Reflections from almost five months on…

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

It’s been almost five month since Friday March 13, the day the OM made the decision to cancel March Break programs and, “out of an abundance of caution,” close the Museum to visitors. Little did we know that the Provincial State of Emergency which came into effect shortly afterwards would have closed our doors had we not already. While we have once again opened our doors to the public, it is by no means business as normal.

A “normal” July and August at the Oshawa Museum sees thousands of people walk through our doors. We get the casual ‘just want to see what this is all about,’ and our regular visitors, like the park walkers who stop by for hot chocolates or OHS members swinging in to say hi! We see people who come specifically for a tour of the site, or those casual visitors are often so intrigued that they too decide to take a tour. Our summer students, anywhere from two to four students, are amazing front of house staff at the Museum, guiding those tours, greeting people as they pop in, and assisting in the gift shop. Lakeview Park buzzes with activity, and with our welcoming signage, those park goers often make up a large percentage of our casual visitors.

2020 is looking very different.

Until July 20, we remained closed to visitors; part of that was due to when Durham Region moved into Stage 2, the stage of the Province’s reopening plans for when museums can open. Another part of why our reopening took place later in July was so that Museum staff could take all appropriate safety measures to ensure quality and SAFE experiences for our visitors and staff.

The biggest change lies with the tour itself. Our museum houses were build over 150 years ago – needless to say, ‘social distancing’ wasn’t a thing at that time, and it is challenging to maintain safe distances in the small rooms. Where tours pre-pandemic were guided, our tours are now audio tours. This means museum visitors can still see and experience Henry House but can easily maintain a safe distance from staff. The audio tours are available through Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and from Podbean, where we host the podcasts; simply search for our channel Oshawa Musings.

We have also decided, at this time, to keep Robinson House closed. We do not have any exhibition on the bottom floor and our Indigenous gallery has far too many hands-on components to be able to safely let guests experience this space. We have made aspects of this exhibit available online on our YouTube channel.

As per Region of Durham mandates, masks are required inside the Museum. I have to say, I rather like the branded masks we had created for OM staff to wear!

Another big change to the tours is that they are no longer drop-in. Pre-pandemic, our doors at Guy House were open, people could wander in, and if they wanted a tour, one could be offered right away. However, to safely maintain numbers in Guy House, we are currently keeping the doors closed unless by appointment, and tours are pre-booked through Eventbrite – you pick your date and your time slot. One consistent is that the tours are by donation, and we greatly appreciate the support from those who have already booked their tours.

Since mid-June, staff have been splitting their time between working in the office and working from home, a trend which will likely continue for the foreseeable future. It still amazes me how quickly I was able to adjust to working from home, how quickly the new routine settled in; the flip side is how quickly I adjusted to more time in the office and with a few of my co-workers there with me. I’m an extroverted-introvert – I like my alone time and need time to recharge after a lot of social interactions, but I missed seeing my work friend every day, of getting to share laughs with them, hear their stories and share my own.

If you feel safe and comfortable doing so, and if you are not displaying any of the COVID-19 symptoms, I encourage you to book your time slot and visit the Oshawa Museum. Tickets can be purchased through our Eventbrite page:

The following are measures in place to ensure the safety of our visitors and staff for your visit:

  • Timed entry. Tours will be offered at 11am, 12pm, 1pm, and 2pm, Monday to Friday. We ask that you book your tour ahead of your visit using Eventbrite.  We will try to accommodate drop-ins if we can.  Choose your time and ticket option.  When the tickets are available, you can find them on our Eventbrite Page:
  • Tour Experiences. Henry House and Guy House ONLY will be available for tours.  An exhibit celebrating Lakeview Park will be featured in Guy House. Tour groups will be restricted to a maximum of five people, we ask that social distancing measures are respected and masks worn.  Visits start at Henry House.
  • The Audio Tour. We are launching our new audio tours available wherever you get your podcasts – simply download and press play, There are three experiences to choose from:
    • Our standard tour, with a tour through the Henry House Gardens,
    • An abbreviated version of the above mentioned tour
    • A tour designed especially for families and kids!
  • Signage. Signs are posted encouraging social distancing and self-screening upon entrance.  Plexiglass shield at the main desk at Guy House. If you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, such as coughing, fever, or shortness of breath, please remain at home.
  • Regular disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces. Where items (e.g. museum artefacts) are not able to be disinfected, signage is present to indicate this. Where possible, hands-on artefacts and displays are removed.
  • Hand sanitizer stations. You will asked to use hand sanitizer upon entry.
  • Contact tracing. We may be asking for your name and phone number/e-mail upon entry. This information will be kept private and will only be used where necessary for contact tracing.
  • Credit/debit as the preferred method of payment. The credit/debit machine will be cleaned after each use.

Published by Oshawa Museum

Since 1957, the Oshawa Museum has been acquiring and preserving for the public, records that trace Oshawa's rich history from its earliest settlement. Our collection includes historical information on Oshawa, its families, businesses, social organizations and many other areas of interest. Included in the collection are photographs, documents, scrapbooks and other Oshawa related memorabilia. In addition to making Oshawa's historical inforamtion available, our staff also provides lectures, presentations, conservation work and research assistance.

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