Search our Online Collections Database

Welcome to our guide to searching on the MOA Collections Portal. 

Collections

The museum groups the objects in its care into two searchable groups: Objects and Records. We recognize that in some cases the classification is arbitrary.

Objects Search

Archaeological: materials from registered or known archaeological sites and projects. 
Sub-Collections: Deposited Collections, Managed Collections (stewarded on behalf of another party and not included on the portal), and Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport (MTCS – no records).

Ethnographic: Cultural materials collected from living people.

General: Materials that cannot be easily classified, including donated materials from unknown or unregistered archaeological sites.

Art: Paintings and sculptures.
Sub-Collections: Amos Jury Collection.

Records Search

Archives: records about the museum, the museum’s founding Jury family (including photographs), information about archaeological sites and objects, and maps.
Sub-Collections: Jury Family Photographs, Maps

Library: Books, journals, and manuscripts on file.
Sub-Collections: Journals, Offprints and Manuscripts (no records)

Advanced Search

This is a highly customizable Boolean search that allows you to selects not only different search fields, but how they engage with each other (combine or exclude)  Please note: search terms with a magnifying glass icon are Lexicon terms – this means that you can only input terms that are accepted in this database.  If you enter a term in one of these fields that is not allowed, it will open the lexicon in your window.  You can try searching for specific terms to use to build your search.  Watch this space for a list of lexicon approved terms in use in this database.

Sites

The MOA holds materials from thousands of archaeological sites across the lands now known as Ontario.  This basic search allows you to perform a keyword search based on Site Name, Borden Number, Other Site Designations, County, Township, or Municipality.

Please contact the Collections Manager for more information about specific site holdings.

Sites Advanced Search

Sites Advanced Search:

This portal is intended to support archaeological research and contains a full array of search options. 

Please note that the database is a work in progress, and searches will only turn up information for records where that information is known and has been entered into the database.  Many sites only have basic information catalogued at this time.


Database Conventions

Discussion of archaeological database conventions

Dr Neal Ferris, Lawson Chair of Canadian Archaeology

Classifying artifacts and sites through time is a process that involves assumptions and asserts a degree of accuracy that is sometimes impossible, depending on context.

Archaeologists have developed specialized terminology as a style of shorthand to convey attributes recognized within the objects and sites being studied. That terminology describes where the object generally comes from and where in time it likely was made and used.

This ability to sort objects in time and space is a strength that culture history archaeologists have developed for Ontario collections over the last 150 years. However, archaeology is often undermined by assumptions we also make about the lifeways and ancestors who left those objects behind. Those assumptions are much more speculative, constantly revised, and not the only way of knowing the past and the people who contributed to that heritage.

At the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, we seek to untangle interpretive assumptions from the ordering of the archaeological record in space and time. The collections search provides a series of tiered choices to select the timeframe for a site based on the artifacts that were recovered there. This way of classification is more standardized and allows time to be described from general to specific.

The collections database also provides the opportunity to associate the site collection, where appropriate, with past conventional cultural-historical labelling, although those labels are not treated as definitions of a site’s cultural or temporal affiliation.

Cultural affiliations and identities

There is a long tradition in archaeology to associate archaeological materials with the identities, cultures, faiths and languages of the people who left those materials behind. The logic of these designations arises from standardized assumptions about identity that are presumed to be fixed, externally discernible, and directly associated with material expression and lifeways. The MOA seeks to avoid these assignments since they reflect problematic assumptions about the past, the ancestors, people in the present, and biases in archaeological thinking.

With the advent of historical records, there is a recognized ability to assign archaeological materials to historically described persons who left that material behind, using specific terms arising from those records. These terms should only be used through factual information derived from historical or oral data, not assumptions or geographic site locations with the assumed extent of cultural identities.

NOTE: Identity labels are relative, prone to error in historical accounts, can refer to either a person or a person’s heritage, or both, and tend to be self-reflexive. These terms can also reflect the legacies of research assumptions. So the use of these terms should not be assumed to be authorized but informed by historical, archaeological, and Descendant Community research. It is important to recognize that Descendant Communities may prefer a particular or different designation for people that they identify with from the past. It is important to indicate any known Descendant Community designation preference to the peoples represented in this archaeological collection. It is important that we respect the difference between historically derived identity labels and how people in the present understand and associate contemporary heritage identities with the archaeological record.

Describing time

The database follows these conventions:

  1. Terminological language is used to represent broad chronological classifications, and as such and where necessary, conventional terminology embodying old norms or offensive labels has been removed.
  • Date ranges of labelled chronological periods are based on current archaeological research. While we recognize that additional research can refine chronologies, these are not adjustable on a researcher-by-research basis.

*Please contact MOA directly to convey any disagreement you may have over chronology.

  • Time Immemorial: representing deep past beyond easy measurement of object chronology, differing conceptions of beginnings, and the certainty that we will always have more to learn from the archaeological record and other ways of knowing the past.
  • A broad difference is acknowledged between the recent past and the more distant past based on the recent past materials made by machine, or “Industrial Era” materials and earlier materials made by hand-made craft, or “Artisan Era. These designations are purely descriptive and it is also possible to select both eras when artifacts from both are present in the same site collection.
    • Three major periods of time within the Artisan Era: Paleolithic (Old Stone) and Mesolithic (Middle Stone) are labels used to encompass that period of the archaeological record sometimes referred to as aceramic: lacking the presence of ceramic artifacts.
    • Woodland encompasses the ceramic era.
    • “Latest” Mesolithic and “Latest” Woodland refers to periods of time characterized by material representations prior to and overlapping significant changes in the objects present within archaeological collections (i.e., the introduction of ceramics by the end of the Latest Mesolithic period; Appearance of Industrial Era materials in increasing quantity through the Latest Woodland period).

For the people who lived through these periods, material innovation was less beginning and end and more choices made at the moment. The significance of these material changes becomes relevant to understanding the archaeological record only when archaeologists read that record across centuries or millennia. These periods should be thought of as object or material transitions and an archaeological classification intended to align time with material change.

  • The convention used to list time spans for sites and materials pre-dating the Woodland period is listed as uncalibrated radiocarbon years Before Present (BP). Dates for sites from the Woodland period and more recent are listed in calendar years or Common Era (BCE, CE).

*Please keep in mind that radiocarbon years are not directly equivalent to calendar years.

  • Date ranges (e.g., 10,000 – 9,000 BP; 1860-1880 CE) are NOT intended as absolutes. Time ranges should always be assumed to be “somewhere within and/or approximately around this time.” This is because date ranges represent relative estimates, not absolutes, and encompass a wider variation the longer back in time the age assignment is.
    • A date range of 8,000-4,500 BP should be assumed to encompass periods of time somewhere along those millennia, OR a century or two earlier, OR a century or two later.
    • The period 1860-1875 CE encompasses that time period, or part of it, OR roughly five-ten years earlier or later.

Should objects in either of these examples suggest that adjacent time periods are also present in the collection, additional chronological classifications will be listed. Date Ranges will overlap. That overlap reflects differing understandings of the decline and rise of significant material markers, relative frequencies of temporally distinct objects in a collection, regional variation in the decline and rise of distinct material expressions, and the lack of precise or even basic archaeological data ordering available for some periods in the past and some regions of the province.