Museum Month: Visit our Neighbourhood Museums

In celebration of Museum Month, we’re shining a spotlight on the other galleries and museums around Oshawa and the Durham Region.

The Whitby Station Gallery and the Visual Arts Centre of Clarington also play important roles in the cultural community of Durham Region. The Oshawa Community Museum and Archives(OCMA), Parkwood Estate, the Canadian Automotive Museum and the Ontario Regiment RCAC Museum are sharing the cultural history of Durham Region.

The Oshawa Community Museum and Archives:


Oshawa Community Museum and Archives, Guy House.
Photo courtesy of the OCMA

The Oshawa Community Museum and Archives works to preserve and present Oshawa’s history and help the public better understand and appreciate the City’s heritage. The OCMA tells Oshawa’s story from the first native settlements and to the present day.

The OCMA holds a photograph collection from Thomas Bouckley, artifacts from the Henry, Robinson and Guy families, a medical instrument collection and vast artifact and photograph collection showing historic Oshawa. The Oshawa Historical Society administers the OCMA to ensure all funding received from the City of Oshawa goes to support the operation and administration of the OCMA.

The OCMA is a leader in promoting Oshawa’s history and connecting people and communities with their past. Now that the weather has gotten nicer the Heritage Gardens are perfect place to go to enjoy the history behind some of Oshawa.

Parkwood Estate:


Parkwood Estate, Oshawa.
Photo courtesy of Parkwood Estates.

Parkwood Estate is a mansion located in the heart of Oshawa, decorated in classic period representation of the early 20th century design. The rooms are made to highlight the lifestyle of a wealthy family and their guests. The collection is so complete it gives an impression that the family still lives there!

In 1915, the McLaughlin family had gained notability and achieved “First Family” status in Oshawa. They purchased Prospect Park to be the site of their new home, Parkwood Estate. The mansion was designed by Darling and Pearson, a team of architects who had a large influence on Canadian institutional architecture. The mansion began construction in 1915 and finished in 1917.

The gardens around the house provide an elaborate distraction for families and visitors to the estate. Parkwood Estate offers an opportunity to see the last and finest remaining residential gardens designed by Harries & Hall, Dunington-Grubb and John Lyle.

Whitby Station Gallery:

Whitby Station Gallery

Train car outside the Whitby Station Gallery.
Photo courtesy of the Whitby Station Gallery.

The Whitby Station Gallery started as a community gallery run by a group of art enthusiasts in Whitby as Whitby Arts Incorporated. The group, along with benefactors and supporters, purchased Whitby’s Grand Trunk Railway Station in 1969. The station was set to be demolished, but the purchase by the group saved the building and it was moved in 1970 and given the name Whitby Station Gallery.

The gallery’s permanent collection houses more than 300 original pieces, including works by Anne Meredith Barry, David Blackwood and Kim Ondaatje. The gallery is also about to start its SG Pop-up Studio, which brings free art experiences to events in the community. The events start on the weekend of May 14 at the Food Truck Frenzy in the Iroquois Park Sports Centre and Artfest on the Esplanade in Pickering.

Visual Arts Centre of Clarington:


The original Mill that was later turned into the Visual Arts Centre.
Photo courtesy of the VAC.

In 1973, the town of Bowmanville purchased the Mill, a historic landmark of Bowmanville with rich history, and council agreed to turn the building into a Visual Arts Centre (VAC). Mills were seen as a life source for towns in the past, and now that hasn’t changed, except the type of life it brings to the town. The VAC still brings life to the community in the form of art, something that most people didn’t have the luxury in taking part of in the past.

The VAC of Clarington is located along Soper Creek, along a path through the Rotary Centennial Gardens and along the Soper Valley. The VAC is currently exhibiting Maralynn Cherry’s Water Stations (a pilgrimage). Cherry is a non-status indigenous artists of Odawa heritage.

Ontario Regiment RCAC Museum:

CVRT Scorpion

A CVRT Scorpion on display at the Ontario Regiment RCAC Museum.
Photo courtesy of the Ontario Regiment RCAC Museum.

The Ontario Regiment RCAC Museum is home to Canada’s largest collection of operational military vehicles. They host a program called ‘Tank Sundays’ which lets visitors of all ages experience the world of tanks first hand.

The museum also hosts a static display to display their collection, including medals, manuscripts, photos, uniforms and more. The display tells the story of the Ontario Regiments 150 year history, spanning through the World Wars, the Cold War and modern times. The museum also focuses on the Militia’s evolution from the early 19th century, while highlighting the historical relationship between the industrial development of Oshawa, General Motors, and the Regiment.

Canadian Automotive Museum:


The historic Canadian Automotive Museum.
Photo courtesy of the CAM.

The Canadian Automotive Museum maintains a former car dealership from 1921 at 99 Simcoe St. South. While the main floor holds mostly European vehicles, the second floor keeps the history of automotive manufacturing in Canada. The museum is also home to an extensive library, and a lot for drive-ins and car shows.

The CAM currently has the European Masterpieces from the McDougald Collection on display on the main floor and the Cars Built in Canada – 1900-1980 exhibit on the second floor. Also the exhibit A Rolls-Royce for Royalty: Canadian Aristocracy after the Great War opened on May 5. The exhibit shows the story behind the 1914 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, the vehicle Edward, Prince of Wales used during his 1919 Royal Tour of Canada.

National Museum Month is Here

The month of May hosts the celebration of the Ontario Museum Association’s Museum Month, with International Museum Day falling on May 18. This special celebration happens every year around the world and the International Council of Museums coordinates the day. Each year is home to a theme for International Museum Day, this year is museums and cultural landscapes.

We will be celebrating International Museums Day with a special mid-day tour of the gallery with our Senior Curator, Linda Jansma. The tour will give you a look at the permanent collection and the architecture behind the building, designed by Arthur Erickson. The tour is on May 18, drop in at noon to learn more about the Gallery

Linda leads a tour

Linda Jansma leads a tour of The Other NFB at an RMG Friday

According to the OMA, Museum Month celebrates Ontario’s museums and history. The RMG will be giving you a look into the history of the building, as well as its cultural background and connection to the group of artists known as the Painters Eleven.


The Robert McLaughlin Gallery exterior. Photo by Michael Cullen

The RMG is one of Oshawa’s cultural landmarks and it stands as the largest gallery in Durham Region with 36,000 square feet of notable Arthur Erickson architecture. We feature a permanent collection of over 4,500 works and five galleries of contemporary and historical exhibitions. Among the permanent collection, the RMG has the largest holding of works by the Painters Eleven. The Thomas Bouckley Collection is an archival record of over 3,000 photos of Oshawa and Durham Region, giving a look into the local history of our community.

The RMG circa 1970's

The Robert McLaughlin Gallery circa 1970’s

The RMG was founded in 1967 when Ewart McLaughlin and his wife Margaret, also known as Alexandra Luke the painter, saw a need for a permanent space for the arts. An exhibition of local artists held by Oshawa designer William Caldwell piqued the interest of the McLaughlin’s and spawned their idea for an expanded public art gallery.

The gallery took the name of Robert after Ewart McLaughlin’s grandfather, founder of The McLaughlin Carriage Company. Isabel McLaughlin joined the gallery as a life-long patron who provided generous financial support and gifts of over 100 Canadian and international works.

General Motors Strike, 1937

General Motors Strike, 1937

The RMG is also home to a large collection of archival photos from historic Oshawa and surrounding region. We received the Thomas Bouckley Collection from Thomas Bouckley, collector and history enthusiast of Oshawa. The computerized collection has over 3,000 photographs of historic Oshawa and Durham Region for over 100 years. The collection is a remarkable resource in understanding the past and engaging with the local history surrounding Oshawa.

Painters Eleven

Douglas Coupland Group Portrait 1957, 2011

The group, now known as Painters Eleven, first met each other at an exhibition of abstract and non-objective paintings held by Simpson’s Department store in Toronto. The exhibition, Abstracts at Home, only had seven participants: Jack Bush, Oscar Cahén, Tom Hodgson, Alexandra Luke, Ray Mead, Kazuo Nakamura and William Ronald. The additional four artists: Jock Macdonald, Harold Town, Walter Yarwood and Hortense Gordon met with the former seven artists to discuss becoming a group of artists. The eleven artists came together for the first time under the name of Painters Eleven at an exhibition in February of 1954 at the Roberts Gallery in Toronto.

The RMG proudly holds Canada’s largest collection of works by Painters Eleven, primarily as a result of significant donations to the permanent collection from Alexandra Luke. At least eleven of these works are on display at all times in our Painters Eleven gallery.

Isabel McLaughlin

Isabel McLaughlin

We are also celebrating important founders and influences of the gallery this month like Isabel McLaughlin and Aleen Aked.

Isabel McLaughlin was born in Oshawa, growing up in Parkwood Estate, but later moved to Toronto. She was the third daughter of Colonel Robert Samuel McLaughlin, president of General Motors from 1918 to 1945. McLaughlin is considered one of Canada’s most important modernist painters.

McLaughlin had a strong background in the arts with an excellent education. She studied in Paris, at the Ontario College of Arts under Arthur Lismer, at the Arts Student’s League in Toronto, and the Scandinavian Academy in Paris. She contributed to some Group of Seven exhibits, who had a large influence on her, and she later became a founding member of the Canadian Group of Painters after the Group of Seven disbanded.

Isabel has made large donations of artwork and books from her personal collection to the RMG and the RMG Library, as well as substantial monetary donations to help expand the gallery building and programs.

photo of Aleen Aked

Aleen Aked

Elizabeth Aleen Aked was an accomplished artist and had a strong sense for the history and culture in the places she lived. Throughout her life, Aked maintained a rigorous practice for painting which let her expand her reach throughout North America.

Aked’s last important art exhibition was held at the RMG in 1989. She later died in 2003, but left a generous portion of her legacy as a gift to the RMG. Aked’s legacy to the gallery, called the Aked Endowment, permits exciting initiative for education and outreach, notably the Imagination Station for children.

To learn more about the gallery, join us for a special International Museums Day tour with Senior Curator Linda Jansma on May 18 at noon.