Main Floor

June 15 – September 27, 2015

JF Cooke - Recent YearsSay Cheese! 
Cameras from the museum’s collection

Since its infancy in the 1820’s, photography has grown by leaps and bounds. From the simple point and shoot box camera, to the later bellow models and eventually the more familiar 35mm, photography’s evolution continues.  Now with our point and shoot digital cameras and cell phones, we have in a sense come full circle. 

Hamming it Up
Family album shots from 1900-1990s

Looking at albums in museum collections brings different family histories, and expressions of kinship, to light. The family storyteller uses pictures in the show-and-tell of their lives. Albums are like messages in a bottle filled with generations of memories captured photographically for us to find in the future. Aren’t we glad these families took the time to preserve their special moments providing us with extraordinary insights into past lives!

Photo: Prominent local photographer J.F. Cooke (left) at Current River.


printerOur front lobby cases are filled with printing plates from local printers and newspapers. Check them out, then stop by the Newspaper Office exhibit on the first floor to see two examples of early printing presses on display.




The main gallery on the first floor was named for Peter McKellar, the founding father of the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society.

These long-term exhibits recount the 10,000-year history of people in the Thunder Bay region of Ontario, Canada. See the tools of survival made by the region’s first peoples, stunning Ojibway and Cree beadwork, a full-sized wigwam, and the relics of a once great fur trade. As you move through time, encounter the story of Silver Islet, once the continent’s richest silver mine, visit a Canadian Pacific Railway station and the 19th-century immigrants who stand on its platform, or view Thunder Bay’s early harbour with its towering elevators and booming maritime industries.  The town’s very first electricity was created in the 1880s with the simple steam-powered generator now on display. Lock yourself in a functional prison cell, circa 1910, and view artifacts highlighting our pioneering history of Municipal Ownership, an early shoemaking shop, or the tools of the early pulp and paper industry. Enjoy early films, several produced in Northwestern Ontario, in our 1928 vintage theatre, or stroll down a recreated Thunder Bay street and see a recreated streetcar, a 19th-century hotel/tavern and fire hall, a doctor’s office, photographer’s shop and tobacconist from the turn of the century, a real estate office from 1913, and a newspaper press room. Visit the general store, its shelves lined with vintage goods, or look in on a seamstress at work, a hairdressing salon from the 1930s and a jeweller’s store window.
Some of the earliest HAM radios, most made by Charles McDonald, a pioneer in the field of telecommunications, can be seen in his recreated workshop.
Explore some of these displays below: