Oakville Museum Exhibitions and Collections

The beautiful historic home and gardens of the Erchless Estate were once the home of our town’s founding family, but are now the setting for Oakville’s Community Museum. You can also visit our new satellite exhibition gallery at Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Centre. General admission at both locations during public hours is free!

The museum holds a diverse collection of objects reflecting the history of Oakville from its establishment to the present day including costumes and textiles, fine and decorative arts, ethnological artefacts and Chisholm family-related materials. Artefacts that are not currently part of our permanent or temporary exhibits are carefully stored to ensure their preservation. For information on donating artefacts to the collection, please visit the support page. 

50 Shades of Black

50 Shades of Black

June 26 – September 14, 2014
Exhibition location: Main gallery at QEPCCC, 2302 Bridge Rd

This spectacular new costume exhibition follows the black dress from its origins as mourning wear to becoming the party colour of choice. Fifty rarely seen black dresses from the Oakville Museum’s extensive costume collection chart the course of this essential fashion item. Visit the 50 Shades of Black page for more information.

Every black dress has a story. Share yours.

Send your My Black Dress Story and photo to mystory@oakville.ca. All entries will be featured in a special display at the exhibition gallery. You’ll also be entered into a draw for a chance to win a $100 gift card from Oakville Place! If you prefer, tweet your story and photo to @oakville_museum with #mystory or post on the Oakville Museum Facebook page. Winner will be announced on our Facebook page!


What About Water exhibit

What about Water? Oakville’s H20 & History

June 21, 2013 to May 3, 2015 at Erchless Estate

Water is life – and life in Oakville has always been tied to water. Discover the influence water had on Oakville’s beginnings, its settlement, its growth and how Oakville’s existence remains dependent on water! This exhibit sponsored by Pets Plus Us.

Exhibit Sponsor

Link to Pets Plus Us website

Colour Coded

May 12 – December 5, 2014 at QEPCCC, 2302 Bridge Rd

Colour Coded exhibitYour local museum holds and shares the treasures identifying our community’s past! Colour-Coded offers a kaleidoscopic look into the Oakville Museum’s rich and diverse permanent collection ranging from paintings to sculpture, costume to decorative arts. The objects on display offer colourful insight into Oakville’s unique character and culture.

For many of us, our mental image of the past is monochromatic, based on black and white photos or old movies. But it comes to life in vivid colour when we consider the artifacts of the past. Clothing, china, carpets, jewellery, and other everyday objects in a glorious riot of rainbow colours show us how wrong it is to believe that our ancestors lived drab, colourless lives.

Covering the seven colours of the spectrum; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet; this exhibit showcases the Oakville Museum’s vast array of colourful artifacts. Brilliant blues, rich reds, gorgeous greens, youthful yellows, vibrant violets, intense indigos and optimistic.

This spectacular new costume exhibition will follow the black dress from its origins as mourning wear to becoming the party colour of choice. Fifty rarely seen black dresses from the Oakville Museum’s extensive costume collection chart the course of this essential fashion item.

Freedom, Opportunity and Family: Oakville’s Black History
Permanent Exhibit at Erchless Estate

Artifacts, pictures, text and a documentary video tell the stories of many of the African-American families who settled in Oakville and were important to the development of our community. Visitors will discover the story of Branson Johnson, a freeborn African-American, who arrived in Oakville with his family in 1855. His Certificate of Freedom from a Maryland court and the pocket watch in which it was hidden for many years are featured. Passed down from one generation to the next, the certificate shows how subsequent generations defined and preserved evidence of freedom.

The Underground Railroad: Next Stop Freedom
Permanent Exhibit at Erchless Estate

In this exciting and moving multi-media presentation, the ghost of Deborah Brown tells the true story of her heroic flight from a life of slavery in Maryland to her new life of freedom in 19th-century Toronto. The exhibit was created by Parks Canada in partnership with the Ontario Black History Society and the Royal Ontario Museum (Presentation available in French and English).

Children's Wear
Now on at Erchless Estate

Can you imagine wearing dresses as a young boy? Or wearing really big puffy sleeves? How about wearing 5 layers of underwear? This display of hand sewn dresses, sailor suits and play clothes gives you an idea of just how much children’s fashions have changed over time.

9 Neat Seats
Now on at Erchless Estate

From thrones to seat Kings and Queens, to the humble front porch rocker, what we sit on has always been a reflection of who we are and our vision of ourselves in society. Straight-backed, hand-made, wooden chairs which were more functional than comfortable, long reigned in the home. The addition of upholstery and padded seats made long dinners seem less of an endurance and more of a pleasure. Sitting around the fireplace in a comfortable armchair has been a relaxing way to end the day for centuries. Like fashionable clothing, chairs have undergone changes due to personal taste, technology, cost, source material availability and imagination.

Family, Farm and Fighting During the War of 1812
Until November 2014 at Erchless Estate

Oakville's strongest link to the War of 1812 stems from the United Empire Loyalists who fought in the War, and settled in Trafalgar Township, particularly along modern day Highway 5. The hardships of these pioneers of Upper Canada were compounded on June 18, 1812 when the United States declared war against Great Britain.  This exhibit explores their stories.

Past Exhibitions

For more information about previous listings, visit our past exhibition page.

Community Outreach Presentations

Throughout the year, museum staff present a series of mini exhibits coupled with conversational-style presentations to seniors’ residences in our community. Various themes are covered including oddities in the museum’s collections, an overview of Oakville’s history, vintage quilts and cocktail party gowns. If you are interested in booking an outreach exhibit at your facility, please call 905-338-4400 or email carolyn.cross@oakville.ca.

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