The Curator’s View: Thomas Bouckley Collection, World War One

This post comes from the desk of Megan White, Assistant Curator. 

New to the RMG and to Oshawa, for the past couple of months I have been learning more and more about the history of the city as Curator of the Thomas Bouckley Collection. With more than 4000 photographs in the collection, the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” certainly rings true, with each image acting as a storyteller of Oshawa’s past.

Doing research for upcoming exhibitions can, at times, take me to some pretty unusual places. One lesson that I’ve learned from my most recent research project is that when someone asks you “Would you like to go for a ride in this tank?” the answer should always be yes. Working at an art gallery, it’s not every day that I get to climb inside a large Sherman tank from WW2 or go for a ride in an M113 A1 APC tank, but when the opportunity presented itself on a recent trip to the Ontario Regiment Museum, I couldn’t say no.

This spring, I have been delving into the history of Oshawa during World War One–the topic of the upcoming Thomas Bouckley exhibition, opening in early September. We have a large collection of photographs taken between 1914-1919, demonstrating what Oshawa was like during the War. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, this exhibition is part of a partnership between the RMG, the Oshawa Community Museum, the City of Oshawa, the Ontario Regiment Museum, the Oshawa Public Libraries, Trent University, Heritage Oshawa and Rogers TV. This partnership provides educational programming throughout the year, to build awareness of the significance of the First World War in Oshawa.

Soldiers at Grand Trunk Railway Station, 1915  The Thomas Bouckley Collection, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa

Soldiers at Grand Trunk Railway Station, 1915
The Thomas Bouckley Collection, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa

 

Commanding Officer Addressing Battalion, 1916  The Thomas Bouckley Collection, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa

Commanding Officer Addressing Battalion, 1916
The Thomas Bouckley Collection, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa

The best way to gather as much information about this piece of Oshawa’s history was to utilize resources outside of the Bouckley Collection and turn to other institutions in Oshawa as a way of enhancing my research. That took me to the Oshawa Community Museum where I sifted through archival documents about Oshawa’s 116th Battalion, read newspapers from 1916, as well as to the Ontario Regiment Museum for a tour of their newly renovated building filled with interesting artifacts and photographs.

This is perhaps one of the best perks of working in the arts/culture/heritage sector–having access to such fascinating pieces of history and learning from other museums (not to mention always getting the best behind-the-scenes tours). It just doesn’t get much better than the wind whipping through your hair as you roll over a muddy field in a tank.

If you would like to see a tank in action, the Ontario Regiment Museum holds demonstrations once a month at their location at 1000 Stevenson Road North, Oshawa. Click here to read more.

For more information about upcoming WWI events and lectures through 2014, visit http://oshawarememberswwi.com/.