Our Story

The History of the MOA

A look back at our own past.

The Museum of Indian Archaeology and Pioneer Life – which would eventually become the MOA – was founded by Amos and Wilfrid Jury in 1933 at the University of Western Ontario.

Museum founders, Amos (2nd from right) and Wilfrid Jury (far right) excavating at the Clearville Site.

The Museum of Ontario Archaeology was established from a collection of Indigenous and Pioneer artifacts assembled by Amos Jury (1861-1964) and his son, Wilfrid (1890-1981) from across Lobo township. The duo would share their finds at local fairs and exhibitions across the region. The Jurys were acquainted with a prominent local business and philanthropic family, the Lawsons. In 1933, when plans for the Lawson Memorial Library were made on the campus of The University of Western Ontario (Western University), Ray Lawson requested that space be provided for the Museum of Indian Archaeology and Pioneer Life. Wilf and Amos now had a permanent space for their growing collection and research. Throughout the 1920s and 30s, Wilf had opportunities to work with and learn from William J. Wintemberg, one of Canada’s first professional archaeologists.

Elsie and Wilf Jury, ~1940s.

In 1944, Wilf met Mary Alice McLeod Murray (Elsie), a librarian and published writer and historian who was working at Western University. The couple married in 1948, and Elsie would become a significant contributing partner in Wilf’s archaeological research and career, working alongside him both in the field and in the museum.

In 1969, Wilf encouraged Col. Tom Lawson, Ray Lawson’s son, to donate the Lawson farm and the Indigenous site that was known to have been established there, to Western University for the purpose of providing a museum for the Jury’s collections. In 1976, Western University appointed William Finlayson as the Executive Director of the museum, and began planning for a new building on the old farmstead at 1600 Attawandaron Road. In 1978, the Museum of Indian Archaeology (London) was incorporated as an Ontario not-for-profit, and Wilf agreed to help the Upper Thames Valley Conservation Authority establish Fanshawe Pioneer Village, where his pioneer collections would be housed. Both museums would operate under the same Board of Directors until 1998.

The museum under construction.

In 1980, Wilf Jury attended the sod-turning ceremony that began the construction of Western University’s Lawson-Jury Building, which would house the newly incorporated Museum of Indian Archaeology (London), but he would pass away just before seeing the doors of the museum open in 1981. Elsie would continue to work at the museum, and at archaeological sites across Ontario, until her death in 1993. Both Wilfred and Elsie left generous endowments to support the museum as part of their legacy and commitment to Ontario heritage, education, and stewardship.

Robert Pearce took over as Executive Director when William Finlayson left in 2000. The museum was renamed the London Museum of Archaeology in 1991, and, finally, the Museum of Ontario Archaeology in 2005. Neal Ferris was cross-appointed from Western University as the museum’s Lawson Chair of Canadian Archaeology in 2007 and was awarded funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Research Fund in 2009 to found Sustainable Archaeology, a capital innovation project constructed as an addition to the museum at 1600 Attawandaron Road. Rhonda Bathurst was hired as the Project and Operations Manager of SA in 2009 to oversee the project. The new facility was built to provide specialized long-term and respectful care of Ontario archaeological collections and to facilitate research, digitization, and access. Joan Kanigan was appointed the Executive Director of the MOA in 2011, followed by Rhonda Bathurst in 2016, after the SA project was concluded. In December 2018, the museum took over the operations of the Sustainable Collections facility from Western.