Upcoming Archaeology Project!

  The class of 4AH3 is excited to announce that as the final project for our class, we are creating our own website dedicated to the intersections of society, politics and ethics in contemporary Canadian archaeological practice. Everyone in the class chose a topic that we were passionate about and created a research project we’d like to share with you!

 More than Bones: Canadian Perspectives on Archaeological Discourse

More than Bones: Canadian Perspectives on Archaeological Discourse

The site is currently under construction, but will be available for you to check out by April 19th!  Check it out at: http://anth4ah3.wix.com/morethanbones

In the meantime, want to find out a little more detail about the issues we feel are important in Canadian archaeology? We’ve made a video introducing ourselves and the topics we’re covering, watch it here: https://youtu.be/7wka3bfKCtk

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to comment down below or find us on twitter @Anthro4AH3.
Thanks for your time!

Visiting the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre

By Irina Stanciu-Casin

Having never been to a museum in Hamilton, I felt the need to do a little digging into the different sites available for visitation to get a good grasp of what Hamilton has to offer. I was entranced by the virtual tours offered on the city of Hamilton’s website used to advertise their civic museums and ended up looking through all of them relatively quickly.  Many sites will have to be put off until this following summer as they are only open seasonally, and the quantity of civic museums open year-round was limited.  I wondered if there were any additional heritage sites not advertised on the website’s museums link, and later ended up on a third party website (tourismhamilton.com) that had a longer list of Hamilton museums under their ‘What to do’ tab.  It was here that I found the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre (WAHC) and was intrigued by their approach to conveying the heritage of industrial workers who worked and died building the foundations of industry in Hamilton through the display of artifacts, modern art, and memorable events. I was confused as to why this museum was not advertised on the city of Hamilton’s website, despite its captivating subject matter, and decided to visit the museum in person in order to find out more.  This post will consist of an overview of my visit, a discussion on how the WAHC approaches heritage, and how they cater to various demographic groups.

The interior and exterior of the Custom House (above), the Shuttered exhibition (below).

My Visit

The museum was just a short bus ride from McMaster, tucked away in a family neighbourhood just 5 minutes from Jackson Square. The museum is located within an important heritage building, the Custom House, which was used in the 1800s to regulate trade into the Port of Hamilton. I quickly noticed that the exterior of the building was not equipped with a wheelchair accessible ramp, however once indoors I was immediately made aware of the building’s accessibility services including an elevator and ramp through the remainder of the stairs at the entrance. The friendly staff provided valuable information on their exhibits and noted that I am free to explore the museum at my leisure, though they do have guided tours for larger groups.

The WAHC has numerous permanent exhibits and one non-permanent exhibit which rotates every four months out of the year. Each exhibit I encountered had ample information either presented in a colourful fashion on the walls or through pamphlets that visitors were free to take home. The museum consisted of three floors, with the main floor being the primary attraction for visitors. Once I made my way upstairs and saw the final parts of the museum, I was met with warm smiles by the museums staff who answered any additional questions I had.

Heritage and the WAHC

Serving to preserve, honour, and promote the culture & history of all working people.  – WAHC

Initially investing over $1.5 million in the restoration of the Custom House in the late 1990s, the WAHC began as a private institution concerned with honouring and preserving the “the historical, cultural and contemporary experience of working people in their diverse identities” (WAHC Mission Statement). The WAHC managed to stay true to their mission statement despite limited funding from private donors and the city of Hamilton, by displaying contemporary art and material culture pertinent to the heritage of Hamilton Steel and industrial workers. Heritage, as defined through their exhibitions, is the acknowledgement of the past and present of Hamilton’s industrial workers, commemorating, and respecting those who worked, built, and died for the industry.

Various images of Steel workers and their families in the Shuttered exhibit.

The WAHC approaches the concept of Heritage at both the individual and societal level. Individuals from the past and present are represented through photographs in the main hall to create a continuum of cultural heritage for local steel workers, maintaining and displaying records of individuals who worked for or were influenced by the steel industry. The presence of contemporary photographers such as Andreas Rutkauskas in his project entitled ‘Petrolia’ notes the impact of industry at the societal level, looking at the intersection of industry and culture in Canada in the ‘Chemical Valley’. Rutkauskas’ series displays the dense social landscape of First Nations sites as they converge with abandoned chemical facilities. Finally, published newsletters and magazines for steel workers emphasise the lived experiences of steel workers and display pertinent information regarding the culture of the work experience in the steel industry.

One of two images by Andreas Rutkauskas in Petrolia
Company magazine: Steelmaker


As the WAHC is not part of the Hamilton civic museums, it lacks a virtual tour program online and must maintain its own website for tourists, donors, and others interested in the WAHC. The staff noted the WAHC’s reliance on private donors and the city of Hamilton for both financial support and museum content. The museum recently launched their first app available for Android and Apple named ‘Worker’s City’ for anyone interested in learning about “the streets, parks, factories, and neighbourhoods where Hamilton was made” (workerscity.ca/mobile-app).  Despite having a limited budget the WAHC has no entry fee, allowing anyone interested to pay a visit during open hours. Museum staff further noted that walk-in traffic is largely composed of local adults and they often host guided tours for school groups and social events for local workers, artists, and anyone interested. For instance, this march break, the WAHC is hosting a four day camp for children aged 8-12 to learn about the Custom House and the heritage of Hamilton’s workers.

In terms of the content, there exists variation in exhibition presentation that caters to both younger and older individuals. The “Shuttered” exhibition, housing contemporary artists for a limited time,  is a more mature subject where touching the exhibit is not permitted. Other aspects of the museum offer demonstrations on how knitting machines work, and allow visitors to touch and listen to industrial workers’ processes, such as using a conveyor belt. Varying forms of media are always used within the context of engaging and captivating guests of all ages in this museum, while staying true to their mission statement in creating awareness and honouring the hard work of the founders of the industry and all those who contributed to making Hamilton the city it is today.

Various exhibitions at the WAHC



Century Manor: Issues Surrounding the Preservation of Stigmatized Heritage


Hamilton is an area with a rich, dynamic history that the city is often eager to preserve and celebrate with its citizens. However, how does the treatment of heritage sites change when they reflect a darker chapter in our collective history? What is the danger in omitting uncomfortable truths?


For Century Mansion, the last remaining vestige of Hamilton’s Asylum for the Insane, the lack of attention paid by the city is immediately apparent. After you first notice the beautiful, if imposing, Victorian-era architecture, your eye is immediately drawn to the signs of neglect, be it the rusted staircases, the broken or boarded windows and the littering of graffiti around this historic building.

Built in 1876, the asylum’s original purpose was to house alcoholics but expanded to include the growing need to contain the mentally ill of Hamilton, with the criteria for “mental illness” often extending to groups of the population deemed undesirable. The residents of the asylum were considered popular entertainment, with families often gathering to watch the patients on Sundays, bringing picnics to the fields of the hospital.

The building has been in disuse since 1995, opening for a brief window for tours in 2009 as part of the Doors Open Hamilton initiative, only to be abruptly closed off after that. Hamilton’s municipal heritage committee has tried to appeal Infrastructure Ontario to enter Century Manor but the building has remained inaccessible to both the committee and the public since then, despite consistent interest. These actions have caused Patricia Saunders, a member of the task force to save Century Manor, to make accusations against the city for “demolition by neglect”.


Infrastructure Ontario has announced that they are putting the property up for sale, and must first be considered by the provincial, municipal and federal government, other government agencies, and registered not-for-profit group for public uses before it can be put on the open-market. While Core Urban Inc., a property development group who focus on repurposing local heritage sites, have expressed an interest in turning it into student housing for Mohawk College, I feel that this is an opportunity for the government to offer an authentic account of Ontario’s history and use it as a platform to show the developments that have been made.

In terms of the future purpose of Century Manor, advocates for the building, including the founder and owner of Haunted Hamilton, Stephanie Lechniak, believe that it is an ideal space to convert into a museum about the history of mental health treatment in Canada. Lechniak explains that there have been several important artifacts recovered from Century Manor, including actual equipment used in patient treatment dating back to the institution’s opening in 1876. These include surgical implements, handcuffs, wheelchairs, electroconvulsive therapy machines, a cold water dunk tank and a Utica crib, a coffin-like structure with a caged lid used to confine patients. The range of now discredited “cures” patients in Hamilton received, sometimes to treat conditions as dire as insomnia or being a woman who didn’t conform to societal standards, included hydrotherapy (ranging from being submerged in ice baths, being wrapped in layers of wet cloth for hours and using powerful hoses on patients), tractotomies (severing the nerve tracts of the brain, which was done without opening the skull to see the areas being operated on) and lobotomies (which entailed removing sections of the brains and was popularly performed with an actual icepick and without anesthesia). As discussed by journalist Joachim Brouwer, a museum focusing on the evolution of mental health practices could start important discourses on the historical stigmatization of mental illness, allow us to celebrate how far we have come and acknowledge the ground we still have to gain.


The move to transform Century Manor into a museum would coincide with the emerging movement to reclaim sites where systemic injustices took place to transform them into empowering, educational spaces. An example of this is Brantford’s restoration plans for the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School, which will be repurposed into a museum dedicated to educating the public about the historical context surrounding residential schools, the cruelty of the transgressions against the Indigenous children sent there and the ongoing damage these institutions have caused for Indigenous culture at large.

In short, while the government continues to neglect heritage sites that do not reflect the aspects of Canadian identity they want to celebrate, the public is beginning to demand a more complete narrative of the authentic experiences of all Canadians, including the often muffled voices of marginalized members of this country. Repurposing a landmark with a shameful past like Century Manor or the Mohawk Residential School into an educational tool would send a message to Canadians that we live in a country that is willing to own up to its past transgressions and learn from our mistakes moving forward.



Brouwer, Joachim 2014. Century Manor: A Grim Reminder. Thespec.Com. http://www.thespec.com/opinion-story/5179736-century-manor-a-grim-reminder/, accessed March 6 , 2016.

Craggs, Samantha 2014. No, You Can’t Come Inside Century Manor, Province Says. Cbc.Ca. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/news/no-you-can-t-come-inside-century-manor-province-says-1.2832976, accessed March 6 , 2016.

Cumerlato, Daniel. Century Manor Insane Asylum : Hamilton, Ontario. Ghostwalks.Com. http://www.ghostwalks.com/centurymanor-hamilton.htm, accessed March 6 , 2016.

Lechniak, Stephanie 2015. Historic Century Manor | Haunted Hamilton. Urbanicity. http://urbanicity.ca/2015/01/historic-century-manor-haunted-hamilton/, accessed March 6 , 2016.

Meskell, Lynn 2002. Negative Heritage And Past Mastering In Archaeology. Anthropological Quarterly 75(3). Johns Hopkins University Press: 557-574.

Nolan, Daniel 2015. Ontario Puts Hospital Land Up For Sale. Thespec.Com. http://www.thespec.com/news-story/5476830-ontario-puts-hospital-land-up-for-sale/, accessed March 6 , 2016.

Save Century Manor. Facebook.Com. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SaveCenturyManor#_=_, accessed March 6 , 2016.

Vincent, Donovan 2015. Aboriginals Push To Save Former Ontario Residential School Known As ‘Mush Hole’ | Toronto Star. Thestar.Com. http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/06/13/aboriginals-push-to-save-former-ontario-residential-school-known-as-mush-hole.html, accessed March 7 , 2016.



The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum – Preservation or Authenticity?


Image courtesy of Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum

Growing up I was always fascinated with anything that had a motor in it. I was constantly around vehicles and aircraft as both my father and my grandfather were and have been involved in both of these industries. I remember playing with various toys such as Hot Wheels and remote controlled airplanes as a child and partaking in airshow flights with family friends. As such when I was trying to decide on a heritage site in Hamilton to discuss, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum was at the top of the list.

Map Directions

Screenshot from Google Maps

The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum located in Hamilton (Mount Hope), Ontario is a museum that is dedicated to preserving the heritage and history of war aircraft and war in Canada and abroad. The Warplane Heritage Museum is mainly funded though community donations and by other donors who have helped work on the aircraft and who have donated various planes. Locating and getting to the museum is fairly easy as it is located right beside the John C. Munro airport on the Hamilton Mountain. Throughout its history the museum has gone through numerous changes and expansions that have molded it into the unique centre that it is today. As you arrive to the museum you are welcomed by a Lockheed CF-104D Starfighter that is on display outside of the museum. The plane is an iconic piece of Canadian war heritage that was one of the most innovative planes ever built. As you walk in the museum, it itself, is very accommodating in nature. Furthermore the museum offers free parking and has an overflow lot during large events or busy times. The museum is also laid out in a fairly accessible which allows guests with special needs to enjoy the museum in an interactive manner. Wheelchairs are also available free of charge at the guest services desk within the museum. When you first attempt to take in all the museum has to offer it can seem a little overwhelming at first. Thankfully the museum has guided tours that allow you to fully engage with and enjoy all of the different features and displays that are available to the public. The tour guides are very knowledgeable about the planes and the history behind them. I myself have been to the Canadian Warplane heritage museum numerous times and each time that I have been I learn something new that I did not know before. The gentlemen that gave the tour that our group was a part of was an actual mechanic and was able to explain the numerous aspects of each plane and was able to provide an in-depth history of the aircraft.

One of the interesting features of the museum is that there is a lot of preservation that takes place as many of the planes are used in historical displays and various other airshows. This is an interesting topic especially as it relates to several themes in this course that deal with preservation, heritage and portraying the past. On the one hand you have the issue of losing the authenticity associated with the original aircraft and how it is portrayed on the museum. On the other hand though you have the fact that the aircraft are also used to help support the museum and the aircraft need to be in working condition in order to run aircraft tours and flying events. These events and flying tours provide valuable funds to the museum that are required in order to help support and maintain the vast array of aircraft that are on display. The general public is allowed to register for various flying tours in some of the different aircraft from something small such as a Boeing Stearman to something large as the Avro Lancaster Bomber. These tours provide a unique experience that allow guests to physically engage with and experience a part of the past in a manner which is not normally available. I remember my first time going up in a historic aircraft. I was about eight at the time and I was very enthusiastic to be able to experience and fly in something that was used during the war. The experience that the flight gives you is breathtaking. It allows you to reflect on the world around you while flying around and thinking about all of the various things that the plane and the people flying it may have had experienced.


Image courtesy of Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum

As such I would recommend the Canadian Warplane heritage museum to all of those who are interested in Canadian history and want an opportunity to experience a part of the past at the same time. You won’t be disappointed, that’s for sure! For more information please visit http://www.warplane.com/

Hamilton Museum of Steam & Technology National Historic Site

Hamilton Museum of Steam & Technology National Historic Site


During my search for a heritage site to visit in Hamilton I came across the Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology.  I discovered the Museum through the city of Hamilton website under the attractions section.  Information about the Museum such as location, phone number, and hours of operation was easy to find.  One important feature of the www.hamilton.ca website was that all of the links to the different Heritage sites were in the same section.  This is significant because some people may only be familiar with more popular heritage sites such as Dundurn Castle.  While they are looking for more information about Dundurn Castle they are likely to come across other Heritage sites.  This is an effective way to expand the audience of those interested in heritage sites.  Although, there is a downside of having most of the advertising for the heritage sites online.  Elderly people who are not as literate with technology as the younger generation may have a hard time accessing the websites and therefore learning about the heritage sites available to the,.  This may unintentionally exclude older individuals from visiting the heritage sites.


The Museum itself was not difficult to find.  The entrance was well labelled and easy to access.  When I arrived I took part in a guided tour along with 3 other groups of people.  The cost of the tour was only 7 dollars for adults.  At this price the tour is easily affordable by the majority of the public and inclusive to all interested in learning.  The two tour guides working at the Museum did a fantastic job of explaining how the steam technology worked, its relevance to Hamilton, the history of the building and its people, and the individual roles of each worker.  The tour was in three parts.


The tour began with an introduction.  The tour guide began her introduction around a scale model of Hamilton in the 1850’s.  The introduction was meant to establish the context of the situation in Hamilton and the need for water to be pumped using steam technology.  The next section included several scale models of the technology used in the factory.  Each of the models were powered using electricity to show how they would have interacted with each other in the factory.  The final section was of the factory itself.  The full scale machines were powered up using electricity but only ran at 1/5 speed.  The previous two sections were necessary to fully understand how the steam engine worked and its importance to the community.

In terms of accessibility, the museum had a sign at the beginning of the tour which served as a checklist to show the different ways in which the museum was accessible.  For instance, the museum had a FM system (an assistive listening device), but did not have accessible ramps.  The sign also said that special accommodation could be made upon request.  I assume that this meant that individuals who were not able to use the narrow staircase could call in beforehand and make a request for a private tour so their needs could be met.  This is a smart and cost effective way to be more inclusive.  It may not have been feasible to build ramps around the museum without altering the factory permanently, but it is possible to accommodate on a case by case basis to those interested in learning about the museum.


The tour guides provided interesting background information about the site.  For example the large tower seen in the photo above was 150 feet tall.  The tower did not need to be this big.  100 feet would have sufficed, but the extra 50 feet served as an advertisement for the factory, and served as a symbol for what Hamilton could accomplish.

Overall, my trip to the Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology was a great experience.  The tour guides were very informative, passionate about the museum, and eager to teach the community about the history and significance of steam and technology.  It is a shame that I only found out recently about this location.  I think Hamilton would benefit from finding a way to better advertise these heritage sites to its community.  These sites serve as important experiences for learning about our shared past and I strongly encourage others to check them out by starting here: https://www.hamilton.ca/attractions/hamilton-civic-museums.


Heritage found at the Hamilton Farmers’ Market


The city of Hamilton is full of heritage. Many of the buildings we enter everyday (for school, work, or recreational activities) has had some kind of heritage designation. Take for example, the Hamilton Farmers’ Market. The Hamilton Farmers’ Market is one of the most popular places to mosey around throughout the week, especially during early Saturday mornings to purchase some great local produce, and coffee! The Hamilton Farmers’ Market has been a place where Hamiltonians have met since the early 1800’s – 1837 to be exact. It has always been located on York Boulevard, right in the heart of Hamilton’s downtown core. It has gone through many facelifts and renovations, and today it stands out as a sleek, modern building, attached to the Hamilton Public Library, Jackson Square, and the First Ontario Centre. Around 60+ vendors can be found inside the market, most of them being there since its conception. Some of these venders are brand-new local businesses, while others are rotating wineries and bakeries with home bases found somewhere in and around the Niagara Escarpment. While its popularity has waned during its last round of renovations, it has continued to be a Hamilton heritage hotspot.

Throughout the main level of the market, a timeline of pictures and events can be found. The land that the market is located on was bought in 1837 for the purposes of bringing the community together through the sale of local vegetables, meats, and bakery goods. It wasn’t until 1895 that the market became a covered building, open and accessed all year round. Unfortunately during the early 1900s, a major fire broke out and destroyed many of the stalls. This was not the end of the market as Hamiltonians are very resilient. The vendors created new stalls and remained opened during the rebuild. By 1980 the market had become a fully enclosed, multi-floor building, taking up the space of a whole city block. In 2011, a remodel was needed due its growing popularity in the city. Now each vendor has movable stall walls, electricity, and running water. Moreover, today the market also has rooms for community meetings, teachings, and baking sessions. One of the most striking additions from the 2011 revamp was the restoration of the iconic Birk’s clock. The clock was taken from the old Birk’s store that used to be a next-door neighbor to the market during the 1800s. Today, this clock can be found hanging right in the center of the market. During the late 1800s/early 1900s, it was a tradition for locals to meet under the city hall clock for a coffee and stroll through the market during. Today, instead of using the city hall clock as a meeting place (since it is not connected to the market anymore), many families and friends use the beloved Birk clock as a meeting place.


The market has always been an accessible site for community members. Whether you need the help of a wheel chair or cane to move around, the Farmers’ Market has been created as an easily accessible building. With ramps, elevators, and volunteer services available, many disabled and elderly Hamiltonians can get their shopping done. Additionally, these ramps and elevators are not located in out-of-the-way locations. The ramps lead you straight down into the front of the market, and the elevator is found just off from the center. No discrimination or prejudices can be seen from market goers, as the market is a place for everyone to enjoy. Moreover, information about meetings and baking sessions can not only be found on their website and social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram), but can also be found in the form of flyers and posters at the market and Jackson Square (for those who do not have access to the internet). It is a community area open and accepting for all members of society – homeless, disabled, rich or poor. The accessibility and openness of the market is one of the main reasons why it is such a popular heritage landmark in Hamilton.

The Hamilton Farmers’ Market, hands down, plays an integral role within in the Hamilton community. It is not uncommon to find people meeting underneath the iconic Birk’s clock, or from outside the market doors on York Blvd, or even inside the entrance from Jackson Square. This market plays an important part of Hamilton’s heritage, as it has been able to bring the community together for over 100 years. Whether you are vegan, ultra vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, omnivore, gluten-free/dairy-free, or an extreme cheese lover, or in the mood for Indian, British, Portuguese, or Chinese, the market can offer and accommodate you in whatever way you need it to.


How does Accessibilty Fit into Heritage?


There are a lot of expectations that tourists have while visiting heritage sites. While it is common for those who manage the sites to invest hundreds into creating engaging and accurate representations for their visitors, they often forget about creating a space accessible to all of its visitors. While I believe that many spaces are capable of managing an accessible space, there are some cases which make it difficult. After a recent visit to Dundurn Castle, I would like to use it as a case study to highlight the challenges of accessibility in heritage.

Dundurn castle, located in Hamilton, Ontario, and has had a key impact on the identity of the city. The castle has stood at its current size since 1835, when Sir Allan McNab owned the estate with his family. Its impressive size continues to stun people who pass through, as it still holds the elegant charm it once did in the past. After a guided tour of the site, visitors are able to gain an appreciation for not only local history, but also the work which cultural historians have put into maintaining the site to its highest point of preservation, from hand painting the marbled walls, to the small toys of the children who grew up there.

While visiting Dundurn castle proved to be an extravagant guided tour of history, its unfortunate downfalls as a historic site lie within its accessibility issues for the public. While maintaining the heritage left on site, the ability to access the building has become an issue. The set-up of tour uses steep and uneven steps, poor lighting, and extremely small passages that even able-bodied individuals struggle to move through. Those with poor vision, or any form of disability which may require assistance to mobility will most likely be unable to access the site. Although many of the visitors whom tour may not recognize this, it becomes almost ironic considering Sir Allan McNab ended up suffering from Gout, and was confined to a wheelchair for part of his life.


The debate lies within how much of history should be changed for accommodation. Over the years, 3 million dollars have been spent on maintenance and preservation of the original assets within the home. In staying true to the authenticity of the site they have presented a pure and realistic image of life in the castle. It calls to question if it is truly ethical to alter the representation with modern ideas of accessibility? As an advocate for equal accessibility, this question proves a challenge to answer. In some cases, the ability to make accessible additions does not drastically change historic grounds, and can be quite easy to build into the makeup of the site. In this case, the building would have to be heavily renovated to become completely accessible to those with some types of physical limitation. There would need to be the addition of elevators, wider halls, and ramps throughout the building. This means high construction costs, maintenance precautions, and threat to the original structure of the building, the latter being the most difficult seeing the age of the building.

In the case of Dundurn castle, I believe that it is possible to find solutions to the problem. In order to bypass any undue hardship, the site needs to provide some form of compensation for fair participation. This means that those who run the site may be able to create accessible tours, where tours could be made accessible to those with physical limitations by allowing wheelchair ramps to the main floor, or with portable lighting for those with visual limitations. This could mean creating a secondary tour route that would be on an accommodating path, but could still be strategic in highlighting the history of the site. While it may not completely address all of the accessibility problems on site, it presents a simple solution to give everyone an opportunity to participate in the history of the building.