When Disaster Strikes: 5 Lessons Learned (and Survived)

Laura Suchan, Executive Director, Oshawa Museum


My presentation examines the fire at the Oshawa Community Museum in December 2003. Guy House, the administrative center and home of the archives, was destroyed by a fire set by an arsonist. In the two years following the fire, staff worked to recover the collection and reestablish museum operations. Our presentation will highlight the 5 lessons learned by museum staff when dealing with a disaster of this magnitude. Our experiences can help other institutions better prepare and cope in the event of a disaster.


Laura Suchan is Executive Director of the Oshawa Community Museum where she has been balancing budgets and writing business plans for more than 20 years. Laura graduated with a Master’s Degree from York University in Toronto and also holds an Adult Teaching and Training Certificate from Durham College in Oshawa. One of her research interests is the integration of oral history into community museums. Laura has acted as project manager for several  oral history projects and continues to teach oral history at the post secondary level. She remains active in the heritage community with her writing and position on the Abandoned Cemeteries Committee for Clarington. 

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