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New exhibition on history of Orillia digs into community's roots

World’s singles sculling champion Jake Gaudaur’s oars, dated to 1896, were recently returned to the museum and are part of new exhibit

The Orillia Museum of Art & History (OMAH) has launched a new exhibition, entitled Reflections Of Our Roots, highlighting the development of Orillia from 3000 BCE to today. The exhibition is sponsored by Parklane Landscapes. 

Curated by Hannah Arndt, who joined the OMAH team in February 2024, the exhibition also features notable Orillians. 

Throughout her research for the exhibition and in preparing for the installation, she said, “Reflections Of Our Roots was the perfect first exhibit to immerse myself in the history of Orillia.” 

Stephen Leacock expresses, “I don’t know whether you know Mariposa. If not, it is of no consequence, for if you know Canada at all, you are probably well acquainted with a dozen towns just like it.”

This quote reflects her own experience growing up in a very similar lake town, Port Dalhousie. However, while Port Dalhousie failed to adapt to the changing landscape of tourism and industry, Orillia thrives. 

One of the highlights of this exhibition is Jake Gaudaur’s oars, dated to 1896. In 1896, at the age of 38, Gaudaur won the world’s singles sculling championship when he defeated Jim Stanbury of Australia on the River Thames in England. He held the world’s title for five years. To celebrate this event, Orillia arranged a magnificent parade and reception, complete with fireworks, and the mayor presented Gaudaur with $500 in gold.

Recently, with the closure of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, his oars, the Fox trophy, and other personal items were returned to the museum. Gaudaur’s granddaughter, Diane Gaudaur, said, “I am pleased to have the Jake Gaudaur Collection back in Orillia where it belongs. My father and grandfather were both proud of their Métis ancestry which is deeply rooted in Orillia. I can think of no more fitting place than the Orillia Museum of Art and History.”

This opportunity to learn all about the City of Orillia before diving into more nuanced histories will open viewers' eyes to this city and the stories within.

OMAH is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.



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