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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

Mammoths & Mastodons

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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

From the Archives: Real Photo Postcards

Real Photo Postcards 1899-1930s

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Real Post Card and Cabinet card-3

MOA has a vast collection of hundreds of Jury Family personal photographs beginning in the 1890’s and ending in the 1960’s. Within the collection we see the unique shift of photography during the early 1900s, especially with the introduction of the real photo postcard.

The real photo postcard began after the development of the dry plate process and roll film in the 1880s. The introduction of roll film was integral to the shift of professional photography allowing for photos to be created by the ‘common man’. Many companies opened during this time in order to supply the public’s demand which in turn depressed the entire market. George Eastman, the man most responsible for the real photo postcard decided in order to survive the highly competitive market, he needed to create something unique. He created the new camera system Kodak with a highly recognized marketing campaign; you press the button, we do the rest.

Real Post Card and Cabinet card-4

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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

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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. 

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 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

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My name is Nicole Aszalos and I have been interning 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 new and exciting everyday. As a curatorial intern, my first project was to redesign the interpretive panels of both the Lawson site and the permanent gallery in order to make them more accessible and engaging to the public. Currently I am standardizing MOA’s cataloguing database, creating digital records of the collection, rehousing archaeological 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.

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Buck and Ball found during excavations by TMHC

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