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Staff Only: Behind 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 Read more

Featured Artifact: Seal Skin Artwork

Artifact Profile: Seal Skin Artwork

sealskin

Artist: Helen Kalvak Elihakvik

Provenance: Holomon Island (Ulukahaktok), NW Territories

Kalvak was born in 1901 on Victoria Island located in the Northwest portion of the Northwest Territories. In her youth she lived a migratory lifestyle with her family; Migrating between camps along the coast in the winter and camps in the interior in the summer. Her father was a well-respected angakug (Shaman) and much of his teachings informed her artworks in her later years. After moving to Holoman Island (Ulukahaktok) she moved into a Co-op which provided her the opportunity to draw. Between 1962 and 1978 she created over 1800 drawings and stencils. The theme in her artworks focus on the transformation between angakug and his/her own animal spirit helpers or guides through illustrations of how people used to dress and live. Read more

Staff Only: Behind Scenes Part 1

“STAFF ONLY”:  Behind the Scenes at MOA Part 1

I am often amazed, when I sit back and think about it, how much goes on behind the scenes at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology. 

museumiceberg

 I like to compare museums to icebergs – in that what you see when you visit is just a tiny part of what is actually happening.  From working with the collection, researching exhibits, planning programs and events to the things we rarely consider as “museum work” but are critical to any business, like marketing, managing the finances, fundraising, and health and safety.  There is a lot happening at MOA that we want to share.

This blog series opens the “Staff Only” door to reveal what it takes to run a museum.  The planning, preparation, and work necessary to ensure we serve our community and, for us specifically, inspire the archaeologist in everyone.

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Behind the Scenes: Meet Kylie

My name is Kylie Kelly. I have been working as student assistant curator at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology since September 2013. I am fortunate that with my position I get to experience every aspect of the museum, from cataloguing artifacts, organizing exhibits, to assisting with the education programs. I am currently attending Western University for Classical and Medieval studies; I wish to pursue a career in Roman or Egyptian archaeology, specifically in museum and conservation, after I am done my undergrad. My passion for history is what initially drew me to work at the museum. I love everything old. Along with my love of history I am also of Native American descent, so working here has also given me a unique chance to see my own heritage and culture. Read more

Behind the scenes: Meet Nicole

Nicole A

Hi! I am Nicole Aszalos and I have been working at MOA since May 2014. My official job title is a curatorial intern, but as in any smaller institution, that takes on a broad meaning since I am diving into something different and exciting every day. As a curatorial intern, my first project was to redesign the interpretive panels both on the Lawson site and inside the permanent gallery to make them more accessible and interactive with the public. Currently I am still working on that, but I have also started working on standardizing and creating digital records of the collection, rehousing various artefacts, and conducting research. Read more

TMHC War of 1812 Artifacts

War of 1812 Artifacts Archaeological excavations conducted by Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants Inc. (TMHC) uncovered a small number of artifacts from the War of 1812. These included a musket ball, two buck shot and a caltrop. Click here to see image examples.  The musket ball measured between 16.5 mm (0.65 inch) and 17.0 mm (0.67 inch) in diameter, and both buck shot measured in the double naught size range, that is, between 8.4 mm (0.33 inch) and 8.9 mm (0.35 inch) in diameter. These sizes were consistent with the buck and ball load American troops employed during the War of 1812. Buck and ball was a paper cartridge containing one musket ball and two or three buck shot. The purpose was to increase the chance of hitting a target with the bonus possibility of hitting multiple targets with one shot. The smaller buck shot might not kill a target but could cause enough injury to remove a soldier from battle.

buck and ball
Buck and Ball found during excavations by TMHC

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Selected Artifacts from the Fugitive Slave Chapel Site

Fugitive Slave Chapel Artifacts

Objects found at an archaeological site tell us a lot about the people who lived there. After all, archaeology is the study of material evidence left behind by humans in order to understand their behaviour.

We cannot yet tell you a lot about life at the Fugitive Slave Chapel because analysis of the artifacts has only just begun. The artifacts were excavated in May to July 2013 and were washed and processed in January 2014. The research that has been found was collected thanks to volunteer efforts. The Museum of Ontario Archaeology is lucky to have the chance to display these artifacts to the public before they are analysed and researched by the archaeological team, Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants.

Out of 41 excavated units, a total of 8 potential cultural features were identified on the site. One may have been a grey water pit and others were likely small refuse pits which explains the wide assortment of ceramics, glassware, and buttons.

 Selected artifacts from the Fugitive Slave Chapel Site

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Work Study Profile: Erik

Work study profile: Erik Skouris

How long have you worked at MOA?
I have been at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology for 6 months.

What is your job title and what do you do?
I am a Curatorial Assistant. I assist Joan Kanigan, the Executive Director, with various assigned and ongoing projects. This includes processing the Museum’s collections and registering, accessing, cataloguing, and shelving the museum’s existing objects. I also maintain inventory and documentation according to Ontario curatorial standards. I have prepared various reports regarding collection activities and conditions of archival objects as well. Currently, I am assisting in an exhibit design. The exhibition is titled, “What Archaeologists Do In The Winter”. Read more

Photographing Artifacts: FSC project

Photographing Fugitive Slave Chapel Artifacts 

Larry has volunteered to take photograph some of the important artifacts from the Fugitive Slave Chapel site. In the early afternoon, he was taking pictures of important bottles for future research.  We caught him photographing a medicine bottle with the words “pain killer” and “vegetable”. Researchers will find a date and more details about the product.

You can do a quick search for “pain killer vegetable bottle” on Google and see what you find! Who knows, the artifact featured in this video could be Perry Davis’ vegetable pain killer…

Photography and archaeology:

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Cataloguing Artifacts

The attached videos feature Rebecca who is working on the “in between” step to help the cataloguer.  She is using an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the items found in the field bags. If any interesting items are found or notes need to be made associated with the unit items being cleaned, they are documented. This will help the cataloguer and make it easy to access certain artifacts when all items are put into storage.

Artifacts are also sorted into smaller bags within the larger field bag. For example, ceramic patterns are sorted and matched if possible and bones might be put together.

Some of the coolest things that have been found are bottles with embossed writing. A lot of information can be gained from these bottles. One item was found to be from a quack doctor’s “miracle medicine” concoction. Read more