create, maintain and enhance the archaeological records in the database PastPerfect.  This has involved cataloguing artifacts that have not been entered into the system yet, as well as providing condition reports.  Along the way I have been repacking artifacts into archival bags.  I will also conduct research to help gather information to be used in the collections records and in museum blogs. Read more