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October 13, 2010
A new era begins at Spadina Museum
Spadina Museum: Historic House & Gardens will begin a new era on October 24 with an extensive interior restoration and thematic programs that explore how Toronto's Austin family lived in the 1920s and 1930s.

Spadina Museum was home to four generations of the influential Austin family over more than a century. Opened in 1984 by the City of Toronto, the museum has since become a celebrated public landmark.

The museum is marking another milestone in its nearly 150-year history by becoming Toronto's only museum to represent the transformative era of the 1920s and 1930s through authentic decor and multifaceted public programming.

Spadina Museum will have a free opening for the public on Sunday, October 24 (1 to 4 p.m.), and media are invited to preview the restoration and new programming on Friday, October 22 (by appointment only).

The decision to restore the museum to reflect this time period (1920s and '30s) was determined by the wealth of artifacts, family records and documentation left by the Austins. As well, the family's many renovations and additions to the house and grounds were completed by that time. The inter-war era is one of great interest and relevance, as it introduced dramatic changes for Toronto.

"The restoration of Spadina Museum creatively reveals and explores how the 1920s and '30s changed the home and lives of the Austin family," said Rita Davies, Executive Director of the City of Toronto's Cultural Services. "Through detailed research, the use of original artifacts, authentic reproductions and newly curated themed tours, the restoration innovatively showcases how the Austins lived during this exciting time while revealing how Toronto's changes in this era continue to resonate with Torontonians today."

The interior of the museum, from draperies and wallpapers to furniture and lighting, represents this era with reproduced materials and original family artifacts. Visitors will see authentically reproduced wallpapers, paint schemes, draperies and original furnishings. All of the restoration elements have been painstakingly researched so that they are as true to the documented originals as possible. Thousands of hours of historical analysis, combined with numerous expert consultations, were undertaken over the last six years to ensure the city's cultural inheritance was renewed and restored with the utmost care and respect.

For example, ingrain woodblock-printed wallpaper that was installed in the drawing room in 1905, which existed in the home until 1940, was reproduced using an original sample salvaged from the museum's interiors. Additional research on its history was provided by the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum (a Smithsonian Institution). That museum's archives allowed Spadina Museum to reproduce this unique wallpaper using the traditional technique and with paper that was custom-made specifically to match the original wallpaper's specifications.

Additional restoration elements include refreshed wood floors and the installation of new reproduction linoleum. Kitchen cupboards are full of cans and other food packaging that represent the brands the typical family would have purchased at that time. The public will see new artworks from the family collection, French terracotta sculptures and a lamp with a reproduction hand-painted silk shade. Combined, these restoration elements recreate the Austin family home with authentic 1920s and '30s interiors.

Making use of the historical sources and the Austin's documented history, visitors will experience and learn about how Torontonians lived during that tumultuous time in the early 20th century - when the city grappled with increased immigration, the issue of the vote for women, the stock market crash, prohibition, public health issues and the introduction of welfare. During that period, Toronto also experienced the Charleston craze, tabloid journalism and new technology.

Visitors will be able to choose from tours (scheduled at set times each day) that investigate the social, economic and political themes of the 1920s and 1930s, or a tour highlighting the museum's restoration process. "Meet the Austins: A Toronto Family in the 1920s and 1930s" uses artifacts in the house to depict an era when innovations like radio, domestic technology and advertising connected the individual to an emerging mass consciousness. "It's a Kid's Life" interprets what it would be like to grow up in Toronto in the 20s and 30s for children of the Austin family and staff. The invention of plastic toys and the influence of films and movie star celebrity on all ages will be explored. "The Restoration Tour" gets down to the nuts and bolts (or at least the wallpaper and carpeting) of executing an authentic restoration involving intensely researched design decisions.

Upcoming tours will include Welcome to the Party: Entertaining in the '20s and '30s; Upstairs Downstairs: Servants in the House; Plastic Fantastic: Inventions of the 1920s; and Behaving Badly: The New Morality. School groups will be able to enjoy interactive programs designed to fit their curriculum.

Spadina Museum: Historic House & Gardens is one of 10 historic museums operated by the City of Toronto. Spadina Museum is located at 285 Spadina Road in Toronto. For museum hours, admission charges and to book tours, the public can call 416-392-6910 or visit

Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. Toronto has won numerous awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. Toronto's government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents. For information about non-emergency City services and programs, Toronto residents, businesses and visitors can dial 311, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Media contact: Shane Gerard, Senior Communications Coordinator, 416-397-5711,



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