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What Else Do We Know?

Once curators have taken the time to explore an object’s identity, materials, construction and function, they can usefully turn their attention to more general questions. Additional information related to the object’s owner, builder and user, along with its period, place and historic association, form what is known as an object’s “provenance”. This helpful information begins with clues from the artifact itself — perhaps a builder’s name and a factory location — which are then enhanced by way of written or oral accounts. Like the scenery in a play, provenance gives curators a context for understanding objects and offers insight and meaning to all artifacts, large, small, complex or simple. Provenance can also help to distinguish the relative value of two objects that are otherwise the same.

What else? Toronto Omnibus, 1921 (Fifth Ave. Coach, N.Y.) (CSTM 680887) See: More Than a Machine
What else? Toronto Omnibus, 1921 (Fifth Ave. Coach, N.Y.) (CSTM 680887) See: More Than a Machine

This old vehicle was one of the first motor-powered buses used in Toronto. Built in New York, this “bus” (short for “omnibus”) is 24 feet, 5 inches (7.4 metres) long, 7 1/2 feet (2.3 metres) wide and 10 feet, 5 inches (3.2 metres) high. It seats 51 people and is powered by a 40-horsepower engine — only twice the power of some modern ride-on lawn mowers! The bright red colour of the bus was chosen to make it stand out, like a fire engine. The bus was first used in September 1921, on a route of less than 2 miles (3.2 kilometres) in a populated area of the city that, at the time, had no other form of public transportation. A one-way trip took about 10 minutes at an average speed of 8 miles (13 kilometres) per hour. The bus brought passengers to and from the city streetcar lines and, when it was first introduced, it was very popular, serving about 6,000 riders every day, at a fare of 7 cents each, with free transfers.

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