The Children’s Trunks

Since the Museum opened in 1999 we have been collecting stories, pictures, interviews and friends. Re-imagining the Pier 21 exhibit has given us a chance to bring some of the chapters in the site’s history to life by sharing our friends' stories. I get to do this by building five trunks based on the experiences of some of my favourite people. These trunks are for and about children, and will feature stories, photographs, video and clothing (and some items that our young visitors can play with).

Black & white image of Latvian Displaced Person Ausma Levalds, her mother, Karline, and sister, Rasma. They are holding books and an officer stands behind them.
Ausma Levalds Rowberry
Credit: Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 [2013.1912.24]

Ausma Levalds Rowberry’s Trunk will be featured in the Assembly Hall, because that is where she was named the 50,000th Displaced Person. Ausma’s trunk will feature reproductions of her original International Refugee Organization documentation, an oral history interview with her, and archival footage of her at Pier 21.

Very unclear archive photo showing a woman and two children.
Ariella DalFarra Hostetter
Credit: Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 [DI2013.1830.13]

Years ago Ariella DalFarra Hostetter donated a series of beautiful photographs that document her family’s entire crossing from Italy to Canada in 1955 (including all ports of call), so her trunk will be in the Journey area of the new exhibition. It will include the many images of her crossing as well as vintage clothes and toys like those she and her sister brought with them to Canada.

Old cracked photo showing man in black sweater seated next to small boy and small girl.
Angelina Crosdale
Credit: Courtesy of Angelina Crosdale

Of the 25,000 plus stories in our collection one of my favourites has always been Angelina Crosdale’s memory of her father’s Customs inspection, when he and the Customs officer discovered that Angelina’s grandmother had stuffed walnuts into every nook and cranny of their belongings. Once it was determined that the new exhibit would include a more robust component on the Customs process I knew which story to base the Customs Trunk on. Angelina’s trunk will be filled with blankets, clothes, toys, excerpts from her story, and all the fake walnuts I can find.

A young woman is sitting on a rock wall, holding a cat in her arms.
Maggie Morris Smolensky
Credit: Courtesy of Maggie Morris Smolensky

British evacuee child and later immigrant, Maggie Morris Smolensky, passed away on September 4, 2014. A long-time friend of the Museum, Maggie had represented the British evacuee children at our Opening Day ceremony in 1999. She later returned for a reunion and stayed in touch over the years. Maggie had kept a detailed diary of her crossing and time in Canada so there was no question as to whose experience would be represented in the British Evacuee Child Trunk.

Passport opened to show identification page with photo of a young man and details of his name and birth.
Tibor Lukacs
Credit: Courtesy of Tibor Lukacs

We became friends with Tibor Lukacs when his travelling exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution refugees came to Pier 21 in 2006. Unlike most newcomers who spent only a few hours at Pier 21, Tibor and his family lived here for five months while his father saved money and sought permanent employment in Halifax. Tibor’s trunk, which will be located in the Detention and Accommodation exhibit, will include clothes and toys, reproductions of his documentation, newsreel footage of Hungarian refugees fleeing their country, and excerpts from his oral history interview.

These trunks will share only five of the thousands of amazing stories of those who arrived in Canada as children. If you have a story to share please visit and add your childhood memories of arriving in Canada to our ever-growing collection.


Carrie-Ann Smith

Carrie-Ann Smith is the Vice-President of Audience Engagement at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. She joined the Pier 21 Society in the summer of 1998 and has watched the organization evolve from an idea into an interpretive centre, and now a national museum. Though she has occupied several positions at the museum, collecting and sharing stories has always been her favourite thing to do—it still is.