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Exploring Local History with Lisa Terech from the Oshawa Museum

The Oshawa Museum is located in Lakeview Park, but its purview is the history of the entire city. The

museum offers tours of its three buildings by the lake but also buildings downtown. The tours become

a chance, says Lisa Terech of the Community Engagement office, to engage the attendees in the four

corners’ foodie scene now happening on those historic streets.

“When we deliver our popular Downtown Walking Tours, inevitably, I end up talking to our guests

about food, and other favourite spots of mine including Pizza Munno, Bollywood Taco, Spicy Affairs,

and Cork and Bean. All of the above, though, is by no means an extensive list of the gems just

waiting to be found downtown,” she says.

The downtown was once known as Skea’s Corners. It was where the Toronto to Kingston highway

intersected with the historic Lake Scugog to Lake Ontario portage, now called Simcoe Street. The

portage gave Oshawa its name; Oshawa, in Anishinaabemowin, means the Carrying Place, where

one left the water and walked with the canoe.

This walk from the water is the subject of From Ship to Shore: Exploring Oshawa’s Relationship with

Lake Ontario. This exhibit is on display in the Verna Conant Gallery in Guy House, one of three

buildings in the complex which the Museum calls home. The others are the Robinson House and the

Henry House.

The homes once housed the first families who settled the area. Since their settlement, people have

arrived in Oshawa over the decades and for many different reasons. Some of those reasons are

explored in the exhibit, Leaving Home, Finding Home in Oshawa.

“This exhibit was years in the making," says Terech, “and it’s important as it’s telling the story of those

who were Displaced Persons/Refugees after the Second World War in their own words.”

Sharing these stories is what excites Terech about her job.

“Being able to share with people and perhaps change perspectives about our community, that’s

always exciting,” she says.

“For example. . . Robson Leather Company, during WWI 70% of all upper leathers for the Canadian

Expeditionary Force were produced at Robson. During WWII nearly 100% of all production went

towards the war effort, with 60% of Canadian Armed Forces wearing upper leathers made by Robson.”

Tanning leather was not the cleanest of industries; it polluted the creeks which fed the lake. But it

needs to be noted the former headquarters of Robson is now home to the Central Lake Ontario

Conservation Authority. The building also has a heritage designation which speaks to the city’s

respect for its past even as it builds its future.

The City of Oshawa is on the cusp of celebrating its centennial in 2024. Terech says the Oshawa

Museum is looking forward to the party, but a big part of their festivities will be showcasing the lesser-

known stories of the city.

“The stories of the Industrialists are very well known; this exhibit will look at the stories of

marginalized communities, stories of diversity, of the experiences of women, the labour movement in

Oshawa, and more.”

With more and more continuing to choose Oshawa, maybe you will find yourself at the museum one

day, in more ways than one.

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