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

McLaughlin Carriage Co. and Motorcar Co. employees at the Richmond and Mary Street plant, 1908

The Curator’s View: Oshawa Show and Shine

This post comes from Sonya Jones, Assistant Curator and Curator of The Thomas Bouckley Collection.

Every Wednesday evening during the summer months in Oshawa, the downtown hosts Show and Shine, where local car enthusiasts display their vehicles and gather to interact. In the past, it has been located at the Queen’s Market but this year it is in the civic parking lot just north of the RMG. The RMG is excited to be right next door and have changed our extended hours to Wednesday nights, instead of Thursdays, to welcome Show and Shine visitors to the gallery. To compliment this summer event, a Thomas Bouckley Collection exhibition on the automotive history of Oshawa is being featured in the E.P. Taylor Gallery.

Composite photo of Robert McLaughlin and his two sons, Robert Samuel and George W, both of who played significant role in bringing the carriage business into the automotive business. 1898

Composite photo of Robert McLaughlin and his two sons, Robert Samuel and George W, both of who played significant role in bringing the carriage business into the automotive business. 1898

The Thomas Bouckley Collection contains a rich ensemble of photographs that tell the story of how the McLaughlin’s brought the auto industry to Oshawa. In 2008, my first year working at the gallery, the 100th anniversary of the McLaughlin Motorcar Company, and the release of the McLaughlin-Buick was celebrated. One of my first projects was a commemorative exhibition to coincide with the release of a Canada Post stamp highlighting Col. Sam McLaughlin’s contributions to the auto industry, for which the Thomas Bouckley Collection contributed images.

McLaughlin Carriage Co. and Motorcar Co. employees at the Richmond and Mary Street plant, 1908

McLaughlin Carriage Co. and Motorcar Co. employees at the Richmond and Mary Street plant, 1908

With the state of the auto industry today, it is important to once again look back on the history and relevance of the industry to this community. The struggles and uncertainty of Oshawa’s General Motors of Canada was outlined in a Globe and Mail article this weekend, GM Canada’s Foggy Road Ahead. As much as we are reminded about the importance of the industry to the community’s current economy, historically, the industry played a key role to the growth and success of Oshawa.  Like the commemorative stamp, the photographs in this summer’s exhibition, Oshawa’s Automotive History, remind us of Col. Sam McLaughlin’s contributions to the auto industry and his endless generosity to Oshawa.

McLaughlin-Buick down at the lake, c. 1915

McLaughlin-Buick down at the lake, c. 1915

On view until the end of August, this exhibition celebrates Oshawa’s long connection to the auto industry and the people who made it happen.

Looking north up Simcoe Street at Athol Street, 1944

The Curator’s View: Oshawa Then and Now

This post comes from Sonya Jones, Curator of The Thomas Bouckley Collection.

Recently the Toronto Star published an article called “Oshawa: the GTA’s final frontier for development”, which details how and why Oshawa has grown and changed so much in the last ten years. The change in economy from reliance on the auto industry to becoming a knowledge economy, through four universities, as well as Durham College, is credited as being the reason why more and more developers are seeing Oshawa’s potential. Exploring how much Oshawa has changed since it was first founded has always been a priority of the Thomas Bouckley Collection. Starting with Bouckley’s vision for documenting his changing city, to continuing that tradition through Then and Now projects, the collection visually tells Oshawa’s story. In continuation of the Then and Now series, the RMG has once again partnered with the Oshawa Senior Citizens’ Camera Club to show the area of Oshawa that perhaps has seen the most changes: the downtown.

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From its humble beginnings as a small settlement community to that of a large metropolitan city, Oshawa grew out of the intersection of King and Simcoe Streets known as the “Four Corners,” expanding and growing on all sides.

Similar to the Then and Now: Oshawa Creek project, members of the Oshawa Senior Citizens’ Camera Club used historical images from the Thomas Bouckley Collection as a starting point, and photographed the Four Corners as it appears today. This exhibition of side-by-side historical and contemporary photographs is also accompanied by a short video created by the club on the subject. On view until August 29, this exhibition celebrates our changing city!

Details about this exhibition on our website: click here.

Oshawa-on-the-Lake, 1915

Vintage Oshawa: Summer in the City

This blog post comes from the desk of Sonya Jones, our Assistant Curator and Curator of the Thomas Bouckley Collection.

Spring has sprung and summer is almost here! In the winter, it can be easy to go into hibernation, whereas the summer is a time to get outside for adventures and build memories. The days are longer and the weather warmer, allowing you to spend as much time as possible outside. For me it represents gardening, patios, hiking, and most importantly, vacation. Some of the best summer vacations can be “stay-cations,” where you spend your holiday at home taking full advantage of your backyard and seeing what your city/town has to offer. The Thomas Bouckley Collection contains many images showing summer’s past in Oshawa, including historical residents cooling off in the lake, relaxing, playing outdoor games, and generally basking in the sun. The images celebrate summers experienced in Oshawa and capture the spirit of the season.

Oshawa-on-the-Lake, 1915

Oshawa-on-the-Lake, 1915

With this in mind, we have launched our Vintage Oshawa: Summer in the City project. Each week summer images from the Thomas Bouckley Collection will be posted to our tumblr page (click here) so be sure to bookmark it!

Not only do we want to feature images from the collection in this online exhibition, but we also want to represent the city, past and present, by having the community post their own images of Oshawa in the summer. This could be anything from recent family barbecues in the backyard to swimming lessons at Rotary Park. How do you like to spend the summer in Oshawa? What are some of your favourite hot spots?

Sonya in the Oshawa Valley Botanical Gardens

Sonya in the Oshawa Valley Botanical Gardens

One place I visit on my lunch breaks in the summer is the beautiful Oshawa Valley Botanical Gardens.

It’s easy to submit your photos or videos to this online exhibition. Be sure to include information about the images, such as a story, where it was taken, and the approximate date. Let’s celebrate summer and revel in memories built in Oshawa.

Help us create a visual history of summers in the city!

Click to visit

The Curator’s View: International Museum Day

The Curator’s View comes from the desk of Linda Jansma, Senior Curator at the RMG.

This Saturday, 18 May marks the 34th International Museum Day. The entire month is actually set aside as one in which we can celebrate our collective histories by sharing our heritages, cultures, ambitions and dreams through what’s being offered in museums, art galleries, heritage sites etc. throughout the world. This year, the RMG is one of over 30,000 museums in over 100 countries on five continents that will mark a day in which we examine our place within our community and how we can affect change through our exhibitions, programs, workshops, art classes, and concerts.

2013’s  theme, which is set by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) is

 Museums (Memory + Creativity) = Social Change

 ICOM states:

This truly optimistic theme in the form of an equation dynamically gathers several concepts that are essential to define what a museum is today, highlighting the universal nature of those institutions and their positive influence on society.


Currently, we have Richard Harrington: Arctic Photographer installed in our Alexandra Luke I Gallery space. Large-scale black and white photographs of Inuit from the 1950’s showing beautiful, yet, at times, disturbing images. Interestingly, these arresting photographs affected change once viewed in the south. Government assistance was initiated to help relieve some of the suffering that people in the North were experiencing at that time. Harrington, through his creativity, affected social change. The accompanying sculpture by Charlie Sivuarapik provides both critical context and dialogue between a non-Inuit photographer and an Inuit carver who mediates, on a much more personal level, his experience of the North.

Oshawa Art Association Opening

Oshawa Art Association Opening


In other spaces we share riches from our permanent collection, a collection that is held in trust for future generations. And in yet another gallery, we are hosting the annual juried exhibition of the Oshawa Art Association. 250 people crowded into the gallery on the opening evening to celebrate the talent found within our own community. And, of course, that’s not all—our Imagination Station, CONTACT photography festivalcontribution with the work of Tom Ridout, and collaboration with local seniors to produce an exhibition showing the intersection of our past and present that points towards our future.

Tour Group

Tour Group

As the Senior Curator of the RMG, I feel honoured to be part of a team that is passionate about sharing both Memories and Creativity through art, music, lectures, workshops, art classes, and more.

I hope you can join thousands who will walk into one of those 30,000 museums and galleries on Saturday. There is so much to celebrate!

Plane Crash at the Four Corners of Oshawa

Archives Awareness Week 2013

The Durham Region Area Archives Group is hosting a show and tell night on Wednesday, 3 April from 6:00pm-8:00pm at the Pickering Public Library. Libraries and archives from Durham Region will display and discuss strange and interesting items from their collections to celebrate Archives Awareness Week 2013. The objects on display will include a note signed by Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, magic lantern slides, Victorian era postmortem photography, a circus flea, Second World War shells from the DIL plant in Ajax, and a stunt book from a student at Ontario Ladies’ College.

Plane Crash at the Four Corners of Oshawa

Plane Crash at the Four Corners of Oshawa, 1918

The RMG’s Sonya Jones, Assistant Curator and Curator of The Thomas Bouckley Collection, and Barb Duff, Library Services Coordinator are preparing our contribution to the display. The RMG’s contribution will include various historical images of a famous plane crash at the Four Corners of Oshawa, Alexandra Luke’s and Aleen Aked’s painters boxes, Isabel McLaughlin’s Order of Canada and Order of Ontario and various other oddities from our archives!

Residents from Durham are invited to attend and bring with them interesting historical items from their personal collections. There will be a meet and greet following the presentations and refreshments will be provided.

The Durham Region Area Archives Group was formed in 2011 and is the newest chapter of the Archives Association of Ontario. Its members represent libraries, archives, and historical societies in Durham Region and surrounding areas.

The Results are in! Making History: Youth Art & Writing Contest

This post comes from the desk of Sonya Jones, Curator of the Thomas Bouckley Collection.

The Making History: Youth Art & Writing Contest gave young writers and artists creative freedom to express what their community’s history means to them. Youth were asked to submit an art or writing project that was inspired by a photograph in the Thomas Bouckley Collection. I was thrilled with the diverse responses! Seven submissions were chosen to be included in a small exhibition in the RMG’s Windfield Lounge.


Courtney Dianard Departure 2012


Military fathers with their children, 1939

The five poems/short stories and 2 paintings appear next to the relevant photograph from the collection. The viewer sees the historical photograph in a new way—reinterpreting it based on the students’ creative expression. Congratulations to the winners Courtney Dainard, for the Best Overall Art prize, and Tara Zammit, for the Best Overall Writing prize. Courtney’s painting of a young girl’s sorrow at her father’s departure for war reminds us of the many children who experienced this feeling throughout our community’s history. And Tara’s poem, Open Your Ears, fills the piano room at Bishop Bethune College with joy and music.


Piano Practice, Bishop Bethune College c. 1925

Open Your Ears

Dance little tune,

Fly about the room,

Capture my soul like soup on a spoon.

Piano erupt,

Let my ears indulge,

Open them to something some never love.

But I do, yes I do!

Brother, let me preach,

For the passion in the soul is something one cannot teach.

Let the curtains billow and whisper

As the wind whips around,

Let them join in the creation of this marvelous sound.

Old books line the shelves,

Collecting memories and dust,

Unveiling secrets of history, music and lust.

It’s too much for us!

The dull mind cannot bear

All the beauty, the joy

All the strife, all the cares.

Let the pictures be an audience.

Placid faces stay calm,

Though the spirits inside dance as if they still shone.

In my white blouse and navy,

I sing sweetly along.

On a stool by the piano

Is where I belong.


The exhibition Making History on view until March 3, 2013. The historical images come alive with different interpretive narratives—giving new meaning to Oshawa’s past.