It's the time when Toronto experienced increased immigration, the vote for women, the stock market crash, prohibition, public health and the introduction of welfare. It's also the time of the Charleston craze, tabloid journalism, new technology and more. And it can all be seen, heard, felt and lived at Spadina Museum - Toronto's only museum to represent the 1920s and 30s.
Interior restoration and new thematic programs
Beginning in 1866, Spadina Museum: Historic House & Gardens was home to four generations of the Austin family. Since being opened as a public museum by the City of Toronto in 1984; Spadina Museum has become a celebrated landmark. It reopened to the public (on October 24, 2010) after ten months of extensive interior renovations.
Spadina Museum is one of 10 historic museums operated by the City of Toronto. Toronto’s Economic Development and Culture division decided in 2004 to update the original restoration of Spadina Museum in keeping with the Agenda for Prosperity and Culture Plan. The City of Toronto wanted to offer visitors an innovative perspective on the story of the Austin family and their historic connection to Toronto.
The revitalized Spadina Museum thoughtfully depicts how the Austins lived during the 1920s and 1930s. The interior of the museum, from draperies and wallpapers to furniture and lighting, represents this era with original family artifacts and authentically reproduced materials. The museum also educates visitors about how Torontonians and the Austins lived through the social, political and economic upheavals of this transformative era.
The restoration and new program development were guided by months of intensive research using primary sources found in the museum's own collection as well as primary and secondary sources found in other collections, libraries and archives. Sources ranged from historic inventories and furnishings to 1920s era trade publications for paint, wallpaper and plumbing fixtures. The City has invested $600,000 towards the revitalization of Spadina Museum.
Prior to this restoration, Spadina Museum's interiors reflected multiple time periods of Austin family history and their artifact collection. Restoring the interior of the museum to reflect its state in the 1920s and 1930s was informed by the wealth of artifacts, family records and documentation left by the Austins. Additionally, the family's many renovations and additions to the house and grounds were completed by this time.
Physical Restoration Highlights:
All of Spadina Museum’s 14 rooms and six common spaces feature something new in terms of artifacts or interior décor or in some cases both.
For the first time, visitors can see objects previously in storage, including Austin family collection art works, French terracotta sculptures, and a lamp with a newly-restored hand-painted silk shade.
The historic kitchen on the main floor has been restored to create the kitchen of the 1930s, including authentic food packaging and other historic kitchen products.
Reproduction of the dramatic ingrain wood blocked printed wallpaper from the drawing room, using the correct traditional technique and custom made paper stock. An original sample salvaged from the museum's interiors, and additional historical information about the paper obtained from the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum (a Smithsonian Institution).
New reproduction linoleum in the kitchen, bedroom closet and ensuite bathrooms.
Many of the rooms have new wallpapers installed that are digital reproductions of the originals produced by Screen Art Products.
New draperies or window coverings in every room, all wooden floors will be refreshed.
Authentically designed and reproduced clothing from the 1920s & 1930s are featured in the house.
Exploration and Programming
Through dynamic new programming, Spadina Museum explores the lives of Torontonians through the experiences of the Austins during the 1920s and 1930s under the following curatorial themes:
Birth of the Modern Age
Home entertainment was transformed through the invention of the radio, once it became a household item. Albert Austin kept radios in several rooms in Spadina as he was fascinated by new technology and was an early adopter for these modern advancements. During the 1920s Albert would also supply radios for shared use among the medical staff at Toronto General Hospital. Radios not only created new mass audiences and new mass marketing through advertising, but also encouraged a more global perspective.
The 1920s saw a big boom for industrial growth, followed by a rapid crash in the 1930s. Social welfare is an issue closely tied to this period, with the rise of state welfare, in contrast to privately held welfare. The Family Allowance was first created to assist war-made widows, and all those returning from war who could not find work. There was need for charity during that time; letters written to Albert Austin from individuals and organizations asking for help are in the collection and will be used in programs. Public health is another area explored through the experiences of the Austins, who had family members suffer from tuberculosis and diabetes.
Scandal and Morality
With the advent of radio and other technologies, Spadina Museum shows the influence media exposure had on morality. The significant change in acceptable behaviour from before and after the First World War is examined. During this tumultuous era Toronto saw the rise of the Charleston, tabloid journalism, dance marathons, motion picture ‘talkies’, while at the same time grappling with prohibition.
Women's Changing Roles
Programming reveals the changes in the roles women played in society and the family in the 1920s and 1930s. The museum looks at the suffrage movement, changing work opportunities, fashion, family and domestic science.
Visitors can enjoy rotating daily tours featuring different themes while school groups will also be able to embark on thematic tours designed specifically for their needs.