Get to Know Us – Sonya Jones, Associate Curator and Curator of the Thomas Bouckley Collection

At the RMG, we often get asked about what we do each day, how we got into the crazy museum world and also what skills would be needed to do our jobs. With graduation looming for many college and university students, we will be profiling members of our team to shed some light on what it is we do behind the scenes!

museum week

The RMG: What’s a typical day like for you?

Sonya Jones: What’s nice about having 2 titles and varied responsibilities is that no day is the same as the other! It’s refreshing to be able to wear many different hats doing what you love. Right now, I’m busy doing lots of studio visits, writing and prepping for the upcoming Jay Dart exhibition, working with a co-op student, volunteers and an intern, and trying to get everything for the next year in order (since I’m going on maternity leave in July). Some of my typical responsibilities are: curating contemporary art and historical photography exhibitions, collections management for all of our collections (permanent collection, Thomas Bouckley Collection, Library/Archives), managing and administrating our three collection databases, managing copyright and reproduction, facilitating art loans, and creating and implementing public programming activities.

sonya and friends

RMG: How did you get into this field?

SJ: I originally went to Carleton University to study Journalism; however, all of my electives were art history courses. At one point near the end of my first semester of first year, I realized that I was putting all of my time and energy into my art history courses rather than on my major! Having grown up in a family who collected art, with my grandma and mom volunteering at the Burnaby Art Gallery, I was always exposed to art and galleries in general. I decided to switch my major in second year to Art History, and soon got a part time job at the Carleton University Art Gallery. This job opened many doors for me—whether inspiring me to pursue a career in an art gallery or giving me wonderful networking opportunities. It was a dream student job!

I did a practicum at the National Gallery of Canada in my third year, and after I graduated I got a job at the Canadian Heritage Information Network as a project assistant for an online new media art website. I later completed the Fleming College Museum Management and Curatorship program where I learnt many hands on collections management skills. During this program, I completed my full time summer internship at the RMG. It was hands down the best part of the program! Following my internship I worked for 3 years for a historical Canadian art dealer in Toronto until a job at the RMG was posted. I was absolutely thrilled when I was hired!


RMG: What skills or training do you need for your job?

SJ: Having a lot of experience in the field helped me get to where I am. Education is important too, but experience is key. I was also lucky enough to meet the right people and network a lot. Having an art history degree is useful for curating, and having museum studies for collections management is also helpful.

RMG: What’s your favourite part of your job?

SJ: Curating and working with artists! Also, I love connecting the community with its history and finding ways to interpret art or history in engaging and accessible ways.

Sonya and Toni

RMG: What are 5 things you couldn’t live without in your job?

SJ: There’s so many but here’s my top five:

  • RMG Staff – what a team we have here! It’s such a pleasure working with the amazingly creative and talented staff.
  • Computer – I use it all the time, whether doing online research, managing the databases, emailing, writing essays etc.
  • Outlook planner – Keeps me organized and tells me when I need to be somewhere!
  • Scanner – I’m constantly scanning/digitizing historical images, documents etc.
  • Permanent Collection – It’s a treat having access to the vault and getting to work with the amazing RMG collection.

RMG: What do you get up to outside of the RMG?

SJ: I’m a mom of a 2 year old so my days are busy! We spend a lot of time outside at my parents beautiful property, visiting with friends, and are currently getting ready to move! It’s a busy time for the growing Jones’ family!


Their Stories: Final Stories

For the last blog posting featuring three Their Stories submissions, it includes 2 of the most popular portrait subjects. In choosing the unidentified portraits that would be the options, I was looking for ones that were intriguing or suggested a narrative. I was at times surprised at the amount of submissions received for some portraits while others weren’t as popular, which just goes to show that the process is very subjective. Everybody is going to relate to a portrait differently depending on their own experiences. Thanks once again to everyone that participated! – Sonya Jones, Associate Curator and Curator of the Thomas Bouckley Collection


Portrait 2:


This 1921 picture of Roderick, shows him recently arrived from England, where he was an avid cricket player.

Here he always chose to wear the post game attire typical of a gentleman; he eschewed clothes that made him look scruffy. Always the gentleman.

Roderick was a triplet in an age when these family birth groupings were a relative oddity in the pre invitrio fertilization age. Rodney and Rupert remained in England.

Roderick first stayed at the Queens Hotel in Oshawa.   No records of just how long he chose to live here are to be found.

Queens Hotel, Oshawa

Queens Hotel, Oshawa

Now in Canada, Roderick chose to try tennis and to continue to wear the post game attire. He was not stodgy per se, but he did have personal standards.

Along with tennis, he decided to give sailing a go, and revive a passion long ago put aside.

The oval picture lends a sense of formality to Roderick and it quietly pleased him.

I wonder who “my Roderick” really was, and what was his real story

By: Donna George
Portrait 2

Daniel Underhill

If you were to ask any resident of Hampton, Ontario, what they thought of Daniel Underhill, you would always hear the same thing: “A nice lad. A bit slow, but he means well”. Raised by his doting mother and stern father, Daniel was the second of three sons, and by all accounts, the least impressive. His older brother, Richard, was an athlete without equal in the small town, breaking school and regional records in most disciplines of track and field. Steven, the youngest, was as brilliant a scholar as Richard was a sportsman. Following in his father’s footsteps, the boy courted the world of academia, becoming a lawyer, and eventually a judge. Daniel, on the other hand, stuck out by not being extraordinary at all. Awkward and uncoordinated in athletics, and more than a little slow in school, the poor boy was often ridiculed for his inability to step from behind the shadows of his far more successful kin. A constant headache to his father and an embarrassment to his brothers, Daniel felt most at home in the company of his loving mother, the only person who truly understood him. A kind boy, Daniel was happiest making others smile.

By: Spencer Baron


Portrait 1

vintage portrait

Unidentified Portrait from the Thomas Bouckley Collection. Collection of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery.


He was a farm boy, resigned to stay in Columbus for all his days. He was never a wanderer; his younger years were filled with hot summer days in the fields, and cold winters in the kitchen by the fire. A trip to the Falls changed him. At sixteen, in search of a thrill, he set forth to conquer Niagara. The traveller—he boarded a westbound train at Oshawa with a roundtrip ticket in the pocket of his shirt. It was four years before he returned to the farm to console his father, and grieve his mother. Wanderlust, he spent his mornings on Clifton Hill, spinning mystical tales of adventure to wide-eyed people, and his afternoons on the water, amid the shadow of the mist. In 1922 he followed the tourist boom south to the Florida Keys. Land speculator by day—drinker, talker, and dreamer by night. A tycoon by forty, he lost it all in the crash. He made the trek home to Columbus, riding the rails with the rest. A farmer by day, a writer by night. He settled into his life, welcoming the pace of a place set apart from the rapid changes of a new age.

By: Amanda Robinson

Their Stories post featuring two creative dating profiles!

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, this week’s Their Stories post features two dating profiles that end up a perfect match. Love is in the air!

vintage portrait

Unidentified Portrait from the Thomas Bouckley Collection. Collection of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery.

Portrait #1

Photo received by Matchmaker Dolly, with completed application as follows:

Name: Donald Bence Arthur

Age: 57

Height: 5’ 5”

Weight: 168 lbs.

Hair: mostly brown

Eyes: depends on shirt colour; sometimes green, sometimes blue

Background: Scottish/Hungarian

Occupation: semi-retired shoemaker with small mobile unit (pulled behind bicycle from town to town)

Hobbies: baking, alpine gardening and painting en plein air, mostly chimneys in winter… but also fences, (any season for the right price)

Favourite Sports: ribbon dancing, competitive whistling and caber toss

Best Attribute: a natty collection of footwear

Worst Attribute: cigar breath has occasionally been mentioned

Views on Children: don’t mind as long as it’s from a great distance

Spiritual Beliefs: I would prefer not to be matched with anyone who owns a ouija board.


vintage photo

Unidentified Portrait from the Thomas Bouckley Collection

Dolly matched Donald with Portrait #9.

Name: Eleanor Mondegreen

Age: 65

Height: 4” 1” (seated), 5’ 3” (upright)

Weight: (including boned corset, petticoats, bloomers, woolen dress with brass buttons) 180 lbs. (buck naked, 135)

Hair: yes

Eyes: not bad, getting harder and harder to read in dim lighting

Background: actually, just an old bedspread the photographer hung up

Occupation: proud nurse with the VON for decades until a terrible ruckus, fisticuffs really, with a patient who disputed my insistence that the hymn ‘Keep Thou My Way’ contained the phrase “gladly, the cross-eyed bear”.

Hobbies: tatting

Favourite Sports: darts

Best Attribute: a sense of whimsy

Worst Attribute: cannot keep a secret for love nor money

Views on Children: it’s all a backward glance at this point

Spiritual Beliefs: I would prefer not to be matched with anyone who owns a ouija board.


Follow-up Notes:

Three years after their marriage, Donald became fully retired by which time Eleanor had tatted herself a 20th century wardrobe. They lived long and happily. Dolly’s greatest success story.


By: Carin Makuz

Unidentified Portrait #1 – Story by Mat Calverley

This past fall, I put a call out to the community to submit creative writing entries to accompany unidentified portraits in The Thomas Bouckley Collection. With ten portraits to choose from, submissions included diary entries, letters, short stories, poetry and even a dating profile. I was so pleased with the number we received and the quality! The project resulted in an exhibition that is currently on display at the RMG until May 1st. Due to spatial restrictions, I wasn’t able to include all of the submissions, however, I will be posting two additional stories each week on the blog for all to enjoy. A huge thank you to everyone who participated!

On April 7th, join us for an evening with the Durham Folklore Storytellers. Using the submissions to the Their Stories exhibition as inspiration, the Durham Folklore Storytellers will take listeners on a journey to imagine the lives of these unidentified people.

– Sonya Jones, Associate Curator


Portrait #1

My dearest Emma,

If you receive this then my greatest work has failed. At dawn this morning I set out to walk across the Niagara Gorge. I hoped to do it until I break the record for fastest crossing. Even my friends think me crazy. They say “Cliff, why would a man who works off the ground want to spend his free time there”. Tell them I did this because I want to meet the sky on my terms.

I have been preparing for this my whole life. As a boy I there was no tree in all of Simcoe country that I could not climb. Working on chimneys and steeples seemed like the logical career. But over time, that place that I loved became only a place where I worked. I see Toronto now- a city that defies our limitations- and want to feel the freedom that that city must feel.

I do not expect to make money off of this endeavour. But then it would not be a labour of love. I hope that this letter will never be delivered; but if it must, I need you to understand why I stepped out this morning.

With love,



By: Mat Calverley

The Curator’s View: Thomas Bouckley Collection, World War One

This post comes from the desk of Megan White, Assistant Curator. 

New to the RMG and to Oshawa, for the past couple of months I have been learning more and more about the history of the city as Curator of the Thomas Bouckley Collection. With more than 4000 photographs in the collection, the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” certainly rings true, with each image acting as a storyteller of Oshawa’s past.

Doing research for upcoming exhibitions can, at times, take me to some pretty unusual places. One lesson that I’ve learned from my most recent research project is that when someone asks you “Would you like to go for a ride in this tank?” the answer should always be yes. Working at an art gallery, it’s not every day that I get to climb inside a large Sherman tank from WW2 or go for a ride in an M113 A1 APC tank, but when the opportunity presented itself on a recent trip to the Ontario Regiment Museum, I couldn’t say no.

This spring, I have been delving into the history of Oshawa during World War One–the topic of the upcoming Thomas Bouckley exhibition, opening in early September. We have a large collection of photographs taken between 1914-1919, demonstrating what Oshawa was like during the War. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, this exhibition is part of a partnership between the RMG, the Oshawa Community Museum, the City of Oshawa, the Ontario Regiment Museum, the Oshawa Public Libraries, Trent University, Heritage Oshawa and Rogers TV. This partnership provides educational programming throughout the year, to build awareness of the significance of the First World War in Oshawa.

Soldiers at Grand Trunk Railway Station, 1915  The Thomas Bouckley Collection, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa

Soldiers at Grand Trunk Railway Station, 1915
The Thomas Bouckley Collection, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa


Commanding Officer Addressing Battalion, 1916  The Thomas Bouckley Collection, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa

Commanding Officer Addressing Battalion, 1916
The Thomas Bouckley Collection, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa

The best way to gather as much information about this piece of Oshawa’s history was to utilize resources outside of the Bouckley Collection and turn to other institutions in Oshawa as a way of enhancing my research. That took me to the Oshawa Community Museum where I sifted through archival documents about Oshawa’s 116th Battalion, read newspapers from 1916, as well as to the Ontario Regiment Museum for a tour of their newly renovated building filled with interesting artifacts and photographs.

This is perhaps one of the best perks of working in the arts/culture/heritage sector–having access to such fascinating pieces of history and learning from other museums (not to mention always getting the best behind-the-scenes tours). It just doesn’t get much better than the wind whipping through your hair as you roll over a muddy field in a tank.

If you would like to see a tank in action, the Ontario Regiment Museum holds demonstrations once a month at their location at 1000 Stevenson Road North, Oshawa. Click here to read more.

For more information about upcoming WWI events and lectures through 2014, visit

The Curator’s View: Oshawa Show and Shine

This post comes from Sonya Jones, Assistant Curator and Curator of The Thomas Bouckley Collection.

Every Wednesday evening during the summer months in Oshawa, the downtown hosts Show and Shine, where local car enthusiasts display their vehicles and gather to interact. In the past, it has been located at the Queen’s Market but this year it is in the civic parking lot just north of the RMG. The RMG is excited to be right next door and have changed our extended hours to Wednesday nights, instead of Thursdays, to welcome Show and Shine visitors to the gallery. To compliment this summer event, a Thomas Bouckley Collection exhibition on the automotive history of Oshawa is being featured in the E.P. Taylor Gallery.

Composite photo of Robert McLaughlin and his two sons, Robert Samuel and George W, both of who played significant role in bringing the carriage business into the automotive business. 1898

Composite photo of Robert McLaughlin and his two sons, Robert Samuel and George W, both of who played significant role in bringing the carriage business into the automotive business. 1898

The Thomas Bouckley Collection contains a rich ensemble of photographs that tell the story of how the McLaughlin’s brought the auto industry to Oshawa. In 2008, my first year working at the gallery, the 100th anniversary of the McLaughlin Motorcar Company, and the release of the McLaughlin-Buick was celebrated. One of my first projects was a commemorative exhibition to coincide with the release of a Canada Post stamp highlighting Col. Sam McLaughlin’s contributions to the auto industry, for which the Thomas Bouckley Collection contributed images.

McLaughlin Carriage Co. and Motorcar Co. employees at the Richmond and Mary Street plant, 1908

McLaughlin Carriage Co. and Motorcar Co. employees at the Richmond and Mary Street plant, 1908

With the state of the auto industry today, it is important to once again look back on the history and relevance of the industry to this community. The struggles and uncertainty of Oshawa’s General Motors of Canada was outlined in a Globe and Mail article this weekend, GM Canada’s Foggy Road Ahead. As much as we are reminded about the importance of the industry to the community’s current economy, historically, the industry played a key role to the growth and success of Oshawa.  Like the commemorative stamp, the photographs in this summer’s exhibition, Oshawa’s Automotive History, remind us of Col. Sam McLaughlin’s contributions to the auto industry and his endless generosity to Oshawa.

McLaughlin-Buick down at the lake, c. 1915

McLaughlin-Buick down at the lake, c. 1915

On view until the end of August, this exhibition celebrates Oshawa’s long connection to the auto industry and the people who made it happen.

The Curator’s View: Oshawa Then and Now

This post comes from Sonya Jones, Curator of The Thomas Bouckley Collection.

Recently the Toronto Star published an article called “Oshawa: the GTA’s final frontier for development”, which details how and why Oshawa has grown and changed so much in the last ten years. The change in economy from reliance on the auto industry to becoming a knowledge economy, through four universities, as well as Durham College, is credited as being the reason why more and more developers are seeing Oshawa’s potential. Exploring how much Oshawa has changed since it was first founded has always been a priority of the Thomas Bouckley Collection. Starting with Bouckley’s vision for documenting his changing city, to continuing that tradition through Then and Now projects, the collection visually tells Oshawa’s story. In continuation of the Then and Now series, the RMG has once again partnered with the Oshawa Senior Citizens’ Camera Club to show the area of Oshawa that perhaps has seen the most changes: the downtown.

From its humble beginnings as a small settlement community to that of a large metropolitan city, Oshawa grew out of the intersection of King and Simcoe Streets known as the “Four Corners,” expanding and growing on all sides.

Similar to the Then and Now: Oshawa Creek project, members of the Oshawa Senior Citizens’ Camera Club used historical images from the Thomas Bouckley Collection as a starting point, and photographed the Four Corners as it appears today. This exhibition of side-by-side historical and contemporary photographs is also accompanied by a short video created by the club on the subject. On view until August 29, this exhibition celebrates our changing city!

Details about this exhibition on our website: click here.

Vintage Oshawa: Summer in the City

This blog post comes from the desk of Sonya Jones, our Assistant Curator and Curator of the Thomas Bouckley Collection.

Spring has sprung and summer is almost here! In the winter, it can be easy to go into hibernation, whereas the summer is a time to get outside for adventures and build memories. The days are longer and the weather warmer, allowing you to spend as much time as possible outside. For me it represents gardening, patios, hiking, and most importantly, vacation. Some of the best summer vacations can be “stay-cations,” where you spend your holiday at home taking full advantage of your backyard and seeing what your city/town has to offer. The Thomas Bouckley Collection contains many images showing summer’s past in Oshawa, including historical residents cooling off in the lake, relaxing, playing outdoor games, and generally basking in the sun. The images celebrate summers experienced in Oshawa and capture the spirit of the season.

Oshawa-on-the-Lake, 1915

Oshawa-on-the-Lake, 1915

With this in mind, we have launched our Vintage Oshawa: Summer in the City project. Each week summer images from the Thomas Bouckley Collection will be posted to our tumblr page (click here) so be sure to bookmark it!

Not only do we want to feature images from the collection in this online exhibition, but we also want to represent the city, past and present, by having the community post their own images of Oshawa in the summer. This could be anything from recent family barbecues in the backyard to swimming lessons at Rotary Park. How do you like to spend the summer in Oshawa? What are some of your favourite hot spots?

Sonya in the Oshawa Valley Botanical Gardens

Sonya in the Oshawa Valley Botanical Gardens

One place I visit on my lunch breaks in the summer is the beautiful Oshawa Valley Botanical Gardens.

It’s easy to submit your photos or videos to this online exhibition. Be sure to include information about the images, such as a story, where it was taken, and the approximate date. Let’s celebrate summer and revel in memories built in Oshawa.

Help us create a visual history of summers in the city!

Click to visit

The Curator’s View: International Museum Day

The Curator’s View comes from the desk of Linda Jansma, Senior Curator at the RMG.

This Saturday, 18 May marks the 34th International Museum Day. The entire month is actually set aside as one in which we can celebrate our collective histories by sharing our heritages, cultures, ambitions and dreams through what’s being offered in museums, art galleries, heritage sites etc. throughout the world. This year, the RMG is one of over 30,000 museums in over 100 countries on five continents that will mark a day in which we examine our place within our community and how we can affect change through our exhibitions, programs, workshops, art classes, and concerts.

2013’s  theme, which is set by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) is

 Museums (Memory + Creativity) = Social Change

 ICOM states:

This truly optimistic theme in the form of an equation dynamically gathers several concepts that are essential to define what a museum is today, highlighting the universal nature of those institutions and their positive influence on society.


Currently, we have Richard Harrington: Arctic Photographer installed in our Alexandra Luke I Gallery space. Large-scale black and white photographs of Inuit from the 1950’s showing beautiful, yet, at times, disturbing images. Interestingly, these arresting photographs affected change once viewed in the south. Government assistance was initiated to help relieve some of the suffering that people in the North were experiencing at that time. Harrington, through his creativity, affected social change. The accompanying sculpture by Charlie Sivuarapik provides both critical context and dialogue between a non-Inuit photographer and an Inuit carver who mediates, on a much more personal level, his experience of the North.

Oshawa Art Association Opening

Oshawa Art Association Opening


In other spaces we share riches from our permanent collection, a collection that is held in trust for future generations. And in yet another gallery, we are hosting the annual juried exhibition of the Oshawa Art Association. 250 people crowded into the gallery on the opening evening to celebrate the talent found within our own community. And, of course, that’s not all—our Imagination Station, CONTACT photography festivalcontribution with the work of Tom Ridout, and collaboration with local seniors to produce an exhibition showing the intersection of our past and present that points towards our future.

Tour Group

Tour Group

As the Senior Curator of the RMG, I feel honoured to be part of a team that is passionate about sharing both Memories and Creativity through art, music, lectures, workshops, art classes, and more.

I hope you can join thousands who will walk into one of those 30,000 museums and galleries on Saturday. There is so much to celebrate!

Archives Awareness Week 2013

The Durham Region Area Archives Group is hosting a show and tell night on Wednesday, 3 April from 6:00pm-8:00pm at the Pickering Public Library. Libraries and archives from Durham Region will display and discuss strange and interesting items from their collections to celebrate Archives Awareness Week 2013. The objects on display will include a note signed by Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, magic lantern slides, Victorian era postmortem photography, a circus flea, Second World War shells from the DIL plant in Ajax, and a stunt book from a student at Ontario Ladies’ College.

Plane Crash at the Four Corners of Oshawa

Plane Crash at the Four Corners of Oshawa, 1918

The RMG’s Sonya Jones, Assistant Curator and Curator of The Thomas Bouckley Collection, and Barb Duff, Library Services Coordinator are preparing our contribution to the display. The RMG’s contribution will include various historical images of a famous plane crash at the Four Corners of Oshawa, Alexandra Luke’s and Aleen Aked’s painters boxes, Isabel McLaughlin’s Order of Canada and Order of Ontario and various other oddities from our archives!

Residents from Durham are invited to attend and bring with them interesting historical items from their personal collections. There will be a meet and greet following the presentations and refreshments will be provided.

The Durham Region Area Archives Group was formed in 2011 and is the newest chapter of the Archives Association of Ontario. Its members represent libraries, archives, and historical societies in Durham Region and surrounding areas.