It’s curious how things happen or are discovered during projects. While chagrined that we have selected one of the coldest winters in recent years to dismantle and work on a greenhouse, which is housing a living historic grapevine, fingers crossed it survives in its little mini microclimate habitat, I discussed in the last pilot project blog, that I do not know the provenance of the vine. I still do not. I continue to research it, however, I have also referenced how little documentation we have at the museum of the “working” areas of the estate, like the kitchen and for the purposes of this write up, the Vinery. It’s a standard practice, the McLaughlin Family did not take photos of the working areas, or the household staff, of the home. People seem to be shocked by that, but lets put this into a modern day perspective, when was the last time you took a photograph of your washing machine?
The recent discoveries of the Vinery information have proven incredibly useful and rather exciting on various levels. The first happened prior to Christmas. Nancy, our greenhouse grower was referencing one of her college text books, from the 1970s, for something that she wanted to verify and as she flipped through its pages she stumbled upon the attached photo. While in school, it never occurred to Nancy, that photograph marked “greenhouse, Oshawa, Canada” would prove to be a valuable photo all these years later. It’s of the Vinery. A Vinery that none of the current curatorial and grounds staff, although our combined time is approaching 80+ years at Parkwood have seen. A Vinery whose single grapevine, although sporting a massive trunk, has never looked like it does in this photo, since the vine, probably cut back in the 1980s as staffing levels were cut, and economies put into place at the Estate, could no longer be maintained at this level. The photo shows what is likely table grapes being cultivated, just look at the bunches as they hang from the vine, along with the boxes for cultivating seedlings and baskets for collecting. From the curatorial perspective, this photo find is delightful. The oral history project has documented the use of the wooden boxes for cultivating, which are sitting on the benches, over the heating pipes running below, and the baskets used during the harvesting of the kitchen gardens, etc. have been referenced by former McLaughlin staff, both of these, the boxes and baskets, captured in photograph form, that I no longer must use my imagination to determine what they looked like. For interpretive and research programs/means this photograph was like striking gold. It also leads me to think about the planning and programming for the Vinery as we move forward after the pilot project is complete. Does the cultivation of the grapevine lead to opportunities for the Durham College horticultural students that are working at Parkwood as part of their living lab? Does the Museum Morsels Heritage Culinary Group have a grapevine component? Last Friday, this photo emerged, from a great grandchild of Sam and Adelaide McLaughlin. The south side of the Vinery, a different year, during a different season. Again like striking gold. This image allows the architects, contractors and Parkwood staff to view the flooring pattern and materials and add to the rich, diverse discussions we have been having and continue to have during the process of understanding the Vinery structure and its uses. The adventure continues…….