Top 5 Moments in 2015


As another eventful year comes to a close it's time to look reflect on the past 12 months here at the museum. After looking back at all of OMAH's accomplishments this year, it was hard to pin down five defining moments, but we tried our best! 

With much deliberation, here are OMAH's Top 5 Moments of 2015:

5. Artist in Residence

This year we were extremely fortunate to feature OMAH's very first Artist in Residence with James Ireland. Artist in Residence programs exist to invite visitors and other artists for a time and space away from their usual environment and obligations. They provide a time of reflection, research, presentation or production. James Ireland came to OMAH in his retirement after a successful career as an art-director, designer and creator of his own graphic-arts group in Toronto as well as participated in launching some of Canada's top publications. Through association with OMAH's Juliana Hawke, James came to the museum to use our mini-printing press during our Open Studio and has since stayed on as our Artist in Residence with the assistance of Lois Green. James can be found in our Dorothy Macdonald Creative Studio on Fridays, developing new bodies of work, including the pieces featured in his current exhibition The Man in the Little Black Dress on in our Lounge Gallery until January 10th.

Watch James talk about his process from October's Lunch & Learn:

Dry Point Etching

Career in Design

4. Clock Tower Centennial

2015 marked many anniversaries - 400 years since Samuel de Champlain explored the Huronia area, 200 years since Sir John A. Macdonald was born, 70 years since the end of World War II - but the one that felt closest to home for OMAH was the celebration of our clock tower's 100th anniversary. The Sir Samuel Steele Building houses our museum and carries years of history itself though few are aware that our signature clock tower was not an original part of our building when it was built as a Federal Post Office and Customs House in 1894. 

During the building's renovations in 1914, the 70-ft clock tower was added to the architecture. The clockworks were made by J.N. Joyce in Whitechurch, Shropshire, England, established in 1690 and is arguably the oldest clock making company in the world. The four six-foot clock faces arrived and were installed in 1916 by Mr. T.B. Jebb. Today our clock tower is still functioning with many of its original parts thanks to one hundred years of care and maintenance.

Click here to take a behind the scenes tour of our Clock Tower.

3. OMAH's History Awards

2015 saw the return of OMAH's History Awards, last presented over three years ago. Daphne Mainprize, vice-chair of OMAH's Board of Directors and chair of OMAH's History Committee, headed this year's efforts and emceed the presentation of awards at the Gala on November 5th. These awards honour research and heritage preservation in our area, including Orillia as well as Oro-Medonte, Ramara and Severn townships. Winners included:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Tim Crawford and Marcel Rousseau,
  • General History Award: David Town and Jim Watt,
  • General Heritage Preservation Award: Gwen Robinson, 
  • Historic Reconstruction Award: Janie Cooper Wilson
  • Judges' Recognition: Macdonald 200 Committee and Jayne Turvey

It was an inspiring evening of accomplishments and OMAH has already slotted in our next awards in 2017, which will also celebrate Orillia's sesquicentennial. 

Click here for photos from 2015 History Awards Gala

2. Somniatis Wearable Art Show

OMAH's major fundraising gala this year was entirely thanks to the efforts of event organizer Ruth Germain who brought 17 local artists together to create 43 works of wearable art which walked the 'runway' on May 30th. Somniatis showcased the talents of many local artists and creators in a variety of mediums. Textile artists worked with printmakers, make-up and hair artists worked with local models, photographers worked with designers. In preparation for the big event, Ruth Germain also helped organize a Mad Hatter's Tea Party featuring many Somniatis models in period dress with a talk on her career in the fashion industry. The show was a huge community effort bringing out the best awe-inspiring and creative works. Models walked the runway to music and poetry and during the finale the designers were recognized for their hard work. The event was the place to be in Orillia, selling out quickly, and talked about as the buzz of the town long after. If you missed out on the event itself, The Somniatis Wearable Art Book can be viewed at Studio Eleven. 

Click here for photos from Somniatis

Watch video from the Somniatis Wearble Art Show by Knightvision Photo & Video

1. Sir Sam Funk

It's not every day that a museum can call itself a Dance Champion, but in 2015 OMAH managed to do just that by not only participating in but winning the international online Museum Dance Off Competition hosted by the blog When You Work at a Museum. Created by Lakehead University's Media Studies interns Shannon Hawke and Stephanie Lamb with classmate Victor Laforteza, OMAH released our own dance video parodying Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars' pop hit "Uptown Funk". OMAH's "Sir Sam Funk" brings the magic of our museum (and Sir Sam Steele) to life as OMAH's youth dance through a virtual tour of our building. The video became a quick viral hit and gained quite the following during the four rounds of voting leading to a whopping 31,635 votes in the winning round. Nearly a year later, we are still hearing visitors come through our doors who shared the video with friends and family, spent hours voting (and battling captchas), and can only envision our video whenever the song comes on the radio. Sir Sam Funk continues its ripple effects with new visitors and continued exposure putting OMAH on the international map.

Click here to watch (or rewatch!) Sir Sam Funk 


Of course, many other moments happened in 2015, with honourable mentions going to events such as the Art Meets History Tour, Slow Art Day, Starry Night Studio Tour, World Storytelling Day, The Haunting, and Mariposa for Refugees with Don Evans & the band Alex. Our programs continued to thrive with our Lunch & Learn series, Music in the Museum, History Speakers Evenings, Summer camps and artist workshops. A variety of exhibitions came through our doors with Creating Futures Grandmothers to Grandmothers exhibit, Nation 2 Nation, touch: Champlain at 400, Highlights from OMAH's Collection, the end of our yearlong World War exhibits, The Man in the Little Black Dress, Zephyr Art's Endless Summer, and finally our annual shows: the International Women's Day Art Show, Carmichael Canadian Landscape Exhibition, and High School Art Show. The list of moments could go on and on. 

Most of all, thank YOU for making 2015 an exciting year for the Orillia Museum of Art & History and here's to the moments to come in 2016. 


Image Banner: Somniatis Clock Tower Dress by Peter Stranks, OMAH photography by Shannon Hawke