I Ain’t Afraid Of No Ghosts

I work for a small community museum, and not one week goes by without someone asking me if the museum is haunted.  Valid question, perhaps, knowing that the houses are over 150 years old, and deaths and funerals very likely took place in these homes.  Morbid sounding, sure, but that was the customs for the times.  In the Victorian times, if a death occurred, a family or visiting undertaker would prepare the body for the funeral, which most often than not, took place in the home.  Death was less marginalized and spoken of more openly than it is today.  When I give tours through our latest exhibit on mourning customs, I am very aware of my wording and trying to be as sensitive as I can towards the subject matter.  The Victorians were slightly more matter-of-fact about everything.

Inside our period Victorian home; the parlour is currently set up as if ready for a funeral
Inside our period Victorian home; the parlour is currently set up as if ready for a funeral

Very long story short, yes, deaths occurred many years ago at my museum.

Does this mean they are haunted?  That depends on who you ask.  I am rather skeptical about it.  If there has been an ‘encounter,’ there must be a reasonable explanation for it.  Bumps and sounds? We’re in a public park, it must be a sound from outside.  As well, I have not had an ‘apparition’ appear to me.  If someone ever does appear and ask me how it’s going, I’ll re-evaluate my position.  A few of my other co-workers are more open minded and perhaps more receptive to spirits, but I myself haven’t had any experiences, and this is my answer when people ask.  It’s not very exciting, and it’s not the answer more people want to hear.  When people ask the question, I suspect they are looking for confirmation that the story they heard from a friend of a friend is true.  Being scared is supposed to be fun, isn’t it?

Skepticism aside, I participated in a paranormal investigation our museum hosted this weekend.  I remained in our administrative building, so I didn’t go around on the hunt with our visitors, but I heard stories once they returned of meters going off, of signs, and of uneasy feelings.  Everyone had fun.

After the guests left, I closed the buildings with two investigators.

“Do you mind, now that it’s quiet, if we take a few minutes and see if any spirits are around?” I was asked.  “They might not have wanted to be present with so many people going through.”

I didn’t mind, so we sat in our 175 year old house, lights off, 10:45pm, and we waited.  The investigators asked a few questions, and then they asked me to ask a few (that the spirits might be more receptive to a feminine voice).  Either the spirits weren’t present that evening, or I’m not receptive to the spirits, for after about 10 minutes, with not much contact, we went around and locked the building up.

I might be a skeptic, but for good measure, I had salt with me at all times Saturday night.  You never know…


An Informal Homecoming, a Heritage Village, and a Lovely LYS

What a wonderful weekend!  I am NOT referring to the weather we experienced in southern Ontario; it was wet, grey, cold, and just plain miserable.  But I did make the most of this past weekend and had a wonderful time.

Friday was spent in Waterloo, Ontario, which brought back a flood of memories! I completed my undergraduate degree at Wilfrid Laurier University (Go Golden Hawks!), and I haven’t been back to the campus in over eight years.  While the small campus has seen quite a bit of change, there was still so much that was the same, and I was brought back to days full of study and nights full of fun with friends.  I made lifelong friends while at that school, some of whom I have known for over 13 years now.  I wandered the campus with a large smile on my face.  What a school where such amazing memories were created.

PicMonkey Collage
My trip down memory lane

As a huge Museum Geek, I dragged my sister along to the Waterloo Region Museum.  This museum tells the story of Waterloo Region and the communities of which it is comprised, and they do so with their new, state-of-the-art interpretation centre which connects to Doon Heritage Village, a museum village interpreting 1914 Waterloo Region, a locale with rural communities and blooming urban centres at the cusp of the largest military conflicts to date, the outbreak of World War I.

Outside the Waterloo Region Museum, and my epic Jump Pic Fail. Thanks, scarf...
Outside the Waterloo Region Museum, and my epic Jump Pic Fail. Thanks, scarf…

Doon truly was a fun, yet fascinating village to visit.  Interpreters in the house provided third-person narratives to visitors, and the super-friendly guide in their period General Store informed us that they change their interpretation for the changing months and seasons.  This means that, for example, the General Store was boasting school supplies and preserving materials for sale, which was appropriate for the season.

Kitchener, Ontario, the largest city in Waterloo Region, was known until 1916 as Berlin, Ontario.  Its Germanic roots run deep, and it boasts the largest Oktoberfest outside of Europe.  This made Doon Heritage Village and their interpretation period all the more fascinating to me.  I held back from asking, but I truly was left wondering if their interpretation of 1914 also included the outbreak of WWI and the anti-German sentiments that the City and its residents faced during the war, sentiments that resulted in the City’s name change to Kitchener.  They interpret every day life in Waterloo Region, how their residents lived, their religious life, various occupations, but do they also interpret political sentiments and/or the impact of the global altercation of WWI?  I’ll be heading to a conference in early November; if I meet someone from Waterloo Region Museum, I’ll be sure to ask them!

Doon Heritage Village also had adorable sheep!
Doon Heritage Village also had adorable sheep!

The feature exhibition at Waterloo Regional Museum was called Beer: The Exhibit.  Clearly, my sister and I had to see the history ‘on tap’ at that exhibit!  By the time we finished with the Village, we were running short on time, which meant I wasn’t able to spend as much time as I could have at the exhibit, but from our quick, whirlwind self-tour through it, I was highly impressed!  You walk in and are faced with the all-to-familiar Beer Store counter, recreated for the exhibit, complete with the rolly-counter that was a LOT of fun to play with as a kid (and, well, still entertaining as an adult)!  There was a very aesthetic wall of bottles, showcasing a beautiful range of colours and shapes and a screen playing Molson commercials, including the infamous My Name is Joe commercial, with the iconic rant which succinctly highlights many key aspects of our Canadian Identity.  Funny how it took a beer commercial to hit the nail on the head of something that is more often than not very difficult to identify.  The exhibit also had a number of ‘Selfie Stations’ where they encouraged visitors to take a picture and use hashtags to share their images, a very fun way to encourage and in turn measure visitor engagement through the exhibit.

Beer: The Exhibit, and saying No to prohibition!
Beer: The Exhibit, and saying No to prohibition!

Finally, I was able to steal away for about half an hour to a lovely little Local Yarn Shop called Shall We Knit.  I was met by Kerry who was one of the friendliest LYS owners I have ever met.  Knowing how lovely and open most LYS owners are, this is saying something about just how welcome I was made in Shall We Knit.  I left with three skeins, one earmarked for an on-going afghan and two for Christmas presents, and I cannot wait to get back to Waterloo and visit her shop again.

In My Other Blogging Life

For a number of months, I have been maintaining this blog with a new post every week.  It’s a fun way for me to share my love of knitting, of crafting, and of generally sharing select aspects of my life.  This blog in and of itself is another creative outlet for me, and to those who take the time to stop and read my posts, I thank you.  This is what I write about in my personal time about my personal life.  Professionally, however, I have been blogging for over two years.  Perhaps that’s how I first got bitten by the ‘writing bug.’

I work for a small community Museum, and we maintain a blog also hosted here on WordPress.  Somehow, over the 4+ years I’ve been working at this site I love, I have become, among other things, a social media co-ordinator, and the blog maintenance falls to me.  We have a monthly feature looking at newspaper headlines from years ago, we have students throughout the year who help share their experiences at the Museum, and we have dozens of previously written historical articles that make for perfect blog content.  But, every so often, original content needs to be written, and I happy sit, research, and write.  I studied history in school, so writing new posts for the blog brings be back to those days when I was writing dozens of essays for my various classes.  This time, it’s better because I’m not stressing about what grade the writing will get.  I write for the sheer enjoyment of writing about topics I am truly passionate about.

My WordPress reader really is a funny space because it is a great mixture of knitting and handicraft blogs to history and museum blogs, very aptly reflective of my life and interests.  I loved writing my post about the Sontag because it combined my love of research and knitting, and it’s made me want to find more historical patterns to knit and learn more about.  The Sontag is still on my needles, but I’m nearing the finish line!  Once it’s finished, I’ll share pictures of the finished object, along with me in my Victorian finest!

Friday Night at the Museum

Music, drinks, food, and dinosaurs.  Yup, dinosaurs.  Just a typical night at the Royal Ontario Museum for their popular Friday Night Live series.  This is how I spent last Friday night, with close friends and my sister, to celebrate her birthday.  This popular event runs every Friday night for a two month period, and it is amazing to see the hallowed halls of a museum being transformed into areas for bands, conversations, and good food.  The inner museum person in me has little panic attacks when I think about food/drinks in gallery space (eek! Think of the pest possibilities!!), but it really is great to see that a museum is THE place to be on a Friday night.

Drinks... in museum galleries... pl;ease pardon my panic attack!
Drinks… in museum galleries… please pardon my panic attack!

Growing up in Ontario, the ROM was one of the places that you visited with family and on school trips. I think my earliest memory of the Museum was the old dinosaur gallery, before the ROM Renaissance of the 2000s.  It was dark, and there were really big bones.  Child of the 80s, The Land Before Time was a staple, and I remember thinking how cool it was to see a ‘Sharp Tooth’ in real life.  We visited sporadically before I started high school, but then it was years before I returned, after the installation of the ever contentious Michael Lee Chin Crystal (side note: I like the Crystal).

Visiting the ROM, you can wander and see their paleontological collections, natural history collections, and galleries showcasing Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, China, Japan, Africa, Europe, along with their textiles and mineralogy collections, which is one of my favourites.  I’m such a girl: I like shiny things.  Off the main rotunda, you can find their Canada Gallery, showcasing art, furniture, and artifacts which are significant to our country.  This is my favourite gallery, and I’m always sure to visit my favourite artifact, their Rebellion Box.  I see it, geek out, then move along.

Hello Rebellion Box
Hello Rebellion Box

While it’s wonderful to view objects from cultures from around the world, the one area that I feel the ROM leaves me wanting is a gallery outlining more of our own history.  Yes, there is the Canada Gallery, but even that gallery leaves me wanting.  This past Fall, I visited Quebec City, and I fell in love.  The history, the architecture, the culture, the museums.  The Quebecois people know how to tell their story.  In the musée de la civilisation, one of their permanent galleries is Le Temps des Québécois, and it outlines the 400+ years of history that the Province of Quebec has.  I was fascinated.  I am a History and Canadian Studies major, so I’m familiar with the history, but museums give the opportunity to educate and showcase, and the musée de la civilisation did just this.

In my humble opinion, the provincial story in Ontario is not being adequately told.  The Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau tells the national story and city/municipal museums tell the story of their own communities, but the history of Ontario is somehow lost in the shuffle.  I would love to see an exhibition showcasing the history of the province, from the earliest First Nation inhabitants, to its creation, struggles, expansions, and how it has become the most populous province in the country.  How did Ontarians react to the World Wars? Why did they react this way? How about the Upper Canada Rebellion, what happened there?  From farms to cities, the north to our border with the US, there is a story waiting to be told.  This is what the musée de la civilisation did for the history of Quebec, and wouldn’t the Royal Ontario Museum be the ideal place to showcase the history of this province?

Until that day, I will continue to visit the ROM, look at cultural materials from around the world, wonder at pre-historic giants that roamed the earth, and visit my beloved Rebellion Box.

FNL at the ROM
FNL at the ROM