Scarborough Museum visitors travel to Christmases past

It may be 2010 but 8-year-old Sierra Tsolakis and her 6-year-old sister Saige recently spent an afternoon in the 1800s.

The two took part in a Victorian baking workshop at the Scarborough Museum Dec. 3, part of the museum’s Festive Christmas Weekends, which take place the first three weekends in December.

“Kids get a chance to experience what it’s like to bake without using electricity,” said Madeline Callaghan, Scarborough Museum curator. “It’s kind of like going to someone’s house because it has a homey feel and it’s very welcoming.”

During the workshop, Sierra, Saige and other participants worked with museum volunteers to bake the sorts of holiday sweets Victorians would have made using traditional methods from that time period, including using a wood-burning stove.

The museum, located in Thomson Memorial Park, consists of a log house and early farm house decorated as they would have been in the 1800s. The property’s main house, the Cornell House, was  built in 1858.

Museum visitors got to tour the property and learn about its history from museum staff and volunteers dressed in period costumes.

“There’s a lot of history in Scarborough but it’s not so self-evident,” Callaghan said. “We’re not just looking at the early history. We’re also in various ways trying to connect the past to the present. We try to tap into the really neat stories of longtime residents and newcomers, to try to make it everybody’s history, because we like to see a continuum of it. There’s not just this past and suddenly the present.”

David Johnson, 84, has volunteered at the museum for eight years. He said he loves doing it because he is especially interested in museums and Canadian history, some of which he got to experience first-hand as a kid.

“I grew up in the country up north of here with a great uncle and aunt who were more or less pioneers of that area,” Johnson said. “I was exposed to things like a wood stove to cook everyday, so I was quite used to that type of living.”