Go on a scavenger hunt to discover the history in your home, and explore amazing household artifacts in the Canadian Museum of History’s collection!
Every object tells a story, even everyday objects lying around your home. In fact, many common household items are part of the Museum’s collection. It’s true; we’ve included everything from toilet paper to woks. So, why not use the scavenger hunt checklist below to discover the amazing history of the everyday items in your house? And while you’re at it, we’ve included links to similar objects with interesting histories in our collection. Take a look!
Use the checklist below to go on a scavenger hunt in your home. We’ve made it easy for you, with items listed by room.
- Things to Find in the Kitchen
- Things to Find in the Family Room
- Things to Find in the Dining Room
- Things to Find in the Bedroom
- Things to Find in the Bathroom
Things to Find in the Kitchen
- Can you find a wok or a frying pan? A wok is a cooking tool that has been used all over the world for centuries. After arriving in Canada as Syrian refugees, the Alkhalaf family used theirs to fry traditional saj dough to make BeaverTails, a tasty Canadian pastry.
Check this out! Look at this wok that was made in China over 100 years ago.
- Can you find a maple syrup product? Maple syrup is a big business in Canada. In fact, Quebec produces more than half of the world’s maple syrup. From maple sugar to maple-glazed salmon, maple syrup is a Canadian institution.
Check this out! Look at this wood maple sugar mould that was used to make maple sugar candies. Hot maple sugar was poured into it, and as it cooled it hardened to make a delicious treat.
- Can you find a lunch box? The first lunch boxes were used by male workers in the early 1800s to protect their lunches when going to work. School children started using lunch boxes in the late 1800s by reusing old containers they found at home. And, by the 1930s, manufacturers had started making lunch boxes with pop culture icons like Mickey Mouse.
Check this out! Look at this lunch box featuring the Osmonds. The Osmonds were a popular band in the 1970s. Download one of their tracks and give them a listen.
Things to Find in the Family Room
- Can you find a blanket? Canada’s oldest company is well known for making blankets. King Charles II of England chartered the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1670. Its traders set up trading posts along the shore of Hudson Bay where they exchanged manufactured goods, including wool blankets, for furs provided by Indigenous people.
Check this out! Look at this authentic HBC blanket to see the company’s colours.
- Can you find an old family photograph? Taking photographs is easier than ever, just point and click. But back in the late 1800s, most people had to go to a studio to have their photo taken, then wait for days before they could see the black and white image.
Check this out! Look at this old photographic print. Black and white photographs like this one were processed using a negative that was taken from the film of a camera.
Things to Find in the Dining Room
- Can you find a plate with a pattern or design? During the 1800s and 1900s, a very popular design on plates in Canadian dining rooms was Blue Willow. Blue Willow is an example of chinoiserie, which became popular in the 1700s as European trade with China increased. Chinoiserie reflected the way Europeans viewed Chinese and eastern cultures and was not an authentic representation of the culture itself. Chinoiserie featured symbols and motifs believed to be Chinese, like pagodas, colourful birds and exotic locales.
Check this out! Look at this example of a Blue Willow china plate. The Blue Willow design was inspired by a legend made up by the English to romanticize eastern cultures. According to the legend, two lovers are transformed into doves to escape a father opposed to the union. Can you spot the doves on the plate?
- Can you find a candle? Imagine a world without electricity. That is what life was like for many Canadians before electricity became more widely available during the 1900s. How important would your candle be in that context?
Check this out! Look at this candle that was used in St. Onuphrius Church, a Ukrainian Catholic church that once stood on the Canadian prairies — it now stands in the Museum’s Canadian History Hall. Other than lighting, candles can serve an important and ceremonial function in some religious traditions.
Things to Find in the Bedroom
- Can you find a sports T-shirt? Terry Fox is an example of how sports can spread awareness of an important cause, like cancer. In 1980, Terry Fox ran a Marathon of Hope that lasted over 143 days, spanning six provinces and covering over 5,300 km. Terry was diagnosed with cancer before the race and ran with an amputated leg. Many called the marathon the Ten Million Dollar Run, but it would eventually raise 25 million dollars. Every year, the Terry Fox Run continues to raise money for charity.
Check this out! Look at this Marathon of Hope T-shirt. Notice that the T-shirt features Terry running in front of an outline of Canada.
- Can you find a board game, puzzle or toy? What do you think your toys tell us about you? Many artifacts in the Museum were once everyday objects like toys, but have become important because of what they tell us about history.
Things to Find in the Bathroom
- Can you find a toothbrush? Can you believe that the bristles on a toothbrush were made from animal hair in the 1800s? In fact, they could be made from pig hair!
Check this out! Take a look at this toothbrush to see what pig hair bristles looked like. It is also significant because it’s associated with Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.
- Can you find toilet paper? The Museum has toilet paper from the E. B. Eddy Company, which made paper products from 1891 to the 1990s. The company was located near the Museum in Gatineau, Quebec.
Check this out! Look at this E. B. Eddy toilet paper. Did you know that some people used dried corncobs before toilet paper was widely available? Ouch!