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2012 Awards of Excellence


The purpose of the Ontario Museum Association Awards of Excellence is to

1. Recognize outstanding contributions to the Ontario museum community, with emphasis on innovation;
2. Advance the museum profession in Ontario;
3. Encourage high standards of excellence in the museum field. 

The categories include:
- Distinguished Career Award of Excellence
- Promising Leadership Award of Excellence
- Excellence in Community Engagement
- Excellence in Programs
- Excellence in Exhibitions
- Excellence in Special Projects
- Excellence in Publications


Distinguished Career Award of Excellence
Brian Malcolm, Executive Director, Parkwood National Historic Site

The OMA Distinguished Career Award of Excellence is presented to individuals who, over an extended period of time, have created a lasting and meaningful legacy in the Ontario museum community.

Brian Malcolm has been the Executive Director of the Parkwood National Historic Site in Oshawa, Ontario for more than twenty-one years. During his tenure, Brian has fostered a culture of preservation within the organization and championed the conservation and interpretation of landscape heritage in Ontario. Among many other projects and partnerships, he developed the National Historic Sites Alliance of Ontario and worked with Durham College to establish Parkwood as the living lab for their heritage horticultural technician program. Brian is an active member of his community and mentor to his staff.

“What has been consistently evident throughout Brian Malcolm’s museum career is his forward thinking, open minded attitude his continued pursuit of excellence in museum standards and his tireless quest to link museum to community.” – Miriam Harris, Art Conservator.

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Promising Leadership Award of Excellence
Katrina (Katie) Urban, Education Coordinator, Museum of Ontario Archaeology

The OMA Promising Leadership Award of Excellence is presented to emerging professionals, of any position or institution, that have shown promising leadership within the museum community.

Katie Urban is the Education Coordinator at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology in London, Ontario. After graduating from the University of Leicester’s Masters of Museum studies program in 2008, Katie worked at the Fort Frances Museum before coming to the Museum of Ontario Archaeology in 2009. In her short career, Katie has not only developed innovative programs at the museums she worked with, she also presented at provincial (Ontario and Nova Scotia) and national museum conferences, published two feature articles in Muse magazine, and presented a webinar on social media for the Ontario Museum Association. Katie is also very active in social media, on twitter and with her blog In a volunteer capacity, Katie curated the Lost Collections of the Ancient World: How Roman Britain and Ur Came to Ontario exhibit at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology.

“In the five years that she has worked in the museum field, Katrina has consistently reached out beyond the walls of her workplace to collaborate and share with colleagues, and she has emerged as a strong leader and a proactive advocate for innovation in museums.” – Nicole Drake, Arts & Culture Coordinator, City of Brantford.

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Award of Excellence in Community Engagement
Canadian War Museum for The Human Library

The OMA Award of Excellence in Community Engagement is presented to individuals, institutions, corporations or agencies that have increased the community’s engagement with the museum or institution. Examples may include the development of meaningful volunteer involvement, impactful marketing or social media campaign, or the creation of effective partnerships.

The Human Library is a concept that grew out of a grassroots movement in Denmark and has grown into a worldwide phenomenon. The Canadian War Museum partnered with the Ottawa Public Library and the CBC to bring the Human Library to Ottawa. The human “books” recruited by the Canadian War Museum were chosen based on how they fit with the Museum’s mandate to tell the personal experiences of how Canadians respond to conflict. Books included a woman who trained as a messenger for the Polish Resistance during the Second World War, a war artist, and Canadian military police officer who trained Afghan police officers to deal with security issues. The program and the books who shared their stories broadened perspectives of what the Museum is about and what it can do to engage Canadians with stories of Canadian military history.

As Ruth Zowdu, Executive Producer, Radio Current Affairs, CBC Ottawa wrote, “What the partners did was create the circumstances for individuals to strip away all of the modern technological layers and have the most human contact – an intelligent conversation. In effect, the innovative quality of the Human Library was that it allowed people to take the risk of intimacy in a safe environment and to learn through that experience.”

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Award of Excellence in Programs
Halton Region Museum for Jeff’s Home

The OMA Award of Excellence in Programs is presented to individuals, institutions, corporations or agencies for programming that creatively engages new audiences, or provides exemplary service to existing ones.

Situated at the foot of the Niagara Escarpment, the Halton Region Museum’s overall goal is to share the escarpment experience through learning, discovery and conservation. With limited space and resources onsite, the internet became the perfect venue to launch Jeff, an endangered Jefferson Salamander and your friendly tour guide to the escarpment. Jeff’s Home website is an interactive exhibition comprised of four sections, Our World Biosphere Reserve, Niagara Escarpment Discovery Hike, Educator’s Corner, and About: Resources Credits, that showcase all that the escarpment has to offer.

With Jeff’s help, even those who are unable to hike the trails can gain access to the natural diversity of the escarpment region. Since the launch of the site, interest and traffic to the site has continued to grow and also increased the museum’s social media traffic as Jeff has been incorporated into challenges, adventures, trivia and much more.

“Jeff’s Home is truly innovative, not only because it features non-traditional content and a high level of interactivity, but because of its host Jeff, an endangered Jefferson Salamander indigenous to the area. Visually appealing to people of all ages, Jeff entertains, engages and educates.” – Jodie Sales, Senior Communications Specialist, Regional Municipality of Halton.

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Award of Excellence in Exhibitions
Canadian War Museum for the 1812 Exhibition Project

The OMA Award of Excellence in Exhibitions is presented to individuals, institutions, corporations or agencies for the creation of an exhibit. Examples may include permanent, temporary, traveling or virtual exhibitions.

The War of 1812 was experienced and remembered so differently by its principal participants, no single narrative could easily or respectfully present their points of view. Instead the Canadian War Museum told the story of one war from four perspectives, the Canadians (including Canadian First Peoples), the British, the Americans, the Native Americans. The exhibition featured truly iconic artifacts from museums around the world including the tunic worn by Sir Isaac Brock when he was fatally shot during the Battle of Queenston Heights and the Treaty of Ghent which ended the war in 1815. The exhibition was four galleries in one, visitors could choose which zones to visit, experience each perspective, and draw their own conclusions about the war.

The exhibition was also created to have a life beyond the Canadian War Museum’s walls, with two traveling exhibits available to other museums, an internet microsite, and interactive virtual exhibit, and a publication. The 1812 exhibit project is credited with presenting a sophisticated, honest appreciation of a critical moment in Canada’s military past, in a way that deeply respects its complex, challenging content.

“The subject was treated with imagination, sensitivity, integrity and respect. [...] The narrative structure of the exhibition is innovative in itself, in that 1812 embraces the very notion of multiple points of view. […] It is a singular achievement for which the team at the Canadian War Museum should be tremendously proud.” – Johanna K. Mizgala, Acting Director, Innovation, Library and Archives Canada.

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Award of Excellence in Special Projects
Lake of the Woods Museum for the Lake of the Woods Museum Mobile Tour

The OMA Award of Excellence in Special Projects is presented to individuals, institutions, corporations or agencies that have developed an innovative initiative, or new approach or technique, that advances the museum profession.

The Lake of the Woods Museum in Kenora, Ontario created an iPad-based virtual tour that allows visitors to access up to five and a half hours of additional visual, archival, audio, and video content that complements the objects in the museum’s permanent exhibitions. The creation of this tour was a real community project; local people were asked to share their expertise (e.g. a wildlife biologist talking about natural history specimens), their stories (e.g. immigration stories), their connections to particular artifacts (e.g. a model maker talking about the model boat that he made), and their feedback in the early stages of development (e.g. “testdrivers” ages 15-75).

Using open source software to create a robust virtual tour with the potential for further development, a small town museum in Ontario’s north has shown that innovation, creativity and leadership can create greater access to the collection, relevant and accurate interpretation, and links between collections and contemporary issues and life. The response from visitors has shown that the museum is succeeding in increasing visitor engagement with the exhibits and collection.

“The mobile tour builds upon [the strong connection to the local community they serve] and provides an approach to community scholarship that extends connections with the community through the incorporation of local voices into the interpretation. […] In bringing together technology and narrative collection within a framework of diversity the mobile tour provides an opportunity to diversify the interpretive voice that would not have otherwise have been possible.” Iain Davidson-Hunt, Ph.D., Natural Resources Institute, Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources, University of Manitoba.

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Award of Excellence in Publications
Jean-Bernard Caron for the Burgess Shale Virtual Museum

The OMA Award of Excellence in Publications will be presented to individuals, institutions, corporations or agencies for the creation of materials that are distinguished by their design & content. Examples may include books, catalogues, blogs, brochures, posters and other printed or digital materials.

Under the vision of Jean-Bernard Caron, the Royal Ontario Museum’s Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology, the world renowned collection of Burgess Shale fossils that the museum holds in trust for Park’s Canada were brought out of storage rooms to be accessible to all – from scholars and fellow paleontologists, to classrooms, individual fossil enthusiasts, and the general public alike. Working with colleagues at the ROM, Parks Canada and the Virtual Museum of Canada, Dr. Caron created a virtual museum that shares not only the fossil collection and the history of the Burgess Shale, but also introduces visitors to the ongoing legacy of fieldwork on the site in Yoho National Park, British Columbia.

In addition to the digital image gallery, this virtual museum uses animations to bring to life this ancient marine community. Rather than waiting for a long-term fundraising effort and construction schedule lasting several years, Jean-Bernard Caron imagined that the collection could be accessed more quickly in a digital format – not as a stop-gap measure, but as a stand-alone resource that will work in conjunction with a future gallery.

“Few students get the opportunity to visit the ROM behind the scenes, or recognize the importance of invertebrate paleontology for our society. […] In addition, information on the website is not just about the Burgess Shale, but takes students beyond; to other museums, and to the more general field of paleontology.” – Charly (Carl-Georg) Bank, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer and Associate Chair (Undergraduate Studies), University of Toronto.

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Honorable Mentions

Publications: Canadian War Museum for The Four Wars of 1812

Exhibitions: Canadian Museum of Civilization for God(s): A User’s Guide

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