St. Catharines Museum

1932 Welland Canals Pkwy.
St. Catharines, ON L2R 7K6

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The Museum Adventures of #FoundBunny
Posted Friday June 12, 2015 10:30 AM - Powell

Sometimes the most mysterious things can happen at a Museum. Who really knows what happens when curators and staff go home at night? Do the artifacts and dress forms come alive a la Night at the Museum?

We really don’t want to know the answer to that last question.

What we are really pondering is how a little white rabbit drew so much attention (and love) from our audiences via social media.

Bunny’s story is a sad one of circumstance. A few weeks ago, a family from Oshawa, visiting us over the weekend, left the Museum around closing time, forgetting poor Bunny in the Museum. When they realized what had happened, they zipped back to the Museum, but Museum staff had just closed up and Bunny was now stranded.

OK, ‘stranded’ is a tad dramatic. He had a couple of caring caregivers while he was here.

Our Museum Administrator, Karen, is very welcoming and her work area is already home to a few other left-behind toys and dolls. Molly, the Dolly, (who is actually or closely resembles Loonette from the ‘Big Comfy Couch’) the most famous of the collection, had her own stint of Museum exploration last year when she was left here. Unfortunately, Molly has never been collected.

Bunny’s arrival at the Museum came upon the heels of another lost bunny: the original #FoundBunny. Legend has it that #FoundBunny was lost at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History in Halifax sometime in March. The brilliant staff at the Museum started a social media campaign to help #FoundBunny get home. The campaign hilariously placed the brown rabbit with huge floppy ears in front of various exhibits. Traditional media picked up the story and had a lot of fun with it. Unfortunately, #FoundBunny has never been collected.

Daily Mail:



As soon as I was made aware of Bunny’s status as TBF (to be found), Karen and I, with the help of another Public Programmer, Kate, decided it would be a great idea to send Bunny on his own adventures around the St. Catharines Museum. We staged a few photos of Bunny watching a ship, Bunny with artifacts, Bunny in the collection, Bunny touching/using artifacts and even Bunny participating in some of the interactive components of our exhibit. After the photos were uploaded to social media, concern for Bunny took right off. 


Our social media audience and City Staff not based at the Museum were so enthusiastic about Bunny. One City Staff member even made a photo of Bunny her desktop background!

Bunny even earned himself a neat Jr. Firefighter Badge from a fan in Pennsylvania! We thought it was an appropriate award considering Bunny’s interest in our historic Steam Pumper.

All of that attention seemed to have worked as Bunny’s family visited again this weekend to come and collect him. His best friend, Aubrey, was very pleased to see him and they posed for a final photo in our Law & Order Exhibit. Such a happy ending! Fare thee well, Bunny! 

At the beginning of this little experiment, we had no idea what would become of it. After the initial photo-shoot was complete and most of the photos posted, I actually worried about what we would do next and what would happen if the campaign went viral.

While Bunny only gained a few interested fans – though some as far as Pennsylvania! – Bunny’s story is an interesting look at the use of social media in Museums. The best thing about Bunny was that it helped us engage with our audience who can tend to be a little shy when it comes to enthusiasm about our posted content. I was extremely happy with the first retweet and the first couple of shares but after a day or two, it was pretty obvious that we had not only caught the attention of our base and attracted new followers, but also extended a human/rabbit emotional connection that our audiences could easily identify with. That will help them to see us a human and valuable organization as a part of their community.

Who knew a little white plush Bunny could wield so much power?

Follow the hashtag #FoundBunny (who is still not found) on twitter.
Check out #stcmFoundBunny for more on Bunny’s adventures.

Adrian Petry is a public historian and the Public Programmer at the St. Catharines Museum & Welland Canals Centre.

Last Updated Friday June 12, 2015 10:51 AM - Powell
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Know Your Neighbours Part 19 - Dr. Lucius Oille
Posted Wednesday June 10, 2015 11:30 AM - Powell

Dr. Lucius Oille

Dr. Lucius Oille was born in 1830 and was one of St. Catharines most prominent citizens. He served as a member of City Council for several years before becoming Mayor in 1878. He was the second Mayor of the city and first Chairman of the Waterworks. After his initial term, he did not stand for re-election; however he continued to contribute to the city.

Oille was a physician and owned the first x-ray machine in St. Catharines. Dr. Oille was involved in dozens of city projects, such as the organization of the Niagara Central Railway and the city's first streetcar system. In 1878 Dr. Oille donated a fountain in front of the courthouse at the corner of King and James Street to the citizens of St. Catharines. He wanted to provide water to citizens who were shopping in the market square or  who had come downtown to work. Tin drinking cups were attached to the fountain by a chain so that people could use them to drink. Dr. Oille even thought of the animals as the fountain has a small basin at the bottom specifically for them. This gift marked the establishment of the city's waterworks system in 1875-1876.

Dr. Lucius Oille died on August 15, 1903.

An obituary from The St. Catharines Standard, August 15, 1903 included the following information:

Lucius Oille was predeceased by Oille, George, U. E. L. (father). He graduated from Toronto University with a B.A. in 1855 and an M. A. one year later. He graduated from medical School in 1859 with a Gold Medal. He was the only Gold Medalist Physician in St. Catharines.

Oille served as the Second Mayor of St. Catharines, after its incorporation as a city. After his retirement from this post he presented the city with its first public fountain which stands at the corner of King and James Streets.

He has been called the father of the Water works system. He was a member of the board of commissioners for 17 consecutive years.

He contributed significantly to the development of the railway in St. Catharines.

This series is written and compiled by Alicia Floyd, Collections Technician - Archival at the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre
Last Updated Wednesday August 26, 2015 1:37 PM - Powell
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Know Your Neighbours Part 18 - Harry Cavers
Posted Thursday June 4, 2015 9:30 AM - Powell

Honourable Harry Peter Cavers - Barrister, Judge and Member of Parliament for Lincoln
Canadian, 1909 - 1995

Harry P. Cavers was born in St. Catharines, the son of Harry A. and Laura Mabel Cavers on December 27th, 1909. He attended the St. Catharines Collegiate Institute and continued to study at the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall, graduating in 1935. He returned to St. Catharines and practiced law until joining the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve in World War II, where he rose to rank of lieutenant and served until 1945.

Following the war, he returned to practice law, and the firm Cavers, Chown and Cairns opened in 1957. Harry was appointed to county court judge for Dufferin County in 1964, and then as a supernumerary judge for St. Catharines until his retirement in 1984.

Judge Cavers served as Lincoln's Member of Parliament between 1949-1957. He was involved in several organizations during his lifetime, including the Masonic Lodge, the Royal Canadian Legion, and the St. Catharines Kiwanis Club. He married the former Dorothy Alma Bastedo, and they had one daughter together, Dorothy Anne. Harry died on December 12th, 1995 after a long illness.

This series is written and compiled by Alicia Floyd, Collections Technician - Archival at the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre

Last Updated Wednesday August 26, 2015 1:37 PM - Powell
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Know Your Neighbours Part 17 - Dr. Theophilus Mack
Posted Wednesday May 27, 2015 1:00 PM - Powell

Dr. Theophilus Mack
Canadian, Irish

Theophilus Mack immigrated to Canada in 1832 with his parents. His father had been a Minister of the Church of England. Mack was one of the first pupils of Upper Canada College.

During the rebellion of 1837-38, he was a lieutenant in the Provincial Navy.

Mack studied medicine in the Military Hospital at Amherstburg, graduating at Geneva College, New York in 1843. He obtained his provincial license in 1844 and settled in St. Catharines. He practiced medicine in St. Catharines and served as a professor of Materia Medica at the Buffalo Medical College.

Mack developed the St. Catharines mineral waters by founding Springbank as a thermal establishment consisting of a hotel and sanatorium in 1850. Mack was the first doctor in Canada West to specialize in the treatment of women’s' diseases. He was instrumental in establishing "The St. Catharines General and Marine Hospital" in 1865.

In 1873-74, he established the first "St. Catharines Training School and Nurses' Home" using the Florence Nightingale system. 

This series is written and compiled by Alicia Floyd, Collections Technician - Archival at the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre

Last Updated Wednesday August 26, 2015 1:36 PM - Powell
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Know Your Neighbours Part 16 - Josh Silburt
Posted Wednesday May 20, 2015 10:00 AM - Powell

The Colourful Life of Josh Silburt

Josh Silburt, born on July 24th, 1914, grew up in Winnipeg after his parents, Moshe and Sarah, fled forced conscription in Russia.

As Josh grew, his life became absorbed by three rather contradictory matters; the need to financially support his family, his desire to become an artist and his great interest in politics, all while trying to fit in as a Jewish immigrant.

As the eldest son, Josh was expected to help in the family harness making business beginning at age 13. When the business failed his parents became dependent on their four children for support. Josh left school in 1928 after finishing Grade 8 to work at the Great West Electric factory.

Although Josh worked very hard for his family, he did manage to obtain an education in art, including studying under Group of Seven member L.L. Fitzgerald, whose influence can be seen in his later artwork.

As a young struggling artist, Josh attempted to make a living through political cartooning. He got his start drawing for “The Daily Clarion” c. 1938 which was a communist newspaper. When the Communist Party of Canada was banned in 1940, the Daily Clarion was forced to close, however they continued under the name “The Canadian Tribune” which published Josh’s work from c. 1941-1950.

In the 1930’s Josh moved to Toronto to try to make a living as an artist. Initially his focus was on portrait art but found it did not provide enough income so he concentrated on freelance editorial cartooning from 1934-1936. Josh sold his drawings to the Toronto Globe and Mail, Toronto Telegram and Toronto Star Syndicate.

Josh accepted his first full time cartoonist job with the St. Catharines Standard in 1936. At this time Josh was engaged to Beth Rudney and between their two incomes, Josh was able to support his family’s move from Winnipeg to Toronto. Beth and Josh married on December 26th, 1936

Josh resigned from the Standard after one year, which forced him to focus on earning a better living. Josh joined a friend’s business called Seven Oaks Farm, however Josh did continue publishing cartoons.

Josh and Beth left the farm after Beth’s health failed having suffered several miscarriages.

Throughout all of these changes in Josh’s life, his interest in politics held strong.
He began by joining the Young Communist League (YCL) and continuously supported the Jewish Left throughout his life.

In 1943 Josh enlisted in the Canadian forces however he obtained compassionate leave for the birth of his first child, Phyllis in June 1944. He then reported for duty at Camp Borden. During this time he continued to draw freelance cartoons including war bond promotional materials, signing his work “Pte. Silburt.”

Soon after the war, Josh obtained a job at the Sydney Post Record in Sydney, Nova Scotia where he was paid $75.00 per week. Josh’s life continued to be immersed in political strife and in 1947 he and Beth returned to Toronto to join his family and once again work at Seven Oaks Farm. Josh’s last cartoon appeared in the Record on April 18, 1947. Josh then abandoned drawing completely for several years.

As time went on the family’s finances improved. Beth encouraged Josh to take up art again. Josh joined the Willowdale Group of Artists and over the next 35 years became focused on painting.

By the late 1960’s a number of galleries were showing Josh’s art and his first major show was held at Lillian Morrison Gallery in Toronto. Throughout the 1970’s his art was featured in gallery shows regularly.

In 1968 Josh was diagnosed with Diabetes. By his late 80’s his health was deteriorating, however he still painted feverishly, paying little attention to galleries and shows. Josh Silburt passed away on June 22, 1991.

For more information about Josh Silburt and to see some of his political cartoons, come check out the new exhibit:  "St. Catharines 1937:  A Snapshot in Caricature" located in the Burgoyne Room at the Museum.

This series is written and compiled by Alicia Floyd, Collections Technician - Archival at the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre
Last Updated Wednesday August 26, 2015 1:36 PM - Powell
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